I believe that as a culture we’ve entered into dangerous territory. If you don’t believe just watch the news. Whenever something bad is done by someone, see how people react. Most of the time now, the reaction is the same. People want swift justice and without forgiveness. What we have seen in South Carolina is exception to the rule. The victims chose to forgive Dylann Roof. Their actions, however, are rare. Typically see the opposite reaction.
A little while ago, the news broke that a college fraternity was caught on a video singing a song with racist lyrics. This was discovered because video showed up on the internet. Whatever station I was watching was interviewing students on campus. They asked an African American student a very important question and his answer showed that we have crossed a line.
The reporter asked him if he would forgive the students involved if they asked. His answer was, “No.”
On one hand, I’m glad that we now live in a society where people are called out for what they have done and victims are encourage to speak out against those who have wronged them. This was not the case just a handful of decades ago. Shameful acts were hidden and no one talked about them. Now those things are exposed, but we also now have no forgiveness for those whose actions are exposed.
The problem is that instead of bringing real justice, we end up looking like a certain group of pharisees standing around a scared woman that we caught in adultery. We are ready to stone her, that is until Jesus speaks up and reminds us that we are all sinners. He then turns to forgive the woman. We need people who can be like Jesus now more than ever in our world. In Matthew 18, after Jesus talks about resolving conflict, Peter asked him, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” Jesus replied to him “No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!”  Jesus essentially tells Peter that he ought to be extending forgives every time someone commits sins against us.
I know that to some people this sounds crazy. How dare you ask someone to forgive a person of the terrible things that they have done? The only thing is that all of us have sinned. We are all sinners and we have all been offered forgiveness from Jesus. Because of this, we should offer forgiveness because as well.
This kind of radical forgiveness was at work when the families of those killed by Dylann Roof had the chance to address and chose to take that moment to offer him forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean what that person did is okay. You are not approving of their actions nor are you pretending like they weren’t wrong. Instead it means that you will work to be at peace with that person. You won’t seek revenge and instead you will seek to reconcile with them. You won’t pretend that it didn’t happen, but instead you choose to offer up grace.
Why do we do this? Because Jesus did it for us and by doing so for others they get to know what Jesus has done as well. It can be hard, but it is the better way. As followers of Jesus, we need to learn to forgive so that grace can be for all people as it was meant to be and not just for the people of whom we approve. Ultimately forgiveness can lead people to Jesus & his gospel. I pray that we can show the love of Christ through the powerful act of forgiveness.
 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), Mt 18:21-22. Holy Bible: New Living Translation, Jn 8:7.