On NPR’s “1A”, the interviewer discussed the massacre with Jennifer Hawes, the reporter/author of the book “Grace Will Lead Us Home: the Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness” and William H. Lamar IV Pastor, Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Their discussion followed along the same lines as so many here on CAF. Hawes was describing how the parishioners and friends struggled to forgive, and did forgive, the killer, even when the killer never repented. Lamar said that such forgiveness was misplaced and essentially unacceptable unless there is remorse, atonement, repentance.
What was most poignant was when the interviewer said something like, “I know that Christianity calls for unconditional forgiveness, correct? That Christians are to forgive without limit, 70 times 7 times?” Lamar’s response was “Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian, and Jewish people have a criteria for forgiveness.”
In my experience, forgiveness or non-forgiveness comes from a position of commitment to forgive, but its foundation is understanding, so that the first question is “why did he kill those people, what was he thinking?” Jesus, for example, showed us from the cross, that we can understand people’s ignorance and blindness, that they “know not what they do”.
Why did he kill those people? What was he thinking?
Before responding here, pray for the gift of understanding, call on the Spirit for the gift.