On June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, a white supremacist gunned down nine African American Christians as they participated in a Wednesday night Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Americans were outraged at such heartless and vile racism, but something else gained national attention: The church members forgave the murderer. In fact, such forgiveness is so countercultural that many in the media sought to explain it away by saying that the African American church was fearful of reprisals or was ingratiating themselves to the majority white culture. Fortunately, a few reporters accurately identified the “supernatural” source of such forgiveness—the gospel of the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ.
The media missed another crucial, countercultural aspect of the gospel: resurrection hope expressed by endurance. One week after the shooting, believers were back at Wednesday night Bible study, and they have continued ever since. The gospel message of Christ’s loving forgiveness has transformed these believers, and the promise of eternal, resurrection life has given them enduring hope. Forgiveness and endurance shape their values according to God’s kingdom ethics. As Joe Riley, mayor of Charleston, pronounced at the funeral of one church member, “Myra [Thompson] will always be here in the memory of this church. She was a martyr in the continuing fight of human dignity.”
During the season of Lent, Christians around the world focus especially on Jesus’s death on the cross and think about repentance and forgiveness. They recall Paul’s words in Romans that they are co-heirs with Christ, “if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that ...1
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