I’ve had a lot on my mind the past few weeks. Emanuel AME Church. Marriage equality. My own brokenness. The log in my own eye…
Yes, the pesky log in my own eye that impedes me from seeing clearly. If I had a buck for every time I judged someone for judging someone else this month, I’d be a rich man. Yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum.
The shooting at Emanuel AME Church hit me hard. I’m not really sure why. There has been other shootings lately, and they all matter. One life isn’t any more valuable than another. But I remember just sitting at my desk at work feeling sad. Maybe it was the fact that this kid, Dylann Roof, sad with his victims for an hour, reading God’s Word and praying. And, apparently, almost didn’t go through with it because of how they welcomed him… My co-worker and friend, Bill Behr (pretty much the nicest guy in the world) came over to me. I told him why I was sad. He spoke truth into my soul. He reminded me that the victims were with the Lord now, and that God’s plans are bigger than man’s. He was right.
What unfolded over the next few days amazed me. I am so proud of my brothers and sisters at Emanuel AME Church. They have been an example to me of what following Jesus is about. When they faced Dylann Roof in the court room, they had every right to cuss him out. Instead, they forgave him. Reverend Anthony Thompson, the husband of Myra Thompson, said this:
“I forgive you, my family forgives you. 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 OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”
What? You gotta be kidding me! This man just lost his wife and he’s face to face with the killer whose racism and hate changed his life forever. And what does he say? He actually seems concerned for Dylann. He wants him to be OK. He wants him to be better off than he is right now. I have to wonder, what must Dylann have been thinking at that moment. I just murdered nine people. I killed this man’s wife… And it sounds like he feels bad for me… Give my life to Christ so I can be OK?
Rev. Anthony Thompson, and all the other victims’ families, have been through hell. Scratch that. They are going through hell. Forgiving someone’s offense, whether big or small, doesn’t mean glossing over it. No doubt they are angry and sad. But they have chosen the path of forgiveness. They have showed me what it means to follow Jesus.
Jesus said a lot of hard things. One time he climbed a mountain and gave a big speech. And his friend Matthew wrote down everything he said. And there was a lot of weird stuff in there about being salt and light, giving people your coat, and walking 2 miles with them. And he also said this:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor. Hate your enemy.’ But here is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. Then you will be children of your Father who is in heaven. He causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don’t. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Even the tax collectors do that. If you greet only your own people, what more are you doing than others? Even people who are ungodly do that. So be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” – Matthew 5:43-48
We read that now and we’re like, yeah, okay, I know that… I read that once in the Bible. I heard it in a sermon once. Love your enemies. My boss is a real jerk, but I’ll love him. (Just a hypothetical… My boss isn’t a jerk… Love you, Darling! :))
But every once in awhile we get a glimpse of what it means to really trust and follow Jesus in that…
Jesus says, pray for those who hurt you.
So Anthony said, “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 OK, Dylann…”