Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Beauty of Christianity's Core Value of Forgiveness

Trees, in my backyard

A little over one year later I remember the tragedy in Charleston. After the killings the Washington Post wrote:

"The relatives of people slain inside the historic African American church in Charleston, S.C., earlier this week were able to speak directly to the accused gunman Friday at his first court appearance.
One by one, those who chose to speak at a bond hearing did not turn to anger. Instead, while he remained impassive, they offered him forgiveness and said they were praying for his soul, even as they described the pain of their losses.
“I forgive you,” Nadine Collier, the daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance, said at the hearing, her voice breaking with emotion. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”"
How sad I am over the act of hatred and violence that slaughtered nine of my Christian brothers and sisters. How thankful and proud I am to be a follower of Jesus at a time like this, and see the beauty of forgiveness in action. Our faith system has forgiveness at its core. This is the heart of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Just as we have been forgiven of much, we, as Jesus' followers, are to forgive the trespasses of others.
I am privileged to teach at one of the A.M.E.'s theological seminaries. I have made many friends and have personally and intimately seen the deep faith of these pastors and leaders who are my brothers and sisters. The forgiveness-heart of the gospel is part of our spiritual DNA. We are taught this, we study this, we celebrate this as the way to freedom, and we worship God for this. As Jesus-followers we must forgive others, even our enemies. We see this as essential to the amazing grace God extends to us all. We know it is the only answer to this world's violence and hatred. (Not more guns..., please.)
In the midst of the horror in Charleston I saw the heart of Jesus lived out for all the world to see. I found myself thinking: the black church in America is key to our spiritual destiny. 

(BTW: I have seen followers of Jesus forgive others innumerable times.)

My first book is Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.