2015-06-24 / Editorial

WITNESS

Jim Shumard

“I forgive you! Every fiber of my body hurts and I will never be the same. As we said in the Bible Study, we enjoyed you but may God have mercy on you.”

The community, nation and world have shed tears over the tragedy in Charleston. The community, nation and world have also been inspired by the words of forgiveness and deep grief offered by those immediately affected by the hateful and unbelievable actions of one disturbed person. The shock is even greater since he sat with them in Bible Study for an hour, listening to their responses to God and being a recipient of their hospitality.

The media has reported words from people who survived as victims. I label name them witnesses, not to the crime, but to a life formed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is obvious that the words from those who offered forgiveness came from the heart, from pain, from anguish, and yet from love that was raised on the seeds and fruits of the Gospel and though every fiber of their bodies, hearts and souls were in pain, every fiber of their bodies, hearts and souls had obviously been infused by the Spirit of God throughout their lives.

This experience draws to mind, the response of the Amish “witnesses” to the even worse tragedy in an Amish schoolhouse a number of years ago. These people were formed in the Gospel and their natural first response was to forgive. I am sure as the lonely years went by for the Amish witnesses and will go by for the witnesses of Charleston, that many other feelings, including anger and resentment, will surface. These witnesses strike me as people who are honest to God and to themselves, and like the psalmists, they do and will express all of their feelings, doubts, pains and joys to God.

I consider, what the media might call casualties, as martyrs, people of faith doing what people of faith do: gathering, praying, opening the Bible, and sharing in a spirit of love and hospitality. We of all faiths need to continue gathering, praying, sharing, loving and showing hospitality even in the face of evil.

The question for all of us who call ourselves ‘people of faith’ is: “Have we been so formed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ or by another Faith, that when evil directly affects us, will we respond out of the values we have been taught and shown?

“Lord deliver us from the temptation toward hatred and revenge and deliver us from evil.”

Dr. Jim+

Fr. Jim is rector of St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, Waynesboro.

Return to top