The Secretary of State is a senior official of the federal government of the United States of America heading the U.S. Department of State, principally concerned with foreign policy…
In the course of carrying out their duties a Secretary receives and send highly classified information, info that in the wrong hands can be used to harm American interests. For this reason the government has guidelines to protect this information that call for it to be transmitted via a government-secured system. Additionally, the State Department’s rules specify that personal records of a departing presidential appointee may NOT be removed from the government until/if the State Department approves and oversees this process by examining the emails.
Despite the dangers, and flouting these common-sense guidelines, Hillary Clinton decided to use a private email server and her own email account. The manner in which emails containing classified info was handled was both “extremely careless” and not “reasonable” (according to FBI Director James Comey’s thorough investigation. That he decided not to prosecute despite his finding is outrageous and smacks of crony bias towards Clinton). Clinton’s extremely poor judgment on these matters of national importance is surpassed only by the arrogance and deception she displays in defending her practices. She told the following lies about her emails, all of which have been confirmed by FBI Director Comey as untrue:
1. Nothing marked classified on emails sent/received
2. Did not email any classified material
3. Used just one device for convenience
4. All work-related emails returned to State Dept.
5. No work-related emails deleted from her personal account
6. Her lawyers read all emails individually
We do not need as Commander-in-Chief someone who still doesn’t understand that her “mistake” was not in using a single email account– but in setting up a private, unaccountable, unsecured system and using it to transmit classified information, risking American national security in the process. We don’t need a Commander-in-Chief that tells lies so casually. This was no little mistake. For less well-connected people, it would be a crime.
To the NeverTrumpers: I was sympathetic to your cause until I faced the stark reality that unless the GOP unites behind the only candidate who can defeat the Democrat nominee we’ll have Hillary Clinton in the White House. This prospect makes me shiver with horror. Votes cast for the libertarian ticket or write-in candidates of all varieties will amount to exactly nothing– a worse than meaningless gesture, since by not coming together behind Trump/Pence they help Hillary get elected. Now of course, I must respect those who say they cannot in good conscience support Trump. I really do get it… but…
Votes cast for the libertarian ticket or write-in candidates of all varieties will amount to exactly nothing– a worse than meaningless gesture, since by not coming together behind Trump/Pence they help Hillary get elected.
… on the other hand, I think one does find worthiness in Trump’s candidacy– he understands the threats against America and simply wants to enforce our borders to prevent bad people from breaking our laws and getting in to harm us; he recognizes the importance and long-term impact of Supreme Court nominees and has given us a list of conservatives justices he’d nominate; he sees the threat to Christian religious liberty and chose a respectable, evangelical and conservative governor, Mike Pence, as his VP running mate– who also sees this threat and wants to stand up against it. I think nominating Pence also reveals something about Trump– he is willing to have at his side a man very different in style than him– soft-spoken, much more diplomatic, known for being conservative. He complements Trump and may even compensate for some of Trump’s weaknesses. I also think Trump’s family reflects very well on him– could a man as supposedly morally challenged as Trump raise a family as accomplished, intelligent, well-spoken, respectful and loyal to their Father as his seems to be?
could a man as supposedly morally challenged as Trump raise a family as accomplished, intelligent, well-spoken, respectful and loyal to their Father as his seems to be?
Hillary is profoundly more corrupt than Trump and un-apologetically tells us she’ll continue the Obama policies of government solutions for every societal ill, which always involves falsely framing the narrative in terms of class/race divisions to get its agenda accomplished; she wants open borders at a time that ISIS terrorism is already happening on our soil; she has taken zero responsibility for her errors in judgment that led to the deaths of four at Benghazi, nor for risking national security by sending classified email on a private unsecured server. Instead, she boldly and repeatedly lied to the American public about these events. She is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.
she (Hillary) has taken zero responsibility for her errors in judgment that led to the deaths of four at Benghazi, nor for risking national security by sending classified email on a private unsecured server. Instead, she boldly and repeatedly lied to the American public about these events. She is not fit to be Commander-in-Chief.
