Charleston's Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church

This sermon is written from a Christian perspective.

Once again America has been forced to witness another senseless act of violence in the slayings in Charleston, S.C. The murder of nine Christians during a bible study has caused an outburst of shock, grief and anger not only in the United States but in much of the world.

Yet amid all these reactions, the one that stands out the most is that of the families of the victims. Just days after the horrible event, they faced the murderer and forgave him.

This incredible act is a great example of Christian love and forgiveness. For all Christians, forgiving others is an absolute necessity. However, this does not mean the families were forced to forgive; they did so willingly.

By taking this act alongside Biblical teaching, we can better understand what Christian love and forgiveness is all about.

Forgiveness is required of Christians

Jesus’ parable of the unmerciful servant is one of the clearest teachings on forgiveness in the New Testament. A servant owed the king a great amount of gold, but was unable to pay. So the master ordered that everything that was his would be sold. But the servant begged for mercy and forgiveness, and the master took pity on him.

Immediately after, that servant went to a man who owed him money, and demanded the debt be paid. The man asked for patience, but the servant refused and had him thrown into jail. When the king heard this, he rebuked the servant and had him thrown into jail for failing to show mercy. After telling this story, Jesus declares, “This is how my heavenly father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” (Mt 19:35)

This idea is repeated when Jesus instructs his disciples on how to pray. In Luke 11:2-4  Jesus says, “Whenever you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.” Other verses that reiterate this idea are Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:32, and Colossians 3:13.

Christian believers are made in the image of God, and by the power of the Holy Spirit are gradually molded into the likeness of Christ. Therefore, forgiveness is a requirement and a sign of true Christian faith.

Forgiveness outwits Satan

Dylann Roof, the shooter in the South Carolina slayings, said his goal was to start a race war. It seemed he had hoped to start a “eye-for-an-eye” type of chain-reaction, in which the black community, filled with understandable maybe even righteous anger, would lash out and continue the violence.

This was a fundamental misunderstanding on his part. He assumed that other people would think like he does, and respond with violence. But by forgiving him, these Christian families have proven that their identity in Christ is stronger than any scheme that Satan could create. What they said to the murderer was almost straight from scripture, “What I have forgiven – if there was anything to forgive – I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order than Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:10-11)

Satan’s schemes were foiled when the families forgave the murderer, called on him to repent, and asked God to have mercy on him.  May their actions be an example and a light to all of us.

12 comments

  1. sue nicholai says:

    forgiveness is a must for us but so is doing something to protect ourselves ,Abraham did not go after those and rescue Lot with untrained people. Just because we are trained does not mean we are not compassionate. We too many times think that being a Christian means being weak and walked all over but it does not. It does mean to know when God is directing us to take a firm stand and when not to. I like the term for meekness that is strength under control. Not going out of our way to force or hurt people. Forgiveness doesn’t not mean we tolerate whatever people are willing to do to us, but means we will let God and government take care of the people or person, rely on God to reimburse us. God will take the pain and turn it into a good thing if we allow it.

    1. ronald says:

      Amen to thar I am very
      Happy to be a pastor and to
      Help and guide my brothers & sisters to what the Lord wants us to do
      Always think when you are confronted with a problem
      Now what would Jesus do in
      This situation ?

  2. Memirsbrunnr@RobV (@Memirsbrunnr) says:

    I doubt if the forgives is true forgiveness in the sense of the word. The grievances is not thoughtfully forgotten and forgiven. What I think is happening is that when those people saying they they have forgiven him, is that they are still in a raw state of shock about their loss and what they really are saying is.. I will not personally seek revenge against you by running after you with a lynch-mob and trust the state to seek revenge on my behalf. They will not say that internally they still hate the culprits guts and hopes he will rot in hell and that God will do their just revenge in the afterlife. Stating they forgive his act in church accomplices two goals. I think their forgiveness shows to the rest of the church community what a great hearted Christian they are, and a passive aggressive message towards the culprit that he is not worth it to take a violent act of revenge upon.

    So I think that forgiving a culprit immediately after the act is rash, raw and intrinsically insincere. True forgiveness takes a lot of thought, time, meditation, evaluation and above all loads of time for acceptance and grieving. None of which has happened within 1 to 3 days after the act.
    True Forgiveness has to come with time when the heart is really become at peace with the act, and not when one is in shock and the mind troubled and one is religiously pressed to show compassion and forgiveness by the church community.

  3. Sharon McMann-Morelli says:

    I respect those people that forgave Roof. They have a lot of faith and love in their hearts, how many people could do this ? It takes a lot of believe in God and life after this world. We are only visiting this place, in the big picture we are looking foward to our life after with peace, love, harmony for eternity.

