This post has been really difficult to publish. Terrible things have happened and I don’t want to jump on some media bandwagon and take advantage of someone’s grief, but I would like to highlight some profound things which have taken place.
At about 9pm on June 17th 2015, Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Hon. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74; Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45 and Myra Thompson, 59 were killed after Dylann Roof opened fire during a bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.. Roof was taken into custody following an eighteen hour manhunt.
In the reports closely following his arrest, Roof said that he nearly didn’t open fire because they were so nice to him. Presumably they welcomed him with open arms and showed something of Christ. But open fire he did.
Here, the story could easily have ended. The story could have ended with outpourings of grief, outrage, vigils, calls for tighter gun controls, etc.. What happened next made me proud to follow the same Lord as the victims and their family and friends left behind.
They forgave. They forgave through the pain of grief and shock. They forgave publicly, giving up forever their right to hold against Roof the murder of their loved ones. They even encouraged Dylann to give his life to Christ so that, in the end, he would be okay. The families of those he murdered cared even for their killer’s mortal soul. The love they are showing here comes only from the heart of the Father. I can’t imagine the pain they are going through and this makes their actions all the more profound.
May God bless them.
When Jesus was executed, he prayed, “Father, forgive them. They have no idea what they are doing!”. If Jesus can pray this for those who are in the very act of executing him, maybe this helps us understand a little where those grieving are drawing their strength from.
At times like this we often ask why do people do bad things? If there is loving and all powerful God, then why does he let bad things happen? Why did He let his own followers be murdered.
I’ve touched a little in an earlier post on the subject of suffering, and I’d like to revisit my thoughts on this topic.
Jesus once said,
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’
“‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.
“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.
In “This Beautiful Mess“, Rick McKinley explains that God wants to give time so the “wheat” can mature and isn’t ripped up along with the “weeds”. By not “pulling up the weeds” too soon God is giving a chance that these weeds might too become wheat – that folks who know nothing about Jesus will have the chance fall in love with Him. In this text it is very clear that God sows the good seed and the enemy, the Devil, sows the bad seed.
When Myra Thompson’s husband, Anthony, encouraged Dylann Roof to repent and turn to Christ, he was doing more than spouting some tired old sandwich board rhetoric, he is pleading with the weed to become wheat. He is taking his faith to another level altogether.
In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus deals with this very topic. Where is the value in being kind to those who are kind to you? That’s easy. The real evidence of our faith is shown when we show kindness to even our enemies. To those who persecute us. To those who murder us. On the cross Jesus Christ put His money where His mouth was when He prayed,
“Father forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing”.
I have two challenges.
The first challenge is easy. I would like us is to pray for those affected by this. The grieving family members and friends, the community. That is easy. Even I can get behind that. My next challenge much harder. Pray for Dylann Roof. Can I do that? Do you see the cold eyes in the pictures? Can I pray for mercy for the soul of murderer? I need to. I can’t just spout the best part of 1000 words about Charleston, Jesus and forgiveness and then simply press publish and walk away.
But can I pray? Honestly? Can I pray for Roof? Am I prepared to let Jesus touch me, so that I can sincerely pray that Roof falls in love with Jesus? Dare I even entertain the thought that Roof’s testimony might one day bring others to know about Christ’s love and forgiveness? If the families of those slain in Charleston can find the strength to show him Jesus, I think I have to too.