An Open Question to Christians

 

According to the BBC, the teenage children of a vCharleston-vigilictim of the Charleston church massacre, Sharonda Singleton, 45, said they have already forgiven their mother’s killer. ‘We already forgive him for what he’s done, and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family,” they said.

How does one find the ability to give forgiveness only hours after a loved one is murdered? Although I’m Jewish, I went to Catholic school in England. I learned that if one finds and accepts Jesus Christ, all is forgiven. I understand this aspect of Christian theology.

But this doesn’t feel right. Process the shock. Deal with the human emotion of anger and rage. Comprehend the loss.

I don’t understand. Would someone please explain? Would you be able to do the same?

Image: Stephen B. Morton, Associated Press

 

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  1. user_836033 Member
    user_836033
    @WBob

    We are taught that God only forgives those who ask for forgiveness.  So it is indeed difficult to understand how one should be expected by God to forgive those who don’t ask for it.  In that case, we are being asked to do what even God does not do.

    • #1
  2. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    Possibly, it is a defense mechanism to cope with the shock.

    • #2
  3. La Tapada Member
    La Tapada
    @LaTapada

    We are taught that our own healing requires that we forgive and not hold resentments. But, to my mind, you can only forgive what you’ve already processed and forgiveness for huge things occurs in stages (for me).

    • #3
  4. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    David Sussman: I don’t understand. Would someone please explain. And would you be able to do the same?

    The way I understand it, forgiveness, like repentance or salvation, is a process. Once you start that process, you can honestly say you are doing that process, even though the process is not yet complete.

    Years ago someone wronged me deeply – a fellow congregant. Mere days after the wrong had come to a head, I pledged to him that I hoped one day to see the both of us in heaven, reconciled. Simply making that pledge made it easier to contain my wrath toward him at the time, which was deep – even murderous. Who knows what I would have done if I hadn’t already made a commitment to forgive him? But I had.

    Even now, wrath and estrangement remain. Perhaps we’ll never be on speaking terms here on earth – given my own weaknesses, avoidance during this life may remain the best way to keep peace. But even in this half-finished state, the commitment to reconciliation has already noticeably healed certain infirmities in my character.

    I have on my bookshelf a pamphlet from the Orthodox church entitled “How Are We Saved?” The author testifies in it, “I am saved. And I am being saved.” Both can be true when the longed-for state is seen not only as a state, but also a process, one where simply committing to the process is highly likely to influence the final outcome.

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Lincoln
    Ricochet
    @MattUpton

    I couldn’t begin to speak for the victim’s children’s personally, having no experience for this kind of loss. But to the theology of it, I will do my best.

    We (people) naturally put limitations on our forgiveness. When Jesus was asked of the number of times someone should forgive his brother (seven times?), Jesus gave an answer that essentially meant unlimited. Christ showed us what it meant to forgive when he asked the Father to forgive those who were crucifying him.

    But truly, it’s when we understand our own sinfulness and powerlessness that God moves in our hearts to forgive others. Jesus spoke of a parable of a man who was forgiven a great debt, then cast another man in prison for failing to pay his much smaller debt. Take this with Paul’s teaching “Forgive one another… even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” We forgive because we are forgiven–not for the offense of harming another sinful man, but a holy God. His forgiveness required painful sacrifice, not just mere words.

    It’s only as a Christian that I understand total forgiveness. Could I forgive the murderer of my parents? Not naturally. But I believe the spirit of Christ can change my heart to forgive.

    • #5
  6. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    If a person’s instinct is to forgive such an action, they are a far better person than I am. Perhaps they cannot see themselves as vengeful, hating persons.  Perhaps they believe the act was not in the perpetrator’s control.

    I find such times are best left unreported, allow the people time to absorb and grieve before they must issue a press statement.

    • #6
  7. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    I’m glad you commented on this David because I was thinking how much I admire the cool, calm and class with which this church has handled an incomprehensible tragedy. It might have behooved the entire country if the president had highlighted such truly remarkable strength and bravery.

    I think the members have worked long and hard to establish a community of fellowship and positivity and are refusing to allow one individual to erase all their hard-earned efforts.

    I am beyond impressed by this congregation.

    • #7
  8. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    EThompson:I’m glad you commented on this David because I was thinking how much I admire the cool, calm and class with which this church has handled an incomprehensible tragedy. It might have behooved the entire country if the president had highlighted such truly remarkable strength and bravery.

    I am beyond impressed by this congregation.

    You want to see cool… Glenn Beck is in Charleston with the service. Not grandstanding. Just watch the love. If only this happened in Ferguson.


