Rev. Clementa Pinckney of Emanuel AME, Charleston SC
In his sermon on the mount, our Lord Jesus exhorted his weak little flock of disciples, saying, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16 KJV). Last week, the relatives of the slain in the Charleston Massacre embodied, with stunning humility and love, the character of Christ as they addressed the killer,
Dylann Roof, face to face in the courtroom. One after another, tearfully, they forgave him, prayed for God’s mercy on him, and called him to repent. In effect, they called the killer to become their bother. The life of God in the souls of men, the overcoming love of Christ before the powers of hell, was movingly on display before a watching world.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney, descended from the slaves of the signer of Charles Pinckney, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was clearly a great pastor. The response of his church to his murderer shows that Jesus is a great Savior. Here is the testimony.
Nadine Collier, daughter of 70-year-old Ethel Lance: “I forgive you. You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul. You’ve hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgive you. And I forgive you."
Anthony Thompson spoke for the family of Myra Thompson: "I forgive him. My family forgive you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so he can change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you'll be okay. Do that! And you’ll be better off than you are right now.”
Felicia Sanders, mother of young Tywanza Sanders: “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifullest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son, but Tywanza was my hero. Tywanza was my hero! But as we say in the Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.”
Alana Simmons, granddaughter of 74-year old Rev. Daniel Simmons: "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."
The sister of DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, admitted, "For me, I’m a work in progress and I acknowledge that I am very angry.” But she remembered her sister teaching her, “We are the family that love built! We have no room for hate so we have to forgive. And I pray God on your soul. And I thank God that I won’t be around when your judgment day comes with him. May God bless you.”
The late Christopher Hitchens, a notorious atheist, claimed that "religion poisons everything." These people are evidently not poisoned. Indeed, just the opposite. They are being perfected in love. Ask yourself: Is my church and my personal discipleship in Christ helping me (and my children!) grow to become more like these people?
In his diabolical ignorance and confusion, this miserable young man wanted to provoke a race war. Instead, he got deeper sympathy and understanding between black and white Americans than we've seen in a long time, perhaps when we need it the most.
When times are darkest, Christ shines the most brightly. Consider the cross itself. Satan's death blow was the triumph of Christ. What Roof meant for evil, God is using for good. So ask, “How can I be part of this good?”