HATE WON’T WIN!
Hate won’t win.
Those were the words of Alana Simmons, granddaughter of the Reverend Daniel Simmons who was viciously murdered at a prayer meeting of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Those were the words of a woman deeply committed to her Christian faith, even its very hardest requirements. Hate won’t win, she said. LOVE WILL.
There are many four letter words in the English language, too many. In fact, the slang four letter word connotes something negative, vulgar, often unsocial. One of the most vicious four letter words is:
Hate is vindictive, vengeful, malicious and at its extreme, murderous. Extreme hate can and often does lead to murder.
As it did in the case of the Reverend Daniel Simmons in Charleston, South Carolina. The hate of one man white led to the death of nine precious human beings black. Dylann Roof hated blacks, hated them so much that he set out on a murderous spree to act out that hate, actualize that hate all for the purpose of murdering innocent blacks, strong, loving Christian blacks and even more vile and malicious, loving blacks who were worshipping their Savior Jesus Christ. Perhaps that is a most vicious kind of hate at work possible.
Nine innocent blacks were slaughtered. Dylann Roof, the accused murderer, was tracked down in North Carolina having fled South Carolina after the massacre, arrested and taken to a courtroom. One by one, the survivors and families of the innocent victims stood before Dylann Roof in court and they told him he had hurt them. Amazingly, one by one each said that they:
One by one, each family verbalize and displayed the most powerful four letter word in the English language:
Instead of the worst four letter word hate.
WE ARE THE FAMILY THAT LOVE BUILT, said Bethane Middleton-Brown, the sister of the Reverend DePayne Middleton, only 49 years old when he was viciously murdered by Dylann Roof. Those who remained were indeed the remaining family that love built and they were willing to take vicious murder which could well justify their very own hate and see that as an opportunity to display extreme love.
“We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive,” said Ms. Middleton-Brown. We have no room for hate, none whatsoever. That family that love built would show that love, the love of Jesus Christ to this vicious murderer. Love, they believed, conquered hate, including this vicious hate.
Then came Nadine Collier, the daughter of victim Ethel Lance, 70 years old murdered by Roof. She said:
“I JUST WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW I FORGIVE YOU (ROOF). YOU HURT ME, YOU HURT A LOT OF PEOPLE BUT I FORGIVE YOU.”
Amazing, absolutely amazing and what unbelievably loving testimonies from these very special people.
Dylann Roof, a white man had been welcomed with open, loving, Christian arms by these black Christians who were about the business of Bible Study. One such was Felecia Sanders who, thank God, survived the attack along with her young granddaughter. As Ms. Sanders addressed Dylann Roof in court, she said:
“YOU HAVE KILLED SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE THAT I KNOW. EVERY FIBER IN MY BODY HURTS, AND I WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. MAY GOD HAVE MERCY ON YOUR SOUL.”
HATE WON’T WIN. Hate won’t win.
And again, Anthony Thompson, the grandson of Myra Thompson, 59 years old said that he and his family forgave Mr. Roof and urged him to repent and turn his life over to Jesus Christ!
More unbelievable loving testimony at work. Here sat a man guilty of one of the most egregious sinful acts possible, murder and up steps Anthony Thompson concerned for the soul of Dylann Roof, not at all concerned with vengeance, urging Mr. Roof to repent and turn his life over to Jesus Christ, to be born again, to know forgiveness available through Christ even to vicious, hateful men like Dylann Roof. Love at work, supreme love at work. One can only wonder the reactions of Roof who listened to the proceedings through a video linkup from a detention center. Christianity at its very best at work.
A Justice Department spokeswoman said:
“THIS HEARTBREAKING EPISODE WAS UNDOUBTEDLY DESIGNED TO STRIKE FEAR AND TERROR INTO THIS COMMUNITY AND THE DEPARTMENT IS LOOKING AT THIS CRIME FROM ALL ANGLES, INCLUDING AS A HATE CRIME AND AS AN ACT OF DOMESTIC TERRORISM.”
