Kirsten Powers: Christians Stagger the World by Forgiving the Unspeakable

A cross is seen adorned with messages at a memorial in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 22, 2015. A mass shooting June 17 at the church killed nine people. (Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)
A cross is seen adorned with messages at a memorial in front of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 22, 2015. A mass shooting June 17 at the church killed nine people.
(Photo: Joe Raedle, Getty Images)

Forgiveness shown by the Charleston victims’ families staggers the world.

When Christians are in the news, it’s usually because they have done something wrong — they’ve gotten on the wrong side of a culture war or cheated on their wife, or worse. What the world rarely gets to see is the powerful grace that flows from a deep faith predicated on the belief that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness.

The family members of those slain at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church bore witness to this central tenet of Christianity last week as the nation gasped in awe. “I forgive you,” one after another told the stone-faced and unrepentant alleged killer, Dylann Roof, at his bond hearing.

Tweeting about the incredible scene, National Review writer Charles C. W. Cooke noted, “I am a non-Christian, and I must say: This is a remarkable advertisement for Christianity.” Thankfully, the circumstances requiring forgiveness don’t always involve the murder of a loved one. But sometimes they do.

This month, USA TODAY reported an unlikely friendship between Pastor Phillip Robinson and the man who murdered his father. After forgiving the killer — who had repented for the crime — Robinson testified on his behalf to win his release from prison and later visited him at his home, where they hugged and prayed together.

Bishop Angaelos, who heads the the United Kingdom’s Coptic Orthodox Church, responded to the beheadings of Coptic Christians in Libya with a call for the Islamic State terrorists to be “prayed for and forgiven.” This echoed the comments of an Iraqi Christian refugee who was asked by an interviewer how she would retaliate against the ISIL militants who drove her from her village. The young girl said simply that she wanted God to forgive them.

Laura Waters Hinson, the director of “As We Forgive” — an award-winning documentary about forgiveness and reconciliation after the Rwandan genocide — was witness to the role Christianity can play when radical forgiveness is required. Hinson chronicled the astonishing relationships borne of forgiveness after Rwandans began confessing to genocide crimes and were released into society. A woman who had lost her sister and niece forgave the man who had viciously clubbed them to death. He ended up building a house for her, and became her neighbor and friend. An Anglican bishop forgave the people who had skinned his niece alive, and became a leader in the reconciliation process.

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SOURCE: USA Today – Kirsten Powers

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