Charleston Christians Teach the World a Lesson in Forgiveness

Ever since the day Barack Obama was elected, instead of God-granted victory and faith, America, both black and white, has been subjected to a new level of mistrust and vitriol.  Despite the election of our first African-American president, it seems a country that has slowly moved toward healing the deep wounds of slavery and discrimination has now devolved into a racial hostility most Americans thought was long gone.

Then, just as a break in the ongoing racial strife in Baltimore seemed to be holding, evil decided that it was as good a time as any to shoot an arrow right through the heart of that fragile respite.  It happened when a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Roof was warmly welcomed by the all-black group, and he sat for an hour in a Scripture study led by 41-year-old State Senator Pastor Clementa Pinckney

After the study was completed and before pumping nine of God’s people full of bullets from a .45 caliber pistol, a clearly disturbed Dylann Roof, inspired by what he called “Southern pride,” admitted he let loose with a barrage of racially hateful remarks.

Make no mistake: unlike what ensued after the Trayvon Martin incident and Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray all dying at the hands of the police, the reaction to the deaths in Charleston has been very different.

From Sanford, Florida to Ferguson, Missouri to Baltimore, Maryland, the reactions to the Martin, Brown, Garner, and Gray deaths have all been, and continue to be, knee-jerk, angry, and vindictive.  Hostile individuals have been excessive in their response and have exploited perceived racial injustice to loot and participate in all manner of offensive behavior.

Adding to that volatile set of circumstances is a poorly closeted black-activist president who should be inspiring national peace but instead, in some sort of unspoken rally for renewed racial turmoil, has stood by in silent approval of the disorder gripping the nation.  Furthermore, on behalf of advancing racial parity, this same president has routinely dispatched civil rights activist/pseudo-reverend Al Sharpton to stir up already explosive situations.

Despite all that, Charleston will be different.  

The events at a historically black church did not involve a white police/black suspect encounter or a black kid in a hoodie skulking around a building complex looking for trouble.  Instead, like lambs targeted and ambushed by a lone wolf, a community of believers were gathering in peace to study the Bible.

Without question, Roof expressed the sort of racial hatred that cops in Ferguson and Baltimore are being wrongly accused of.  The difference is that despite the certainty of the Charleston motive being racism, the families of those lost chose Christ-like love over the sort of hate the president and his minions thrive on. 

Appearing at the court hearing following the murders, family members of the deceased faced Dylann Roof.  Markedly different from the likes of Bruce Jenner, who self-identifies as female, and Caucasian Rachel “I identify as black” Dolezal, the families who spoke to the perpetrator were not confused at all about their identity. 

In fact, those who addressed Dylann Roof didn’t revel in the usual accusatory condemnation.  Instead, the families chose to exercise a freedom of choice quite different from the one Barack Obama regularly promotes, and identified with the One who forgave those who unjustly nailed Him to Golgotha’s tree. 

Rather than excuse hatred and resentment, the mourners cleaved tightly to God’s Word.  And instead of calling for looting, plundering, and ransacking Charleston, mercy and pardon were extended to the person who stole what was most precious from them.  Exuding the character of Christ, rather than demanding vengeance, those who lost all gave back.

Felecia Sanders survived the attack where her son died.  Sanders told Roof, “You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Tywanza Sanders was my son[.] ... May God have mercy on you.”

Rather than carry on about how #blacklivesmatter, Anthony Thompson proved that, regardless of the circumstances, in God’s economy, #allsoulsmatter.

So, on behalf of one killer’s eternal soul, the grandson of murdered Myra Thompson told the remorseless murderer, “I forgive you, my family forgives you. … We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now.”

Then, instead of focusing on skin color, revealing the sort of “content of character” Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of one half-century ago, the weeping daughter of Ethel Lance said, “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgive you. I forgive you.”

In a small historically black church, an alternative to the norm too stunning and stark to ignore has manifested.  That example is one that all of us, including our so-called Christian president, ungrateful first lady, and militant cohort of race-hustling advisors could learn from.

Over a thousand years ago, the Apostle John in 1 John 5:4 foretold what the iconic hymn “We Shall Overcome” promises.  John reminded Jesus’s followers, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

In the midst of indescribable horror, a group of faithful overcomers forgave the unforgivable.  As a result, the world is reeling, not from fear of retribution, but from witnessing the power of  redemption in the flesh.

Because the truth is that it doesn't matter what Dylann Roof did or didn’t do.  What matters is that those called on to forgive do what Christ calls for each one of us to do.  Therein lies the type of power to overcome that heartbroken people, who responded righteously, can sing from the heart about at prayer vigils.

And so, in the most tragically, achingly beautiful way, a handful of African-American believers in Jesus have proven to be a true example of what has been sorely lacking in America since the day the country’s first black president took office.

Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com.