Donald Trump, while an imperfect candidate, projects strength against our enemies. Unlike Hillary/Obama who obsessively, and out of ideologically confused political correctness, protect the reputation of Islam and thinks it unimportant, even harmful to identify Islamist radicalism as our enemy, Trump both knows and clearly names this ruthless enemy we face. Nor does Trump play the politically correct and deceitful game that all immigrants are the same, but distinguishes between those who enter the country with good intent, abiding by our laws, and those who enter with bad intent, flouting our laws. Unlike Hillary, he does not want to reward the latter with rights and privileges of American citizenship that they have illegally usurped. With Trump we should get real action on this issue– Hillary will just encourage thousands more illegals to come but spin it as being welcoming and compassionate. No, it is not compassionate to encourage law-breaking that in the end hurts Americans who are here legally!
So I will continue my case for Trump and against Hillary, but my main point was to say to the NeverTrumpers– let us not shoot ourselves in the foot! Would it not be better to have, over the next 4 years, a President who is at least conservative on some of the most critical issues we face than to have Hillary Clinton, and four more years of Obama-style policies? Thanks for listening.
Would it not be better to have, over the next 4 years, a President who is at least conservative on some of the most critical issues we face than to have Hillary Clinton, and four more years of Obama-style policies?
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recklessly, in violation of government rules and reasonable common sense, used an unsecured private server for email communications, which endangered national security by exposing sensitive classified information to our enemies. She failed to preserve all those emails as required but instead destroyed them, and to cap it off, repeatedly lied about this to the public. Now, she thinks she deserves a promotion?! (This doesn’t even factor in the debacle in Benghazi for which she was also investigated and proven a liar, and wherein her incompetence is at least in part responsible for the deaths of four brave Americans).
Well, that’s Hillary/Obama logic. American logic ought to say in response:
“Mrs. Hilton, you’re out of order. A person who fails in lesser duties to do that required of them, and exposes America to serious harm, and expresses no regret but rather refuses to be accountable for their actions, does not deserve a promotion to higher duties! You have escaped justice for the moment, using your powerful White House connections. But at the ballot box, God willing, the American people will execute their own justice and you will be sent home. And if there is any justice left in this world, the next President will re-open this case and correct this travesty of justice today, and you will indeed face the proper consequences for your actions.”
Outrageous and beyond disgraceful. Today’s recommendation by FBI Director James B. Comey regarding the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a unsecured, private email server for communicating highly security-sensitive government business is truly flabbergasting. The FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server found the following (bolding/underlining mine):
Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.
For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation.
…we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.
Then, there’s this:
The FBI also discovered several thousand work-related e-mails that were not in the group of 30,000 that were returned by Secretary Clinton to State in 2014…
With respect to the thousands of e-mails we found that were not among those produced to State…
It is also likely that there are other work-related e-mails that they did not produce to State and that we did not find elsewhere, and that are now gone because they deleted all e-mails they did not return to State, and the lawyers cleaned their devices in such a way as to preclude complete forensic recovery.
OK, so let’s summarize:
Hillary Clinton and her State Dept. were extremely careless in handling very sensitive, highly classified information.
Any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position (or those working with her) should have known that using an unclassified system was totally inappropriate for the kind of information being transmitted.
Hillary Clinton’s associates were hacked and though no direct evidence was found to show she herself was hacked, it is unlikely they would have found such evidence if she was hacked, and the FBI has good reasons to think she was possibly hacked.
Thousands of emails that Clinton did not own (as a government employee they belonged to the government and were required to be preserved) were not preserved and not turned over but instead deleted.
OK, so all the above would lead you to believe an indictment is the next step, right? Not so fast:
Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case(??). Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.
In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
To be clear, this is not to suggest that in similar circumstances, a person who engaged in this activity would face no consequences. To the contrary, those individuals are often subject to security or administrative sanctions. But that is not what we are deciding now.
What? So again, Hillary Clinton was not only extremely careless in handling highly sensitive classified information, so that any reasonable person in her position should have known better than to act as she did, but there are good reasons to suspect she was hacked by hostile agents, since her use of private email server was well-known, she used her unsecured system extensively while traveling outside the US including in hostile territories. and others with whom she was communicating were definitely hacked. And she did not preserve/turn over all the government emails as she was supposed to do, but actually deleted thousands of them on her own initiative!
Bottom line: Hillary Clinton through her use of a private server and failure to preserve government emails definitely acted wrongly. She did something no reasonable person should do; and her actions exposed American secrets to our enemies. Even if she wasn’t hacked (which we don’t know for sure since hacking would likely not leave evidence behind), her actions were amazingly reckless and show a complete lack of judgment for someone in her position!
