Grace-filled forgiveness after church shootings
Regular columnist James Knight reflects on grace and forgiveness expressed by members of the American church which was the scene of an horrific shooting last week.
In a week of mourning over the tragic deaths of the Christian members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in Charleston, we have also seen the most powerful earthly example of Christian love there is - showing love, grace and forgiveness to someone who deserve condemnation - just as Christ did for each and every one of us.
I think it is in these wonderful acts of Christian faith that we'll find the answers to some of those difficult Bible verses, like the one where St Paul says we are to be like infants when it comes to evil (1 Corinthians 14:20). I think we must place this alongside Jesus saying that we must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3), as there are clear parallels between the two.
Children have many excellent qualities, and it is those child-like qualities that we should emulate in our faith. We should be reliant on God in the same way a child relies on a parent, and we should always be enquiring just as children are always enquiring about the world they live in.
But being told to be like children in our love towards God is in no way to be taken that Christians are to be innocent and unapprised of worldly things. For we all know that Christ also says to be as 'shrewd as snakes' as well as being innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16). We should search and rely on God as a child searches and relies on a parent, but we should also be shrewd and wise on our Christian journey too.
Perhaps the grace-filled response of forgiveness we are seeing by those who lost loved ones in Charleston is a perfect example of how, and why, it is better for us to be like infants in being innocent and unapprised of evil.
This has parallels with St Paul's instruction in Romans 16:19, to be "wise in doing right" and to "stay innocent of any wrong". In remaining innocent of the motivations of the evil mindset, the victims' families are steering well clear of any motivations of their own to respond quid pro quo. In other words, they are allowing the power of Christ's love to subsume their motivations to the extent that evil is always giving way to love and grace.
And it's in those microcosmic demonstrations of Christ's love and grace on earth that we get the hint of what the world would be like if we all behaved that way and had the same motivations - the template for which was laid down by Christ himself on earth, with His teachings, miracles, death and resurrection.
The image of the Charleston church steeple is courtesy of Spencer Means from New York City, USA. [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
James Knight is a long term contributor to the Network Norwich & Norfolk website and a local government officer based in Norwich. He is also a writer for the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.
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