It’s been a rough week.
As nine innocent churchgoers lost their lives last Wednesday night at the hands of a shooter poisoned by hatred – scratch that – sheer EVIL, I sat in the comfort of my home drafting a carefully crafted piece on forgiveness, specifically what it truly means, how to extend it, and how certain attitudes can hinder it.
In the days leading up to writing that piece, I’d wrestled with God over the topic because I felt it wasn’t ‘sexy’ enough. We’d been privy to the bizarre and the strange that is the Rachel Dolezal story for days at that point, and I felt I was losing too much precious time writing about “forgiveness” when I’d much rather get in on some “transracial” action!
But God nagged me to publish my next post on forgiveness and, honestly, I didn’t get it. I initially felt the subject had absolutely no relevance. “Who would even read it,” I thought. But I soon came to realize why God inspired me to speak on that particular topic.
Not even 48 hours after losing their loved ones, representatives for each victim spoke at the shooter’s bond hearing, and what they said has left many of us in awe to this day.
“I forgive you.”
One after one, each representative extended forgiveness to the shooter and each time it was uttered I, personally, felt a literal jolt run through my body. I felt the power behind their words. I felt their strength. I felt their boldness. I felt their courage. And after one unapologetically declared, “HATE WON'T WIN”, I felt holy defiance!
I was so proud of them!
I was proud that these men and women of faith displayed to the world what it truly means to operate in the spirit of Truth and Love. “Finally,” I thought. “Finally, men and women of the world can now see the type of forgiveness God himself extends to us! Finally, they see how forgiveness truly works!” That gave me so much peace. Actually, I was so indignant with it that I went to bed that night gloating, “Christ – 1, satan – ZERO!”
But the battle was long from over.
While the public initially lauded the victims’ families for taking the moral high road, they soon turned on the families and brought their so called “forgiveness” under scolding scrutiny.
“They can’t forgive someone that fast,” one caller said, offering his thoughts on a nationally syndicated talk radio show.
“Forgiveness don’t work like that,” barked the radio host. “You can’t forgive someone who ain’t even asked for it!”
“The families were overcome with grief. They didn’t know what they were saying,” I heard another say.
“I think they were pressured to say that.”
“Black folks always so quick to forgive! We’ll never get justice if we keep letting these white folks off the hook!”
“See! They’re brainwashed! Worshipping that ‘white Jesus’ got us hating ourselves so we keep letting white people do this to us! When will we hold them accountable?”
“I ain’t forgiving nobody. I’m tired of us being the ones having to forgive. This time, we need to fight back!”
As I’ve listened to these sentiments over the past few days, I’ve become overwhelmed with sadness and concern.
I was immediately hurt to realize that people are so jaded in their hearts that something as pure and precious as extending forgiveness is somehow suspicious and voraciously questioned. The prevailing belief seems to be that to be a forgiver, especially one who forgives quickly, one MUST either be brainwashed, out of their minds, weak or foolish! Yet, the sad part is, those who question or misunderstood what those families did are actually the foolish ones - those who just got upset by that statement are the foolish ones - and they don’t even know it.
God has given us the gift of forgiveness to provide us comfort after enduring an offense. Forgiveness is for us, as it helps us heal and move forward. Forgiveness frees us from the trap of being used as satan’s pawn. Forgiveness is what keeps us from becoming as vile as our enemies.
Forgiveness is what keeps our hearts from being so filled with bitterness that we feel justified in shooting up a church filled with our perceived enemies!
Forgiveness is what God extends to each of us every day!
Yet, this past week has proven just how closed the hearts of men have become, and how cold our hearts are becoming. Further, I was sad to witness that many didn’t even seem to understand what forgiveness truly means! As I discussed this topic with many, I noted how most confused “forgiveness” with meaning a pardon or absolution!
Forgiveness does not negate justice. It negates the negativity that could potentially preclude God’s justice.
I found myself entrenched in quite a few Facebook debates this week, as well as posting status updates to help clear up any confusion around this topic. Needless to say, I’ve grown exhausted. Moreover, I remain extremely sad for our people. I’ve come to realize that those who don’t have an ear just won’t hear, and those without vision can’t see this point even as it sits clear as day in this piece and in the one from last week.
But I will not give up hope that many will one day understand what forgiveness and, ultimately, LOVE, truly mean. I have this hope because I witnessed several individuals from Charleston, SC demonstrate their understanding last Friday. I have this hope because those very individuals, unprompted by anything but the Holy Spirit, demonstrated their understanding even as they stared in the face of satan himself.
A MOMENT OF PRAYER
My prayers continue to be with the victims' families, and I ask God to comfort them and help us provide them with all of the tangible, emotional and spiritual support they need to facilitate their healing. I pray that whatever action God leads us to in response to this atrocity, I ask that said actions truly inspire a world-wide positive change in the hearts of men and women so that future atrocities may be mitigated. May we all grow deeper in Love with - and extend greater Forgiveness and Compassion toward - one another, and I pray that we mature to not be suspicious of Love, Forgiveness and Compassion when they are genuinely extended. May God bless each of our hearts and souls. Amen.