  4. Arthur Jacob Fischer says:

    Long before Christianity began, He, our Messiah had told us to forgive and He was Jewish. There was no such thing as Christianity until after Constatine. Even tho the disciple were called Christians, that does not make them so. Before they were, many called themselves The Way. That can be found in Acts 9:2 when Saul was persecting the people of The Way. I perfer that for among the Christianity community there are too much paganism being celebrated and I don’t do that kind of celebration. Life is enough to celebrate everyday. why add and spend, spend , spend. Many others just like me feel the same, many others don’t. This is called free will that we all have no matter where we live on this planet. It what comes after life that really matters and many have different opinions and beliefs about that as well. I just say Happy New Day for we do get to experience botht he good and the bad in life. If we are to be forgiven, then we should forgive others. they are the ones who still have to face a judgment from above.

  5. Bishop Stacy Bernard Shannon says:

    I don’t have any choice but too forgive the young man. As a Minister of God and follower of Jesus Christ and His philosophy I’m called to do so. Jesus forgave when He was on the cross, just as I do in this situation. Jesus taught that man does not have the power to create life and he does not have the power to take it away. Every person born to this world, will physically die eventually. How, when, and where they die is determined by God Almighty, not Bishop Stacy Bernard Shannon. I truly believe that all died working for the Lord and doing what they love to do. I refuse to give the young man nor any racial hating fashion that he is associated with credit for taking these lives, instead I see it as these people GLADLY laying their lives down for God. Now it’s our turn to take this situation and learn from it and make ourselves stronger. Always be inspired and always be encouraged. God Bless!

    1. Dennis says:

      AMEN,,,,, Well Said……

  6. batia1981 says:

    I think we need to be released from our resentment which kills our spirit. However, the killer is called to repent and make amends. We cannot neglect either side of the coin.

  7. Mary says:

    First and foremost, forgiveness is a gift of Divine Grace given to one’s self. It is the choosing not to pick up and carry the chains of hatred, anger and resentment that keep us enslaved in toxic and afflictive states of mind.

    That being said, my experience of forgiveness is that it is a practice-not a single decision. The feelings of anger, pain, sadness, anguish that arise when we feel harmed must be honored and acknowledged by us for what they are, catalysts for change.
    Sometimes, we hold onto the resentment and anger waiting for the “wrongdoer” to recognize and request forgiveness from us. As long as we do this, we are putting the power in something outside of ourselves.

    It is always our choice what we do when we are faced with feeling harmed and wronged and the emotional energy these experiences generate. In my estimation, it takes much more creativity, power and strength to choose love and forgiveness. I am in awe of the love, the strength and the demonstration of deep faith shown by the family members of those killed in the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston.
    My love and prayers are with ALL who are affected by this event.

  8. Jim Stoner says:

    Could I do the same? Of course I could. I certainly do not think that the only way Christians could be moral and forgiving is because they are Christians. What does that mean? That if they were not Christians they would all be immoral hate filled criminals without an ounce of forgiveness in their hearts? Are we to believe if it weren’t for their religious beliefs they would all be Jeffery Dahmer?
    What would that say about atheists who live perfectly normal, moral, productive lives without the influence of Christianity. Christians need Christianity to be moral and forgiving but atheists don’t.?
    When is the last time you heard the term “Atheist charity”.
    What exactly is Christian charity and how does it differ from atheist charity.
    Do we call all charity, no matter who is doing the giving, Christian charity simply because we must credit anything good and moral to Christianity and not the people who are actually doing the good thing?
    These people forgave because they are good people. They just happened to be Christians too. An atheist can do exactly the same thing because a persons religious beliefs have nothing to do with whether or not they are good people. Unless we want to admit Christians couldn’t do it without their beliefs and atheists are simply born that way.

  9. JO-ANN says:

    WHEN YOU DO NOT FORGIVE….YOUR DRINK THE POISON……Its GOD’S JOB TO FORGET ….not ours..we must remain vigilant against any avenue/vessel that satan can use to his advantage…..”FORGIVE THEM THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”……BUT, DON’T LET THE DOG BITE YOU AGAIN!!!!

  10. michael Barnett says:

    Forgiveness can help to promote a peace within and the rights to be right, even if we recognize we are and to focus, not on our fury, but on what’s conceivable for ourselves and others if we make compensation. When we forgive, no matter how challenging, we experience freedom from our pain and sorrow and become people who are more love-based rather than fear-based, creating a better world. Ask to be forgiven, forgive others, and forgive yourself because peace cannot exist without forgiveness.
    Michael Barnett

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