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.

What Comes After the Mistake?

During the beginning of a new year it’s common to think about mistakes you made in 2014. Some of us might even be thinking of mistakes from prior years. While some of us think about past mistakes, friends around us talk about 2015 with excitement…looking at the New Year as a fresh slate and a new beginning.

Recently I was listening to Jon Simeon talk about his job. Now if you are trying to rack your brain figuring out who Jon Simeon is and what books he has completed you can just stop now. You have probably never heard about before today.

Jon Simeon is an Alaska State Trooper. He is one of about 80 Alaska State Wildlife Troopers who patrol the entire state of Alaska. Jon deals with a lot of folks who make mistakes…big ones… just as any law enforcement officer does. However, in passing, Jon made this statement. Here is what he said:

Mistakes happen all the time but it’s what you do after the mistake that counts.

Let me say this again so it sinks in. Mistakes happen all the time but it’s what you do after the mistake that counts.

Trooper Simeon hit the nail on the head with this statement. We all need to acknowledge that mistakes happen in our lives. Mistakes have occurred and they will again. The true mark of character is what you do after the mistake.

Everyday police officers see people make mistakes and then try to conceal what they did. Rather than simply admitting the mistake, the lies begin in an attempt to conceal the poor choice. Many of us do the same thing in our daily lives. We make a mistake and then look for ways to blame others, hide the action, minimize it, or look for some way to save face.

I am reminded of a verse in Proverbs. In fact, the verse is Proverbs 29:13. Here is what it says:

People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.

As 2015 begins, let’s all realize that we’re going to make mistakes. It is going to happen. So, start focusing on what you will do after the mistake is made. Do what Proverbs instructs. Confess your mistakes to whomever you offended, ask for forgiveness from the person you offended, ask for God’s forgiveness, and learn not to make the same mistake again.

If we will all do this, we will receive mercy, we will spend less time fretting about our mistakes, those around us will respect us for our truthfulness, we can focus on what is ahead of us rather than what is behind us, and 2015 will be off to a great start.

Death Grip

Last week Toccoa Falls College had the musical artists NewSong on campus.  During their performance they sang a remarkable song titled, Arise My Love.  As you listen to the lyrics of that song there is a very powerful sentence that says this, the grave no longer has a hold on you.  Think about that sentence for a moment…the grave no longer has a hold on you.  This one sentence carries tremendous power and truth for the followers of Christ. We no longer have the shackles of sin or the sting of death hanging over us.

Often we carry our past around with us like shackles, chained to old memories and actions that haunt us and shake our self worth.   May I tell you something?  As a follower of Christ, the grave no longer has a hold on you.  Your past sins have been forgiven, removed and sent as far as the east is from the west.  Live in confidence and enjoy a life filled with the power of Christ.

Perhaps you’re not a follower of Christ and sin still does have a hold on you today.  The Bible tells us that we have all sinned.  If you have never confessed your sins to God and asked for forgiveness, the Bible also makes it very clear that the end result of sin is death.

Here’s the good news.  Christ has already paid the price for our sins on the cross.  He died on the cross for all our sins.  Christ did that so the grave would no longer have a hold on anyone.  All we need to do is admit that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead.  The Bible tells us that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

C.S. Lewis says this about death, Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.

Lewis is right.  There is no longer any sting of death if you are a follower of Christ.  Death is simply the entry point for an eternity with God.

Don’t wait any longer…ask Jesus to be the leader of your life and experience a new life filled with the joy and freedom that come from living for Christ.  Then you can truly say that the grave no longer has a hold on you.