My heart is broken for the families of the victims of this atrocious massacre, but in light of this horrific incident, the families are practicing what they’ve heard preached their whole lives – forgiveness.
Business Insider reports the following:
“Family members of those killed during a bible study at a historically black church in South Carolina Wednesday night were given the chance to speak to their loved ones’ alleged killer during his bond hearing today.
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate … they [the victims] lived in love,” Alana Simmons, the granddaughter of Reverend Daniel Simmons, said in court.
“Their legacies will live in love so hate won’t win,” Simmons said.
So, how do we respond? I and many of my readers live in Arkansas. We can’t physically be there for the city of Charleston, and even if we could, what could we possibly do? The damage has already been done. So, today I want to talk what we can do now to show the sincerity of our love for Charleston as the city goes through this time of mourning and loss.
I believe our response should be one of love, prayer, and forgiveness with a full recognition of Jesus Christ as our Prince of Peace.
The Bible clearly teaches that our love should be unconditional. If you don’t believe me read 1st Corinthians 13:1-13 and 1st John 3:10-18. As a matter of fact, read the entirety of Scripture and show me one place where God gives us one excuse for us, as His New Covenant people, not to love freely, unconditionally, and sacrificially. So, whom do we love? We love the people of Charleston. We love the friends and families of the victims, and we love people like Dylann Roof. That’s hard to say and probably hard for you to read, but let’s examine the words of Scripture:
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:32-36, ESV
Jesus makes no qualms about it. “Love your enemies.” Now, more than ever, the words of our Savior should be ringing our hearts and our minds. We know the victims showed loved and affection for Dylann Roof when he walked through the doors of their church by this report from the article mentioned earlier:
“The mother of the youngest victim, 26-year old Tywanza Sanders, told Roof that “every fiber in my body hurts, I will never be the same.”
“As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you,” she said. “But may God have mercy on you.”
I watched the coverage on Fox Business of Roof’s bond hearing, and I heard only a portion of the hurt in Sander’s voice as she spoke these words, and the friends and families of the victims say that the congregation completely welcomed Roof as soon as he walked in. They had no idea who he was. They just wanted to love him as they had been loved by God, and that’s what we need to do, love.
We need to pray for peace for Charleston, we need to pray for comfort for the families, we need to pray for racial reconciliation, and we must pray for our enemies. Again let’s turn to the words of Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48, ESV
Let’s think about this just for a second. Why do we have enemies? Why do we have people like Dylann Roof who hate and express that hate through violence and bigotry? Why did Adolf Hitler persecute the Jews? Because Satan hates what God loves, and sin stands directly against anything that God ordained as good and holy. So,if God loves racial harmony and racial unity (and we know that He does), then sin causes people to hate God and everything that He loves including racial harmony and racial unity. We know that God loves these things because He sent His son to die for people of all races, creeds, and nationalities. If you don’t believe me, then let’s look at the book at the Book of Revelation:
“And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 7And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. 8And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, 10and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” – Revelation 5:6-10, ESV
This passage points us to a time when racism, sexism, and all of the other “isms” are no more, and it points to people that were redeemed by the shed blood of Jesus. All peoples of every tribe, nation, and tongue are singing to the sovereign Lord of the Universe. This is real racial harmony because this is when all earthly races become one race, God’s chosen race, His redeemed people.
So, when we go back to Jesus telling us to pray for our enemies, He tells us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-13, and finally He gives us the confidence to pray this way in Mark 11:23-24 when He says that “whatever you ask in prayer, believe… and it will be yours.” So, what should we pray? We pray for the salvation of Dylann Roof and those like Him, but we pray ultimately that God will have His way with him.
One of two things will happen by the end of Roof’s life, He will either stand before God justified by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, or He will stand condemned, under the kindled hot wrath of Almighty God as servant of sin. And either way, God will have had His way with him. What he did was horrible beyond description, but when he stands before the judgement bar, only God can judge him and we must come to terms with that.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15, ESV
I want you to notice something in this passage. Jesus doesn’t put any conditions on forgiveness. He doesn’t say, “Wait until the offending party asks for forgiveness.” He simply commands us to forgive others their trespasses regardless of the act, regardless of whether they ask for it, and especially regardless of whether or not they deserve it. Our whole motivation for forgiveness to see how much God has forgiven us in Christ (Ephesians 4:31-32).
The families of the victims have shared the Gospel and extended forgiveness to Dylan Roof, and I truly believe that the Bible commands us to do the same. The Christian Post stated that a gospel musician by the name of Marcus Stanley left a message on Roof’s Facebook before it was taken down for security reasons, and in a portion of the message Stanley gave an invitation to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
“If you’re still out there… Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness. He is the only one that can save your soul and forgive you for this terrible act that you have done.” Stanley then added, “I love you Dylann … even in the midst of the darkness and pain you’ve caused. But more importantly, He loves you.”
A Need For the Prince of Peace
The prophet Isaiah proclaims that Jesus will come as the Prince of Peace. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:14 says that Jesus is our peace because He breaks down racial, cultural, and national barriers and brings near the throne of His grace by His blood.
We live in a broken world. What happened at Charleston is proof of that (as if we needed more proof). Only Jesus can bring peace to all the futile racial wars that fallen man fights. His redemption by His destroyed all walls and beckons us to a life of love and Christian unity.
“Not color but faith in Christ is the mark of the kingdom. But it is a mighty long journey. And the price is high. Jesus was on the Calvary road every step of the way. He knew what it woud finally cost Him. It would cost Him His life. But His heart was in it. To the end.” – John Piper, Bloodlines
Charleston needs Jesus. Dylan Roof needs Jesus. I need Jesus. You need Jesus. This world needs Jesus.