Ever since the day Barack Obama was elected, instead of God-granted victory and faith, America, both black and white, has been subjected to a new level of mistrust and vitriol.  Despite the election of our first African-American president, it seems a country that has slowly moved toward healing the deep wounds of slavery and discrimination has now devolved into a racial hostility most Americans thought was long gone.

Then, just as a break in the ongoing racial strife in Baltimore seemed to be holding, evil decided that it was as good a time as any to shoot an arrow right through the heart of that fragile respite.  It happened when a 21-year-old white man named Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. 

Roof was warmly welcomed by the all-black group, and he sat for an hour in a Scripture study led by 41-year-old State Senator Pastor Clementa Pinckney

After the study was completed and before pumping nine of God’s people full of bullets from a .45 caliber pistol, a clearly disturbed Dylann Roof, inspired by what he called “Southern pride,” admitted he let loose with a barrage of racially hateful remarks.

Make no mistake: unlike what ensued after the Trayvon Martin incident and Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray all dying at the hands of the police, the reaction to the deaths in Charleston has been very different.

From Sanford, Florida to Ferguson, Missouri to Baltimore, Maryland, the reactions to the Martin, Brown, Garner, and Gray deaths have all been, and continue to be, knee-jerk, angry, and vindictive.  Hostile individuals have been excessive in their response and have exploited perceived racial injustice to loot and participate in all manner of offensive behavior.

Adding to that volatile set of circumstances is a poorly closeted black-activist president who should be inspiring national peace but instead, in some sort of unspoken rally for renewed racial turmoil, has stood by in silent approval of the disorder gripping the nation.  Furthermore, on behalf of advancing racial parity, this same president has routinely dispatched civil rights activist/pseudo-reverend Al Sharpton to stir up already explosive situations.

Despite all that, Charleston will be different.  

The events at a historically black church did not involve a white police/black suspect encounter or a black kid in a hoodie skulking around a building complex looking for trouble.  Instead, like lambs targeted and ambushed by a lone wolf, a community of believers were gathering in peace to study the Bible.

Without question, Roof expressed the sort of racial hatred that cops in Ferguson and Baltimore are being wrongly accused of.  The difference is that despite the certainty of the Charleston motive being racism, the families of those lost chose Christ-like love over the sort of hate the president and his minions thrive on. 

Appearing at the court hearing following the murders, family members of the deceased faced Dylann Roof.  Markedly different from the likes of Bruce Jenner, who self-identifies as female, and Caucasian Rachel “I identify as black” Dolezal, the families who spoke to the perpetrator were not confused at all about their identity. 

In fact, those who addressed Dylann Roof didn’t revel in the usual accusatory condemnation.  Instead, the families chose to exercise a freedom of choice quite different from the one Barack Obama regularly promotes, and identified with the One who forgave those who unjustly nailed Him to Golgotha’s tree. 

Rather than excuse hatred and resentment, the mourners cleaved tightly to God’s Word.  And instead of calling for looting, plundering, and ransacking Charleston, mercy and pardon were extended to the person who stole what was most precious from them.  Exuding the character of Christ, rather than demanding vengeance, those who lost all gave back.

Felecia Sanders survived the attack where her son died.  Sanders told Roof, “You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Tywanza Sanders was my son[.] ... May God have mercy on you.”

Rather than carry on about how #blacklivesmatter, Anthony Thompson proved that, regardless of the circumstances, in God’s economy, #allsoulsmatter.

So, on behalf of one killer’s eternal soul, the grandson of murdered Myra Thompson told the remorseless murderer, “I forgive you, my family forgives you. … We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Do that and you'll be better off than you are right now.”

Then, instead of focusing on skin color, revealing the sort of “content of character” Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of one half-century ago, the weeping daughter of Ethel Lance said, “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgive you. I forgive you.”

In a small historically black church, an alternative to the norm too stunning and stark to ignore has manifested.  That example is one that all of us, including our so-called Christian president, ungrateful first lady, and militant cohort of race-hustling advisors could learn from.

Over a thousand years ago, the Apostle John in 1 John 5:4 foretold what the iconic hymn “We Shall Overcome” promises.  John reminded Jesus’s followers, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.”

In the midst of indescribable horror, a group of faithful overcomers forgave the unforgivable.  As a result, the world is reeling, not from fear of retribution, but from witnessing the power of  redemption in the flesh.

Because the truth is that it doesn't matter what Dylann Roof did or didn’t do.  What matters is that those called on to forgive do what Christ calls for each one of us to do.  Therein lies the type of power to overcome that heartbroken people, who responded righteously, can sing from the heart about at prayer vigils.

And so, in the most tragically, achingly beautiful way, a handful of African-American believers in Jesus have proven to be a true example of what has been sorely lacking in America since the day the country’s first black president took office.

Jeannie hosts a blog at www.jeannie-ology.com.