First, my prayers and thoughts go out to the victims and their loved ones of the Charleston Shooting. There has been some debate going around about whether or not the families of victims in the Charleston massacre should have forgiven the murderer [I won’t use his name], who in his own words was motivated by his hatred of black people.
I respect the decision of the Families to forgive the murderer. If it brings them peace and helps them to carry on, then they made the best choice. I believe in the word and I am Christian as well and I do believe that we are called to forgive, period. I also believe that forgiveness is a way to make peace, when you hold onto anger and hate, it stresses you out, runs your blood pressure up and doesn’t allow you to think clearly and you make decision based off of emotions, instead of logic. So, ultimately, I do think forgiveness is a good thing. But, here’s the thing. Forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to defend your life and it doesn’t mean that those who commit sins or crimes against you are absolved from righteous consequences. For example, if someone is punching me in the face and they won’t stop, I may forgive them, but while the event is going on, I still am going to try and stop their punches.
That might mean moving away from them, putting a barrier between myself and the person, or if it comes down to it, using reasonable physical force to get them off of me, like punching them until they get back. Now, once you’re no longer in danger, you should stop using physical force, but I’m not going to just let them punch me… unless it’s a situation where the person is considerably weaker and I can stop their punches by restraining them or something.
The scripture backs up the right to self-defense: Luke 11:21 “when a strong man, full armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe.” Luke 22:36 “But not let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”
There is a difference between self-defense and vengeance. Vengeance would be taking revenge on someone once the danger has ceased and you’ve resolved the issue. That’s vengeance and spite and that’s not Biblical, but if you’re under attack, you can defend yourself and still forgive.
My point is this, Black people, forgiveness doesn’t have to mean doing nothing. We can defend ourselves and seek righteous justice and still forgive and respect the humanity and dignity of other people. We need to start differentiating between what forgiveness is and what it is not. Also there is a difference between forgive indhttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/25/forgiveness-charleston-shooting-_n_7657130.htmlividuals and forgiving institutions. We are called to forgive people, but we’re not called to forgive institutions. I can forgive a person, but I have no reason to forgive white supremacy, it’s a wicked institution. Now justice doesn’t mean randomly attacking people or doing things that don’t make sense, but advocating for your rights, protecting your person when under real threat or seeking righteous restitution under the law for crimes committed against you is justice.