Why then is she not being indicted? Why is there one standard of justice for Hillary Clinton, and another for all us ordinary citizens who in her position would indeed be facing “consequences”! Apparently the FBI Director’s reasoning goes like this, “Yes, Hillary did not follow protocol, acted unreasonably, and was extremely careless with emails containing vital national security interests, and by her actions possibly put these secrets into enemy hands, but she didn’t mean it, so we can’t indict!”
Something stinks real bad here. This is an outrage! America should not stand by and let this happen. I pray she will not. Not only is Hillary Clinton disqualified by these actions from being the next President of the United States, she should most definitely face the consequences of her actions.
OK, so Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski has now been charged with battery against Michelle Fields, a reporter he claims he never touched or met! Look, the police are not going to charge someone without any evidence. But they do have evidence of an eyewitness (Washington Post reporter Ben Terris, who has stood by his account that he saw Lewandowski grab Ms. Fields), as well as surveillance video of the alleged incident.
I have watched various videos of the incident many times–in them one sees Ms Fields is trying to get close to Donald Trump to ask him a question and one can clearly see Mr. Lewandowski reaching out from behind Fields with his left arm, grabbing Mrs. Field’s left arm, and yanking her back towards him & away from Trump. He then continues forward, moving past Ms Fields and following after Trump.
On the day of the incident, sources to the Daily Beast even reported that “Mr. Lewandowski acknowledged to Breitbart’s Washington political editor, Matthew Boyle, that he did manhandle Fields. Lewandowski’s explanation to Boyle, said these sources, was that he and Fields had never met before and that he didn’t recognize her as a Breitbart reporter, instead mistaking her for an adversarial member of the mainstream media.”‘ (As if his actions would be OK if it was a hostile reporter).
He later would deny he had even touched Fields, and then the Trump folks escalated into full-scale attack mode– casting Fields as an attention seeker and calling her delusional while saying she probably made up the story..
Now the woman was not badly hurt nor was she thrown to the ground– but she never said she was. All she has said was that someone grabbed her arm forcefully, almost knocking her off-balance, and that she spoke to a fellow reporter who witnessed the incident and told her the person who grabbed her was Mr. Lewandowski. Watching the video, it sure does appear it’s Lewandowski who is grabbing her from behind, and after puling her backwards immediately moves past her, which would explain why she didn’t really see who grabbed her.
Anyway my point in bringing up all of this is that once again, Mr. Trump acts reprehensibly. Instead of instructing his overzealous campaign manager to immediately issue an apology to this reporter (wouldn’t a decent person do this?) he essentially calls her a liar and allows his campaign staff to publicly malign the woman’s character, adding insult to injury. Had they apologized by acknowledging the campaign manager overstepped his bounds in his efforts to shield Mr. Trump, my guess is the reporter probably would have let it go. After all, she did not look or sound like she’d been badly hurt, just a little shaken at being manhandled. By instead attacking her character and motives they practically guaranteed she would press charges. Apologies are not Mr. Trump’s style– which should give pause to all –because it reveals that he continues the pattern of attacking people he perceives as enemies and justifying plainly wrong acts by claiming others started it/deserve it. These are the actions of a childish bully.
“I like the mandate…I don’t want people dying in the streets.”
Well, to borrow his phrase, “excuse me” Mr. Trump, but what is wrong with Obamacare above all else is its central mandate- that one must buy healthcare from the government or be taxed/fined. This mandate is unconstitutional, un-American, and anti-liberty. The Supreme Court decision that made this possible was unprecedented, and flat-out wrong. Other Presidential candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio understand this, in contrast to Mr. Trump. How is Trump going to “repeal and replace” Obamacare when he currently (not 10 years ago) believes its central unconstitutional (and unconservative) principle- the mandate- must continue and defends it using a liberal talking point? Answer: Obamacare will not be repealed or replaced properly by someone who holds such a view.
In the last GOP debate Trump accused the last Republican President and leadership of being liars who launched the US into the Iraq War under false pretenses. Wow. For a so-called Republican to make this charge against a former President, with millions watching, and again, using the Democrats’ own playbook– is a disgrace. And now when challenged, Mr. Trump seems to want us to forget that he called the Bush administration liars a few days before. Whatever one thinks of the Bush administration’s decision to enter the Iraq War, it is irresponsible and unseemly for the currently leading Republican candidate to make such accusations about a Republican President. This manner of attacking others has been a consistent pattern for Mr. Trump. But being brash, bold, politically incorrect, un-beholden to special interests, or whatever, does not justify or excuse the boorish, reckless words that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth.