     

     

    • #8
  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Bob W:We are taught that God only forgives those who ask for forgiveness. So it is indeed difficult to understand how one should be expected by God to forgive those who don’t ask for it. In that case, we are being asked to do what even God does not do.

    “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” If people do not know the wrong they are doing, how can they ask forgiveness for it? Yet Jesus managed to say this, despite the difficulty of trying to speak while being crucified.

    Perhaps God does not need to begin forgiveness before someone asked because God already approaches others from the place of perfect love, not from the broken, imperfect place we typically start out from. God forgives others in order to heal them. But we usually need healing ourselves before we can even begin to hope that our forgiveness will heal others. On the journey of forgiveness, we start out well behind God, then – and for us, forgiveness has a self-protective or self-repairing aspect that God simply does not need.

    • #9
  10. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    • #10
  11. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    A good passage that illustrates the Christian understanding is Matthew 18:21-35.  As Christians, we have been forgiven a great debt, paid for by the sacrifice of the Messiah on the cross, so it makes no sense for us to hold someone else’s debt against them.

    Paul expounds on this at the end of Romans 12:

    Never pay back evil for evil to anyone.  Respect what is right in the sight of all men.  If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.  Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.  “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Notice the comfort.   Even though we as individuals don’t have standing to hold our enemy to account, God does.  Evil won’t get away with it.  God will judge.  If we ever doubt that, we can read the book of Revelation, in which the Almighty kicks butt and takes names.

    That said, David, I basically agree with your sentiments.  It’s hard to relinquish all this to God in a few hours.

    • #11
  12. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Bob W:We are taught that God only forgives those who ask for forgiveness. So it is indeed difficult to understand how one should be expected by God to forgive those who don’t ask for it. In that case, we are being asked to do what even God does not do.

    God forgives others in order to heal them. But we usually need healing ourselves before we can even begin to hope that our forgiveness will heal others. On the journey of forgiveness, we start out well behind God, then – and for us, forgiveness has a self-protective or self-repairing aspect that God simply does not need.

    Getting the sense from these comments there is agreement this was premature. Also that time is also a factor. Is the time to achieving forgiveness relative to level of transgression? I can quickly forgive someone for keying my car but maybe it would take decades to consider forgiving a tyrant?

    • #12
  13. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    EThompson:I’m glad you commented on this David because I was thinking how much I admire the cool, calm and class with which this church has handled an incomprehensible tragedy.

    A commitment to forgive can help people stay classy, brave and strong, even in the midst of enraging circumstances. As you allude to, why let some maniac unravel everything you have carefully built if you can possibly find a way to avoid it?:

    …I think the members have worked long and hard to establish a community of fellowship and positivity and are refusing to allow one individual to erase all their hard-earned efforts.

    • #13
  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    David Sussman: Getting the sense from these comments there is agreement this was premature. Also that time is also a factor. Is the time to achieving forgiveness relative to level of transgression? I can quickly forgive someone for keying my car but maybe it would take decades to consider forgiving a tyrant?

    It would most likely be premature if the people saying it consider forgiveness a mere static state, or believe they have already achieved complete forgiveness. But if what they mean is, “We’ve begun to forgive already,” that is plausible. Indeed, perhaps necessary in order for them to maintain self-control and not degenerate into savagery themselves.

    Some people appear to remain civilized without restraining their vengeful impulses, but for many of us, that’s difficult, making willingness to forgive a necessary ingredient in our own composure and self-control.

    • #14
  15. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    David Sussman: ‘Forgive me’… but how does one find the ability to give forgiveness, only hours after a loved one is murdered?

    a) In a case like this where the offender cannot possibly repay you for the harm he has caused, forgiveness is entirely rational since wrath requires the expenditure of even more emotional resources. (I sometimes like to quip that God is an economist, since nearly all His advice is economically rational.)

    b) It’s easier to forgive when one is certain the offender will be punished, as in a case like this where the shooter has plead guilty to a capital crime. If forgiving meant that the offender would be set free, or if the offender pleads not-guilty (or, even worse, was found not-guilty), it would likely be a different story.

    Ever watch the British crime drama Broadchurch? The second season touches on this. In the show, people are willing to (somewhat) forgive a child murderer’s crime right up until he pleads not guilty and forces them to endure the pain, humiliation, and uncertainty of a trial. After that, even the village priest turns his back.

    c) If it was a financial crime where there was a possibility of compensation by the offender, then forgiveness might be less rational if forgiving meant abandoning all hope of compensation. (I believe that victims of property crimes tend to be less satisfied by a guilty verdict than victims of violent crime, for similar reasons.)