It was all of that and more. That a man could enter a House of Worship, the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, one of the nation’s most historic African American Houses of Worship, sit for one hour listening, welcomed by his victims, then pull out a .45 caliber handgun and begin a massacre of these innocent individuals one by one, loading and reloading that gun multiple times to murderously act out his hate. After ranting and railing against blacks who he alleged were taking over the country and raping white women, Roof deliberately left one person alive to share his motivations, his insane reasons for the killings and of course his hatred for blacks. And this murdering young man was left with a challenge to repent, change, and turnover his life to Jesus Christ, perhaps the only hope this young man would ever have to know the forgiveness which could be his. The murderous acts become even more unconscionable when Dylann Roof told investigators that he was indeed responsible for the killings and that he considered not going through with his plan because everyone at the church was so kind to him. These nine victims had welcomed him, a white man, opening arms and Bibles to him in the spirit of the loving Christ and he murdered them. No matter, “it’s time to heal” said church member Renee Ross. It’s time to heal.
The grandfather of Dylann Roof, himself a lawyer, C. Joseph Roof, was aghast, shaken to the core when he and the Roof family found out about the murders. The Roof family later released this statement:
“THE ROOF FAMILY WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND THEIR DEEPEST SYMPATHIES AND CONDOLENCES TO FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS IN WEDNESDAY NIGHT’S SHOOTING AT THE EMANUEL AME CHURCH IN CHARLESTON. WORDS CAN NOT EXPRESS OUR SHOCK, GRIEF AND DISBELIEF AS TO WHAT HAPPENED THAT NIGHT. WE ARE DEVASTATED AND SADDENED BY WHAT OCCURRED. WE OFFER OUR PRAYERS AND SYMPATHY FOR ALL OF THOSE IMPACTED BY THESE EVENTS.”
More love from these loving Christian survivor men and women. They extended love and concern to the family of the killer. How good it would be if our nation, all of us really got this message. A message of love, forgiveness, repentance, openness, sharing and caring. All of that came pouring forth as a result of vicious, hateful acts.
But there was one perhaps not so forgiving. That was South Republican Governor Nikki Haley who said, point blank, that the alleged gunman should face the death penalty. Said Governor Haley:
“WE WILL ABSOLUTELY WANT HIM TO HAVE THE DEATH PENALTY.”
I suppose a lot of other people, perhaps not as loving as the victims of the nine murdered, would feel the same. You know, an eye for an eye. Perhaps, Roof will be convicted, receive the death penalty and ultimately be executed. Somehow, I have the feeling that there would be no sense of satisfaction in the hearts of the loving survivors should that occur. For them, it is not an eye for an eye, but rather:
LOVE FOR HATE
But the lovefest and reconciliation efforts went further. Community leaders and parishioners all across Charleston vowed to build racial accord in the wake of the killings of nine black members of the African American Episcopal Church:
“A LOT OF PEOPLE EXPECTED US TO DO SOMETHING STRANGE AND BREAK OUT INTO A RIOT. WELL, THEY JUST DON’T KNOW US. THEY DON’T KNOW US BECAUSE WE ARE A PEOPLE OF FAITH.”
Those were the words of Reverend Norvel Goff said from the pulpit of the church as he praised the city for responding with love and compassion. As the memorial service ended, Charleston citizens black and white sang the song with passion and praise:
For it seemed that everywhere there was indeed amazing grace at work. And how sweet was that sound. That grace had saved wretches like you and me the world over and it was that very grace which should call Dylann Roof to repentance and consequently forgiveness. But it was also that amazing grace which should also have national socially redeeming impact:
WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE TO HAVE BLACK AND WHITE TOGETHER ON A MUCH LARGER SCALE THAT THIS (BLACK AND WHITE IN CHURCH?)