Being brash, bold, politically incorrect, un-beholden to special interests, etc., does not justify or excuse the boorish, reckless words that come out of Donald Trump’s mouth.
The President’s most important task is to protect the security of America as Commander-in-Chief of the world’s most powerful army. This demands a person of mature character, not only strong and resolute, but also cool in judgment, certainly, not a hothead. Judging by his behavior merely throughout the course of his presidential campaign, the egotistical, thin-skinned Trump woefully fails to meet this standard. From the beginning of his campaign Trump has uttered rash and even crude words; and has engaged in juvenile, petty fights with anyone he perceives as the slightest threat to his election chances. Baseless ad hominem attacks against others has been his modus operandi. We need a Commander-in-Chief made of better stuff than this. As I have said before, the fact that the President is not our Pastor-in-Chief doesn’t mean he ought not to be a man of principle, nobility and wise words.
The fact that the President is not our Pastor-in-Chief doesn’t mean he ought not to be a man of principle, nobility and wise words.
Character counts– it reveals the kind of person someone is– what governs them as human beings, and helps us predict what they would do under challenging circumstances. Of course according to Scripture all human beings are sinful, and therefore all sin and make mistakes. We ought to be gracious towards the sins and mistakes of others, recognizing we ourselves are deeply flawed. Nevertheless, in everyday life we still hold people accountable for their actions and evaluate character based on fruit (actions). For example, when hiring someone for a job, we look for evidence (their past record) that they not only have the skills necessary to perform the sought after job with excellence, but also the maturity to perform the work ethically and responsibly. Presidential candidates are seeking perhaps the most important job in the world -President of the United States- one that involves more grave and sobering responsibilities than most. We as voters also have a serious task before us, and must exercise great wisdom and responsibility ourselves, as we choose our next President. Many conservative voters, motivated by justifiable anger and frustration with the status quo, have been aligning behind Mr.Trump, who on the surface promises to break through political correctness and empty promises to get things done. I share the frustration of many. Nevertheless, it is my view that Mr. Trump has neither by actions or words, demonstrated the consistency of principle, the depth of character, the nuance and clarity of position, or the maturity that would make him the best qualified person to become President of the United States.
I think these are essential questions for the church to grapple with. Christians have a witness before the world that is being watched carefully. As I argued in my previous article, I believe the Charleston family members gave a powerful and theologically appropriate testimony before the world. The issue of forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian gospel. Through Christ, God forgave and reconciled sinners to Himself. So Christians are to be like God in being a forgiving, gracious people. But to do so in a way fitting and pleasing to God, we should biblically consider the issue of forgiveness as we try to correctly answer questions such as: what is forgiveness, to whom it is offered and on what basis, what does human vs. divine forgiveness accomplish, etc.
Defining Christian forgiveness
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary to forgive is to: a) to stop feeling anger toward (someone who has done something wrong); b) to stop blaming (someone); c) to stop feeling anger about (something) ; d) to forgive someone for (something wrong); e) to stop requiring payment of (money that is owed).
When we forgive someone, we let go of resentment, anger, or blame; we let go of the claim for requital we have towards someone who’s wronged us. Another aspect of forgiveness is granting relief from payment. This touches on the legal concern– does forgiveness remove the guilt incurred when someone wrongs another? We will explore this question further in order to highlight the difference between human and divine forgiveness.
Christian forgiveness goes beyond merely letting go of anger, resentment, or bitterness, since it even returns good for evil. We see this expressed in such verses as, “Repay no one evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17). “Beloved, never revenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God” (12:19). “If your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (12:20). “But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matt. 5:39).
So we turn now to the question of to whom is this extraordinary Christian forgiveness offered, and what does it accomplish.
To whom is Christian forgiveness offered?
There are various types of Christian forgiveness:
God offers forgiveness to the sinner who repents of their sins through Christ, accomplishing the salvation of sinners (Acts 2:38);
Christians offer forgiveness to other Christian brothers and sisters, as commanded, with a view towards reconciliation of relationship (Eph 4:32, Col 3:13);
Christians follow the example of a merciful Savior and offer love (including forgiveness) towards enemies , with a view towards softening the heart of the enemy by pricking his conscience (Luke 6:35; Rom 12:20);
The Church forgives the repentant sinner to restore them back into fellowship; or withholds fellowship until the sinner repents (Matthew 18:15-17).
