Charleston Christians Should be Hated

This post was also featured at Think Christian. Read it there.


There is nothing in the world hated more than this.

During his bond hearing this past Friday, Dylann Roof heard words of forgiveness from relatives of Wednesday night's shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina. Some of the members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the site of the shooting, even encouraged him to repent praying that God would have mercy on him.

Most people are dumbfounded at the relatives' response. On Twitter, the vast majority are awed and moved by this incredible display of selflessness and love.
But some seem shocked. A few expressed genuine honesty that, while they're impressed with what these family members have done, they could never forgive such a person.
Others shared concern that forgiveness might be too hasty and that they needed time to heal and mourn.
Perhaps the most surprising reaction of all were those who actually attacked these folks for being stupid enough to forgive.

Some were simply outraged because that think forgiveness is naive.

And some were just plain mean.

We often forget who we were when we were forgiven. God even called us his enemies, yet he chose to offer us forgiveness anyway as an act of love. This is why we love others. Not out of duty, compulsion, or merit; we love the undeserving because we are loved and undeserving. There is no love in unforgiveness, so we forgive as much as we have been forgiven (which would be infinitely). But if we withhold forgiveness, not only will forgiveness be withheld from us, we've deceived ourselves into believing that we love God.

True love, forgiving love, should be the defining characteristic of Christians. And also produce the responses above. As John told us:
Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you. We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death.
Too much of the hatred we receive is justified, but this purely evil rage against forgiveness has no justification. It is the blind, seething death spasm of the expiring. And being on the receiving end of it should be encouraging as it is the only kind of hatred we should pursue. The kind that exposes the godless for what they truly are: loveless.

Unforgiveness isn't smart or cautious anymore than protecting a temporal shell could save an eternal soul. But that doesn't mean that forgiveness isn't painful or vulnerable or easily abused. God didn't call us to lives of victory but to lives of suffering. We'd be foolish to think that our crosses are so dissimilar from Christ's or that he would never expect us to repeatedly forgive those who we know will hurt us again (like he does with us everyday).

As senseless as it sounds, there is justice in forgiveness, just not imparted by us. Forgiveness isn't ignoring a transgression but acknowledging that it is not ours to repay. Because the godless are right that a world without vengeance is a world without justice. But if a house is struck, it is not the house that will retaliate but the one who built it. So God metes out his justice when he sees fit. His timing will always seem suspect to the temporal mind, but it is only for us to testify of his love until the day of his wrath.

This doesn't make us defenseless victims. Rather, we have been given the most powerful force in the universe--the only power known to change the eternal destiny of a human being. Love and forgiveness tear down walls and dissolve pretenses. Those in its path are either broken into life or enraged into death. We who know love take joy as it shatters our defenses. But for the rest knowing only hatred, they would do well to be afraid.

photo credit: The steeple of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, SC via photopin (license)