A Pentecost People took their faith into the courtroom, into their sanctuary, and into the streets. Their unimaginable courage and compassion proved love’s power over any lesser force: including crazed evil. Nine dead: pastor, grandmother, father, brothers and sisters, friends. Yet the surviving members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina chose to walk in Jesus hope.
These Pentecost People believe with Paul that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, that, in Christ, we are one. They welcomed the shooter into their Bible study. Then, later, they faced him in the courtroom to call him on his betrayal. Their actions remind us there’s nothing milk toast about forgiveness. Forgiveness does not pretend wrong is inconsequential; forgiveness chooses not to demean ourselves with revenge.
These Pentecost People live into Jesus’ challenge to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us. Their capacity to love stuns and inspires: their potent words and actions challenge a nation to come together.
To these Pentecost People I say: “Thank you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for your example of forgiveness. Thank you for your authentic faith. Who you chose to be in the greatest of heartbreaks ennobles you and challenges me toward deeper, truer faith. Of you, I hear Jesus, the Murdered and the Risen, say ‘Well done, good and faithful servants.’”
And I see the nine, one by one, wrapped in a bear hug. The words “Welcome home” smiled into each set of eyes. Each one knowing at last, for sure—and wanting us to know—that love is worth it. For this is the promise of our faith.