The recent church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina has stirred the hearts of us all. We, again, have witnessed evil personified and fleshed out and it has resulted in needless pain, death and suffering. We are saddened, angered and confused when these tragedies occur and their frequency frightens and hampers trust in our society.
Anger and hatred are part of our world, but we cannot allow it to overtake us. It has been said that harboring anger is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. Anger is a cancer that will grow and manifest its hideous presence in the most horrifying ways. And that is exactly what we witnessed in South Carolina. A disturbed young man has taken innocent lives and devastated countless more.
But the true miracle of this entire situation is how the members of this church have declared that they have forgiven the person who violently took their pastor and other dear friends away from them. I use the term “miracle” because I believe it certainly is just that. Their beloved Pastor, Clementa Pinckney, taught them well from the Scriptures that to love and forgive is the call of the Christian. I know he is proud of his congregation today.
To experience deep hurt and torment as these people have is unthinkable. To see loved ones and friends relentlessly gunned down in cold blood is beyond understanding. But when people experience these calamities and unite in a spirit of forgiveness and kindness, it restores some confidence that maybe we aren’t completely finished with decency yet in our mixed up world.
A mother and daughter lay on the floor, playing dead and after it was over, encouraged their friends to forgive; a father who lost his children telling everyone that to forgive is the key to get through all of this; a church full of worshippers encouraging each other. This is nothing short of a miracle of God in the hearts of men, women and children.
Yes, I believe this attitude of forgiveness is surely a miracle because only Jesus Christ can bring this kind of true, honest forgiveness and love in these times of turmoil. Those outside of the Church can sing about it and declare that “all you need is love,” but the reality is that real, heartfelt, unselfish, manifested forgiveness only comes when a heart is changed. When Christ moves in, understanding of the nature of our world and humanity takes on a different meaning and the people of God can operate at the level the Scriptures command.
“Forgiving each other as Christ has forgiven you, so you must forgive…Be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving one another…Love your enemies, do good to them that persecute you…” Strong medicine to swallow in the face of personal tragedy.
Yes, a forgiving spirit is a very powerful trait that most people do not understand. It is so much easier to harbor ill feelings, anger and revenge. But the members of Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church are blessed to know what it means to be people of forgiveness.
Because of forgiveness and love, they are free now to continue the great work their wonderful shepherd, Pastor Pinckney, started. May God richly bless them and their church.