He alone empowers us

The Source of Forgiveness

Injustice exists in many forms. Slavery was once legal in this country, and it is a wound that is not easily healed. This week has been one of grief as I have watched news on the horrifying deaths of nine church members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, from the hands of a young adult who wanted to shoot them because they were black. The wounds feel raw. The injustice of it all is overwhelming and the heartbreak almost unbearable.  

Something that has been particularly striking has been the response of the deceased’s relatives as they have spoken out.  I have included a short excerpt from Peggy Noonan’s, a Wall Street Journalist columnist, blog post on June 19.

“I have never seen anything like what I saw on television this afternoon. Did you hear the statements made at the bond hearing of the alleged Charleston, SC, shooter?

Nine beautiful people slaughtered Wednesday night during Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and their relatives were invited to make a statement today in court. Did you hear what they said?

They spoke of mercy. They offered forgiveness. They invited the suspect, who was linked in by video from jail, to please look for God.

There was no rage, no accusation—just broken hearts undefended and presented for the world to see. They sobbed as they spoke.

“I just wanted everybody to know, to you, I forgive you,” said the daughter of Ethel Lance, killed in the shooting. “You took something very precious away from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you.” She asked that God have mercy on the shooter’s soul. “You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you. And I forgive you.”

A family member of Anthony Thompson said he forgave the shooter. “I forgive you and my family forgives you, but we would like you to take this opportunity to repent . . . confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so that He can change it—can change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you will be OK. Do that and you will be better.”

The granddaughter of Daniel Simmons Sr., also killed Wednesday, said, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof—everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won’t win. . . I just want to thank the courts for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

As I watched I felt I was witnessing something miraculous. I think I did. It was people looking into the eyes of evil, into the eyes of the sick and ignorant shooter who’d blasted a hole in their families, and explaining to him with the utmost forbearance that there is a better way.”

Forgiveness. As I ponder this situation, I wonder if I even know what it means. One thing I do know, forgiveness is not a “miracle.” It comes from God, and He alone empowers us to truly forgive. Join me in asking God to heal these wounds of slavery, racism and violence in Charleston and across our country.

Libby Swenson