Friday, 3 July 2015

The Power Of Forgiveness

Walsall Advertiser Living Faith Article 2nd July 2015


Victims of the Charleston Shooting:
 Top row: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton Middle row: Daniel Simmons, Rev. Depayne Middleton Doctor, Tywanza Sanders Bottom row: Myra Thompson, Ethel Lee Lance, Susie Jackson

The shooting dead of nine African Americans in a Bible study class at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by 21 year old Dylann Roof, on the evening of June 17th shocked the world, and has once again highlighted the problem of racism that plagues America to this day.

But what has been so extraordinary about this story has been the response of the victim’s families towards this terrible tragedy.  In a remarkable moment of courtroom drama, relatives of some of the nine people shot dead, spoke directly to Dylann Roof, and told him that they forgive him.

Nadine Collier, whose mother Ethel Lance was killed said “I just want everybody to know.. I forgive you.”  Bethane Middleton-Brown speaking on behalf of her sister Depayne said that despite the anger she felt over her sisters murder “we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate so we have to forgive.” Whilst the family of Sharonda Singleton told reporters "We've already forgiven him [Dylann Roof] for what he’s done and there's nothing but love from our side of the family." 

Many people hearing or reading these words will wonder how is it that these people can forgive someone who has killed their loved ones in cold bold? The answer is because they are following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ.  Jesus told his followers to “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27-28) And as Jesus, himself an innocent victim, was being nailed to the cross he cried out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.  (Luke 23:34)

The Charleston victims and their families have shown what it means to be a true follower of Christ, by choosing the path of love not hate.  For Christians the ability to forgive others is rooted in the knowledge that we ourselves have been forgiven by God. 

Forgiveness is not an easy option, the pain and anger the relatives of these nine victims feel is very real.  But forgiveness is a form of freedom, a refusal to be ruled by anger or resentment.  Martin Luther King, the great American civil rights campaigner said: "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.”