Those were the words of a white minister in Charleston determined more than ever to act in love so that the tragedy would be an inducement for racial harmony and not riots. It just seemed incredible how this great historic Southern city Charleston had responded with love, and not violence. Perhaps the lessons of Ferguson and Long Island, ugly hateful riots, were learned in Charleston where hate and hateful acts were turned into love and loving acts. That kind of amazing grace, said the families of the Charleston victims, was possible only through the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. So, it was not just forgiveness and better racial harmony, but forgiveness, repentance and the love of Jesus Christ.
How often should we forgive, disciples asked Jesus of Nazareth. His answer, 70 times 7. In short, don’t ever stop forgiving. For if you don’t forgive, said this Lord, then God can not and will not forgive you. Black Charleston Christians knew and believed in that message, and practiced those teachings. They knew well, I am sure, the words of the Apostle Paul in the Bible book First Corinthians that there are three great things in life, namely faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these, and all others, said Paul is:
These Charleston Christians knew that and practiced that in every way. 21 year old Dylann Roof, hateful killer, hoped to insight a nation to riot and further murder with his bloody rampage. But the effect has been just the opposite. Where other cities would perhaps turn to violence, as in Ferguson, Missouri and Long Island, New York, there was only love, and faith, and forgiveness. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said the following:
“WHERE OTHER CITIES WOULD HAVE SET CARS ON FIRE, CHARLESTON SET FAITH ABLAZE!”
Michael Gerson wrote the following:
“THE KILLER SET OUT TO DEFILE A SACRED PLACE AND ENDED UP SHOWING WHY IT IS SACRED. THESE VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES HAVE SHOWN WHAT IT MEANS TO BE FOLLOWERS OF CHRIST.”
Amen and amen. Even the New York Times was confounded by the compassion extended. The sense of wonderment spread across newspapers until forgiveness became the story. Said one reporter:
“IT WAS AS IF THE BIBLE STUDY HAD NEVER ENDED.”
Real Christianity at work. Love conquering hate. An extreme example of turning the other cheek.
There comes to mind the admonition in Scripture for all mankind to “do good to those who persecute you.” It is just simply amazing the good, the forgiveness offered by the families of the victims to this vicious killer. More love at work. More grace, more forgiveness. Amazing, AMAZING GRACE.
Tony Perkins goes onto say that what happened in the basement of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a frightening picture of a society that has lost its moral restraint. Perkins goes onto say that the same political class that is driving God out of the public square is systematically deconstructing the pillars of dignity, virtue and respect. The answer, he says comes from Charleston, the loving, forgiving, surviving Christian family members sending a message to America and the world that there is a critical need for a vibrant and public Christian faith in America, not just to restrain evil, but to conquer evil through the power of forgiveness. That is the real Christianity at work. It is that real Christianity, vibrant, energetic, unapologetic which should be revived in the public square, not removed. It is the answer, says Charleston, to America’s problems racial and otherwise. The problem they say is in the heart, a heart without love and prone to hate. Hate produces massacres, whether in Charleston, Syria, Iraq, in fact the world over. Only the love says Charleston of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness He offers, the amazing grace of the Christ at work, can solve the problems. So many fully agree.
A good opportunity for us to examine our own lives, don’t you think? We should look hard at our biases, prejudices, even our own hate. They are there, whether direct or indirect. Whether conscious or subconscious. We can know them, even understand them but they can not be eradicated by an intellect, but only a heart full of love. It is my hope for me and for you that we will be better agents of love, understanding, compassion, especially as we relate to those who are different. The words of the old Gospel song are more than apt:
RED AND YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE
THEY (ALL) ARE PRECIOUS IN HIS SIGHT
JESUS LOVES THE LITTLE CHILDREN (AND ALL MANKIND)
OF THE WORLD
If He does, so should we. As we live our lives, remembering and impacted by CHARLESTON, we should never forget the words of the Apostle Paul:
THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE