My coworker came into my office yesterday and said, “Can I ask you a question? I know you’re a spiritual person. How can you reconcile what happened [in Charleston]?” He, then, went on to express amazement that the families of the victims were actually ministering to the killer. It naturally baffles the mind.
What’s going on here? Why are they saying, “But I forgive you” and “May God have mercy on your soul”? Look at what Paul writes to the church at Colosse:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. – Colossians 3:12-13
Now, in this context, Paul’s talking about relationships between believers, but the principle is the same: since God has forgiven us, we must forgive. And while this is our duty, it isn’t just a duty.
For Christians, we increasingly understand how much we have sinned against our holy and gracious God, and we see how we still sin against Him daily. While we may have never done what Dylann Roof has done, we don’t consider ourselves less guilty than him. Not only have we sinned countless times and in grievous ways, but we’ve done so against One who has only shown us grace and mercy and love.
When we properly understand that, it makes sense in our hearts and minds to forgive others. When we properly understand God’s forgiveness, it doesn’t make sense to us not to forgive others.
With that said, it’s not always easy. It’s likely excruciating for the Charleston families to hold back their fury and instead express love. But as Christians, they’re not doing it on their own. The sheep have the Holy Spirit who causes them to will and to work for His good pleasure. It is an amazing work of God and a beautiful testimony of His gospel of forgiveness of sins in Christ that these commendable brothers and sisters have rushed to forgiveness. May we imitate them as they imitate Christ.