    • #15
  16. tabula rasa Member
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    I would like to believe I could forgive eventually, but it would take me a lot longer than an hour to get there.

    • #16
  17. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    David Sussman:Getting the sense from these comments there is agreement this was premature. Also that time is also a factor. Is the time to achieving forgiveness relative to level of transgression? I can quickly forgive someone for keying my car but maybe it would take decades to consider forgiving a tyrant?

    It depends on what one believes about life, death, the afterlife, etc. If one believes in certain forms of reincarnation, one truly sees this world as merely being a stage where we play our parts in order to create and participate in soul-growing experiences. If one is playing a big role on the world stage to create an event of mass participation and learning, should one’s soul be damned for it? Should we damn Sir Ian McKellen for playing Richard III?

    If one is a believer, one’s duty is to serve G-d, not appearances. We look at this event from afar, perhaps several states away or around the world, and we decide whether it is good or bad? We are not the souls involved directly. Yes, we might learn lessons from the event or from other people’s reactions to the events even at this remove. Still, choose this day whom you will serve.

    • #17
  18. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    @David:

    State Senator Pinckney was also actively involved in promoting economic growth and development in South Carolina because he understood the restorative powers of fiscal prosperity. This individual’s death was a great loss for the whole country.

    • #18
  19. user_233140 Inactive
    user_233140
    @JohnMurdoch

    The most profound example of Christian forgiveness that I can think of is the response of the Amish community to the shooter who slaughtered their daughters in the awful Nickel Mines shooting.

    The church elders, and the family members who lost children, consoled the shooter’s wife, and helped provide for her family.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_school_shooting

    • #19
  20. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    Arahant:

    David Sussman:Getting the sense from these comments there is agreement this was premature. Also that time is also a factor. Is the time to achieving forgiveness relative to level of transgression? I can quickly forgive someone for keying my car but maybe it would take decades to consider forgiving a tyrant?

    If one is a believer, one’s duty is to serve G-d, not appearances. We look at this event from afar, perhaps several states away or around the world, and we decide whether it is good or bad? We are not the souls involved directly. Yes, we might learn lessons from the event or from other people’s reactions to the events even at this remove. Still, choose this day whom you will serve.

    Are you suggesting proximity to an event dictates whether one should form an opinion of that event?

    • #20
  21. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    EThompson:I’m glad you commented on this David because I was thinking how much I admire the cool, calm and class with which this church has handled an incomprehensible tragedy. It might have behooved the entire country if the president had highlighted such truly remarkable strength and bravery.

    I think the members have worked long and hard to establish a community of fellowship and positivity and are refusing to allow one individual to erase all their hard-earned efforts.

    I am beyond impressed by this congregation.

    I have been reluctant to say that because you never know what might happen, but I have moved beyond shock, anger and bewilderment to feel something like awe at the reaction here. It is hotter than a sauna here, 85 degrees at 5:30 this morning with dew on the ground and 107 heat index each day, but there have been thousands of people somberly praying in the streets for two days. It is not just the spirit of forgiveness that this congregation and the other people of faith in this community have. It seems to be a true faith in a higher purpose and better place for all.

    • #21
  22. Mr. Dart Inactive
    Mr. Dart
    @MrDart

    Romans 12:19
    Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

    WCSC, Ch. 5, Charleston reports:

    Charleston is often referred to as the ‘Holy City,’ a place where church steeples—not skyscrapers—dot the skyline. This Sunday at 10 a.m., our church bells will ring loudly and proudly to proclaim our community’s unity. 

    The following churches are participating:

    The Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul
    126 Coming Street

    First (Scots) Presbyterian Church
    53 Meeting Street

    Grace Episcopal Church
    98 Wentworth Street

    Mt. Zion AME Church
    5 Glebe Street

    The Old Bethel Methodist Church
    222 Calhoun Street

    St. John’s Lutheran Church
    5 Clifford Street

    St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church
    89 Hasell Street

    St. Matthews Lutheran Church
    405 King Street

    St. Michael’s Church
    14 Street Michael’s Alley

    St. Philips Church
    142 Church Street

    The Second Presbyterian Church
    342 Meeting Street

    The Summerall Chapel
    171 Moultrie Court

    • #22
  23. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Southern Pessimist:

    EThompson:I’m glad you commented on this David because I was thinking how much I admire the cool, calm and class with which this church has handled an incomprehensible tragedy. It might have behooved the entire country if the president had highlighted such truly remarkable strength and bravery.

    I think the members have worked long and hard to establish a community of fellowship and positivity and are refusing to allow one individual to erase all their hard-earned efforts.

    I am beyond impressed by this congregation.

