Dylann Roof forgivenIn a recent blog post I mentioned that God had the power to bring a greater good out of any act of evil. The world is seeing that play out just two days after a massacre that killed nine Christians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina. Dylann Roof allegedly said he wanted to start a “race war” by slaughtering the innocents inside, but his actions only gave the world a taste of true Christianity: Family members of the victims have already forgiven him.

CNN reported June 19:

Dylann Roof heard words of forgiveness from families of some of the nine people he’s accused of killing.

His response: A blank expression.

Wearing a striped inmate jumpsuit, the 21-year-old appeared Friday afternoon by video feed at a bond hearing in Charleston, South Carolina. He stood motionless while listening to the anguished words of relatives of victims he allegedly gunned down Wednesday night at a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of Ethel Lance said. “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”

Watching the reaction of casual observers on social media indicates that many members of the Twitter mob have never really been introduced to true Christianity. If they were familiar with the religion, then they would know that Christians literally have no other choice but to forgive — our very souls depend on it.

Rev. T.G. Morrow talks about this very fact in his book Overcoming Sinful Anger. He says on page 25:

“In the Our Father, Jesus tied our being forgiven to the forgiveness of others ( Matt.6:9-13). And this is the only part of the Our Father that he elaborates on, saying “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses (Matt. 6:14-15).

Forgiveness is one of the most fundamental things we are called to practice as Christians. Unforgiveness is an indication that we are not truly in touch with our faith. Must we forgive immediately? No, but we shouldn’t delay too long to begin the process. It may take time, but in the end, we must do it.”

A national audience of tens-of-millions of people will now be exposed to an awesome power that allows men and women to forgive cold-blooded killers in the blink of an eye. Millions of people whose only introduction to Christianity has been the jabs of light night comedians or the mockery seen on many sitcoms will now step back and seriously ask, “What’s going on here?”

Think of all the rotten behavior you’ve engaged in over the years. Think of every mean thing you have ever said to someone. Think of every act of malice you’ve committed, no matter how small. Think of all the lies and all the deceit that you have contributed to the world. Add all of it up and imagine it as a giant pool with size and shape.

Now consider this: all of it was seen by your Creator, but He is actually willing to forgive you for all of it — if you only walk towards Him with a contrite heart.

Dylann Roof may have wanted to start a “race war,” but at this rate it looks like his plan is going to spectacularly fail. One can only hope that he uses his time behind bars to revisit the faith that allowed his victims’ families to literally forgive him overnight.


  1. Those who follow Jesus are known by their fruit, and the affected families have certainly borne good fruit. It makes me wonder how forgiving I would be if I were in their shoes. I need to be just as willing and ready to forgive someone as I want God to forgive me. It’s easier said than done, but I’ve come to learn that holding on to grudges only hurts the soul.

    1. “I’ve come to learn that holding on to grudges only hurts the soul.”

      I agree, Grant. Holding onto grudges is like needlessly putting weights around your neck as you’re trying to swim in an ocean.

  2. Beautiful and so powerful. God bless those families for truly walking the walk, it is not an easy path to take, especially in the face of such grief. But that really is what Christianity looks like in action and it is something the world truly needs to see.

    1. I listened to all those family members forgive Mr. Roof during the hearing, and it was something to behold. I don’t know how anyone could witness that and not be moved.

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Curtis. I appreciate it. And thanks for the link. I read your blog post and was impressed. 🙂

  3. There is always a test of our best qualities, be it in minor ways and in world-shattering ways. It does every soul touched by tragedies like this good to know some can commit the most absurd horrors and yet we have the time to bless even a beast. In doing so, we tame the demons and give greater grace to whatever spirit within or without teaches us to be kinder, and to make us that much better.

  4. The usual suspects are out in full force, blaming all white people for the massacre in Charleston. Salon.com apparently has an article that says, “White America must answer for Charleston.” That’s right up there with “All Men Are Responsible for Elliot Rodger’s Rampage.”

    1. Somehow I don’t see Salon publishing a piece titled “Muslim America must answer for Boston” or “Muslim America must answer for 9/11″…

      When black Baltimore residents burn portions of the city to the ground, then somehow Carl is responsible. When a random racist white dude shoots up a black church, then Carl is responsible. You need to “answer” for this, Carl.

      Even though I never met the black guys who burned down businesses in Baltimore, and even though I never met Dylann Roof, I still have to answer for those crimes. I’m sensing a bit of a double standard on Salon’s part. 😉

    1. I will gladly accept any positive review that includes that many exclamation points, Ashley. 🙂 Thanks for the kind words. And, as always, thanks for reading.

  5. finally catching up on many of your posts. this is so good. tried to click the “like” button, but couldn’t find it. but i like this a lot. if this kind of where the rubber meets the road faith and love was practiced more often, this land would look a whole lot different. i hope and pray it stuck with people and changed some.

    1. Thanks, Georgia! I appreciate it. I initially didn’t activate the “like” button on this post. It’s fixed now. 🙂

      I like the way you describe this situation as “rubber meets the road faith.” Very true. We find out what we really believe when we’re tested…

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