You may remember reading about a tragedy that occurred on June 17, 2015. On that day, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church gathered for their regular evening prayer service in Charleston, South Carolina. But a young man, with stated racist motivations, entered the church and opened fire, killing 9 individuals and injuring 3 others.
In a surprising move at a news conference held at the killer’s trial, the members of Emanuel AME Church came forward to offer forgiveness.
“I acknowledge that I am very angry,” said Bethane Middleton-Brown, whose sister, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, died in the shooting. “But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family… is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul.”
She didn't forgive the killer because she had to, but because she was compelled by her faith. “Forgiveness is power. It means you can fight everything, and anything head on.”
In a world of grudges and resentment, the Emanuel members are great representations of forgiveness. The apostle Paul wrote that we are now agents of forgiveness.
God… reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. We are Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. - 2 Corinthians 5:19-20
Since God has forgiven us and restored us to himself through Christ, we now join him in his work of forgiveness and reconciliation. We are ambassadors of forgiveness.
Have you ever thought about what an ambassador does? Ambassadors represent the nation in a foreign land. They speak on behalf of the President, build local relationships, and make decisions based on the President’s best interests in the local community.
As Christ’s ambassadors, we exist to represent Jesus in all areas of life on earth. In a world in which we are foreigners and exiles (1 Peter 2:11), we speak and make decisions as local representatives of Christ.
And if we are ambassadors of Christ, what did he teach about forgiveness? Once, Peter asked Jesus, “How many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22 ESV)
As Jesus' agents in this world, we can offer total and immediate forgiveness to those who sin against us. In so doing, it is “as though God were making his appeal through us.”
Christ employs us as his ambassadors of forgiveness to invite the world to share in his grace!
“Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.”
Matthew 18:21-22 ESV
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