If you ever want to know the true meaning of Christmas, go spend some time with people who have forgiven the murderer of their loved ones.
I recently had the opportunity – in reality, the privilege – of doing so when I was recently invited by the South Carolina Baptist Convention to speak at a special service held at Mother Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.
As I’m sure most Americans remember, three and a half years ago a young man named Dylann Roof walked into Mother Emanuel on the pretense of attending a Wednesday night Bible study. When the study’s prayer time came, he pulled out a gun and started firing. He killed nine people, including the pastor, Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, a father of two young girls.
After his arrest, Roof, who self-identifies as a white supremacist, confessed his motive for carrying out the shooting was to start a “race war.” He was charged with 33 counts of federal hate crimes and was sentenced to death. He is currently in an Indiana penitentiary, awaiting execution.
Roof’s heinous hate crime shocked the nation, but it was the response from the victims’ families that left us truly speechless.