    I have been reluctant to say that because you never know what might happen, but I have moved beyond shock, anger and bewilderment to feel something like awe at the reaction here. It is hotter than a sauna here, 85 degrees at 5:30 this morning with dew on the ground and 107 heat index each day, but there have been thousands of people somberly praying in the streets for two days. It is not just the spirit of forgiveness that this congregation and the other people of faith in this community have. It seems to be a true faith in a higher purpose and better place for all.

    This was not only an observant church but a fiscally successful church and we need to acknowledge what a potent combination this can be. These impressive people want to protect both their faith and their donuts!

    Senator Pinckney had a degree in biz ad and knew what he was doing.

    • #23
  24. user_1065645 Contributor
    user_1065645
    @DaveSussman

    John Murdoch:The most profound example of Christian forgiveness that I can think of is the response of the Amish community to the shooter who slaughtered their daughters in the awful Nickel Mines shooting.

    The church elders, and the family members who lost children, consoled the shooter’s wife, and helped provide for her family.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish_school_shooting

    John, thank you for this. In this case the killers own family were also victims of their deranged husband/father. How the Amish reached out and supported them makes sense and is commendable. Something I don’t know if I could have done, at least not right away.

    The Elders’ stated that the killer is now standing before God and therefore will be judged. Their faith in forgiveness allows them to cope with their loss. But is that lack of anger and resentment natural? Is it even healthy?

    Or is it a suppression of feelings that could catalyze in other forms?

    • #24
  25. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    David Sussman:Are you suggesting proximity to an event dictates whether one should form an opinion of that event?

    No. I am suggesting that beliefs will effect different responses in different people to events like this. Obviously, you are affected, just as many people around the world were affected by the initial reporting in the British tabloid press on the Trayvon Martin shooting. Many rushed to judgment based on that inflammatory reporting. They chose to get upset about what they had read. They chose to see the events through the eyes of man. But G-d said that his creation was good and very good. G-d told us not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why? Evil is an illusion that we give force through our beliefs. There is more at work than what is on the physical plane. Know that G-d is in charge and that all is to the purpose of good and of our growth. Try to look through G-d’s eyes instead of man’s. You cannot see all that G-d knows, but you can know there is more there than the news will report and more than happens in the physical world. Choosing what vision you see will help you choose whom you will serve.

    • #25
  26. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    As Christians, we understand that holding a grudge is sinful.  We do not want to be sinful, therefore we aspire to be forgiving.

    It would be understandable for the family members to be angry and bitter toward the killer.  To hate him.  To want to exact revenge.  It would be understandable, but it would still be sinful.

    It strikes me that the family members who’ve made their peace with the killer have a very strong relationship with Christ, and they draw their strength from Him, so they are able, through His grace, avoid the understandable, but sinful emotions.

    Further, we forgive because we were first forgiven. We know that but for His influence in our lives, we’d be in the gutter.

    Now, for my part, I believe all of this is true, but would I have the strength to let God speak through me as they have done?  I’m not so sure.  But the very last thing I am going to do is tell those families how they should process this.

    • #26
  27. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    Senator Pinckney had a degree in biz ad and knew what he was doing.

    That may be true but I don’t think that is what put him in that place Wednesday night.

    • #27
  28. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Southern Pessimist:Senator Pinckney had a degree in biz ad and knew what he was doing.

    That may be true but I don’t think that is what put him in that place Wednesday night.

    He did a lot for his community before his death on many different levels.

    • #28
  29. lesserson Member
    lesserson
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    EThompson:

    Southern Pessimist:

    (SNIP)

    This was not only an observant church but a fiscally successful church and we need to acknowledge what a potent combination this can be. These impressive people want to protect both their faith and their donuts!

    Senator Pinckney had a degree in biz ad and knew what he was doing.

    Both this tragedy and the police shooting that occurred some weeks ago has shown me what an interesting community this is here in Charleston. I too hesitate to speak too soon but in both instances there have been no Riots, no calls for blood (except for perhaps the killer), no screams of hatred, only tearful reflection and an outpouring of prayer by those directly affected and other churches in the area.

    Charleston is an old city with ties to the past that go back to before the founding. There were slaves bought and sold here at one time. It’s the epitome of what what others think of backward, southern, rural, conservative people and yet the racial divide here, while not perfect, has not boiled over in the streets with broken windows and looting but instead with people from all parts of the city standing in those streets crying, praying, and seeking true justice. It isn’t perfect here, but it’s the America I wish I saw more of in the news.

    • #29
  30. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    If you believe in an eternal afterlife, isn’t everything that happens to you in this life trivial and transitory?

    • #30

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