The Charleston Shooting and A View of Godly Character

Since 1907 the motto of Toccoa Falls College has been this: Developing Godly Character With Intellect. Sometimes folks ask me how I know what Godly character looks like. There are a variety of ways to define and examine Godly character but this week we saw a glimpse of exactly what Godly character looks like.

The shooting last week at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church gave all of us a view of evil at work in this world. In stark contrast to Godly character we saw the hurt and pain that is a part of sinful behavior. Today I don’t want to focus on the evil; I want to focus on the Godly character displayed by the members of the Emanuel AME Church.

Something unusual happened during the bond hearing for the suspect in the shooting this week. As the suspect was brought before the judge, family members of the shooting victims were given an opportunity to speak to the suspect.   Most of us have seen situations like this before where the victim’s family says things to the suspect as a way of venting their anger. As a former police officer I’ve seen family members tell suspects they hope they rot in hell, have a slow, painful death, and the list goes on.

However, this week as the victim’s family members addressed the suspect here are some of the things they said:

Ethel Lance, the daughter of one of the victims said:

I will never be able to hold her again (referring to her mother) but I forgive you. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.

Another family member said this to the suspect:

Me and my family forgive you. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most…Christ.

This was the tone for each of the family members who spoke to the man accused of gunning down their family members during their weekly bible study. Over and over we saw an attitude of forgiveness.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean there are no consequences to actions. There are. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t grieve and hurt. You will. Forgiveness has been defined as giving up my right to hurt you because you hurt me. I like that definition.

Do you want to know what godly character looks like? Well…you can see it demonstrated by these dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Families at Emanuel AME Church…thank you for modeling godly character for all of us. Thank you for showing the world what being a follower of Christ is all about.

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