Cole Bodkin ~ Christian Love: I Forgive You

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Many emotions welled up within me as I heard the news of the recent tragedy break. But the one that unexpectedly stood out was awe.

Awe? How can you feel a sense of awe after hearing the news of such a heinous and horrendous act of racial dehumanization?

Because my brothers and sisters at Emmanuel AME loved their neighbor. Furthermore, they loved their enemy. Let that sink in for a moment. What could have possibly been going on in their minds when this 21-year-old white guy walked into their midst? Whatever it may be (it’s all speculation), their actions spoke loud and clear. We do not know all the details of what transpired in that sanctuary, but what we do know is that that small group invited a suspicious white male to join them in studying God’s Word, and most likely to pray with them. They welcomed a person from a different background and a different race to experience the Lord.

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

They were with him for at least an hour before he opened fire. An hour. Most violent acts happen in a matter of seconds, but he didn’t bust open the door and unleash hell immediately. It took time. Maybe he was stalled, because he came into the presence of the living Lord through the body of Christ. They spent time with him, because love involves both presence and time.

Roof admitted that he almost didn’t go through with it because of how nice they were to him.

Love is patient, love is kind.

As usual, most of the media is focusing on the bad news: an awful hate crime. Or they’ll eventually excuse it by reducing it to a mental disorder.

What if we go further with it and stare it in the face? Racism is an extension of evil and sin. And let’s go even further: this wasn’t just an act against African Americans, but this was also an act against the Lord Jesus Christ and his people. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson aren’t just victims of a hate crime. They were martyrs. They were bold and faithful witnesses to the Lord unto the end. They became the gospel in flesh and blood. They took seriously the vocation of picking up their crosses and following Jesus. I’m in awe and honored to be a sibling in Christ to these men and women.

And now we have seen videos of the families who are forgiving Dylann Roof.

That’s right. They have the power to forgive or retain his sin, and they’ve chosen the former.

Forgive sins and they are forgiven. Retain sins and they will be retained.

Let’s remember the faithfulness of these brothers and sisters, their willingness to embody the love of Jesus Christ, and their example of how to be a testimony to Christ in the 21st century.

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Cole is the Director of Young Adult Ministries at Collierville United Methodist Church. In his spare time, he enjoys hanging out with his wife, Lindsay, playing basketball, and disc golf. He blogs at colebodkin.com.

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