Human forgiveness of personal harm vs. divine forgiveness of the guilt of sin
The forgiveness believers offer does NOT remove sinful guilt from the person we forgive. Only God can remove the permanent guilt of sin, and this is contingent upon the person repenting through Christ.
Some confusion in the debate on forgiveness perhaps arises from not taking into account the biblical distinction between the personal forgiveness Christians are commanded to express to others for sins and harms committed against them (or even sins committed against loved ones which in turn impact them) vs. the divine forgiveness God offers to the repentant person, which not only forgives but also removes the guilt of the sinner. Christians are called to the former, but only God offers and accomplishes the latter. Believers offer mercy and forgiveness to others, even to enemies, because we have been mercifully forgiven by God for a vast multitude of sins (Matt 18: 21-35). Christian forgiveness therefore becomes a reflection of the mercy and grace of God towards all. But the forgiveness believers offer does NOT remove sinful guilt from the person we forgive. Only God can remove the guilt of sin, and this is contingent upon the person repenting through Christ, who at the cross paid the penalty for sin for all who respond to Him (Luke 13:5; Rom 4:7-8; Rom 8:1).
Loving and forgiving enemies in the name and power of Christ
Therefore, when believers in obedience to God forgive those who trespass against them (Matt 5:12); forgive as we have been forgiven (Col 3:13); and love enemies (Matt 6:44-45), the love and forgiveness offered is not communicating that those forgiven are now excused of the guilt of their sins. For the Bible says unless a person repents through Christ, they will have to bear the guilt of their sin themselves, by suffering the eternal wrath of God (John 3:18).
Jesus commanded believers, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:44-45).” Are not enemies to be defined as those who unrepentantly do evil against us? Yet Jesus tells us we are to love these persons. Can we love these enemies without forgiving them? It seems to me the answer is no, for Christian love undoubtedly encompasses and includes forgiveness.
So when we offer forgiveness to others (believers/unbelievers; repentant/unrepentant) for harms done against us directly or indirectly– we are forgiving the hurts and harm, but not saying or doing anything in regard to their guilt before God. God Himself will judge the sinner’s guilt and execute justice on sinners in several ways.
Again, there are some distinctions among the scenarios of forgiveness. When it comes to salvation, God forgives only the one who repents and turns to God through Christ, while the Church may only restore the repentant back to fellowship. But when it comes to forgiving personal harms, the Christian attitude is to be magnanimous and unconditional, for we have received an incomprehensible, overflowing, never-ending mercy.
Knowing God’s sovereign justice and amazing mercy helps us forgive, even our enemies
When believers forgive, it is with this knowledge– that God will fully punish all sinners and all sin, executing perfect justice.
“Vengeance is mine” says the Lord (Deut 32:35; Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30). First, He sovereignly appoints earthly authorities to protect the public peace and to execute earthly justice (Rom 13:4). So for example if the accused Charleston killer Dylann Roof is found guilty of murder, the system should render an earthly sentence for his crime. As we see from Romans 13:4, this is part of the execution of God’s justice by means of earthly authorities He established. Nevertheless, this earthly punishment does not remove spiritual guilt before God. A person may pay the earthly price in the form of a legal punishment for a crime committed, yet this won’t justify them in the court of God’s justice. Since all sin is ultimately against God, each must pay sin’s reckoning to God– and we pay either through the mercy of Christ Jesus who takes away our sins through His reconciling death on the cross, or pay by suffering in hell the eternal consequences for our sins. Either way, God’s justice will be executed.
So when believers forgive, it is with this knowledge– that God will fully punish all sinners and all sin, executing His perfect justice. This is one of the reasons we must forgive– because not forgiving is a form of personal vengeance. And we also forgive while understanding that we too would have justly and deservedly been condemned for our sins and received God’s eternal wrath, but through Christ were mercifully spared and reconciled to God. Being the recipients of this gracious, unmerited love and mercy, we must in turn graciously offer unconditional forgiveness to others for the sins/harms they have committed against us, with prayerful hope that those whom we forgive may be moved to also repent and turn to God for mercy (Rom 12: 14-21; Matt 5:43-48; Matt 6:12-15; Eph 2:1-5; Eph 4:31-32; Col 2:13-14; Col 3:13).
The Christian’s standard for love and forgiveness is Christ
The world might say, “Don’t forgive your enemies unless they repent.” Or, don’t forgive them at all, depending on the nature of the crime. But friends, we are not of the world!
Friends, Jesus teaches that the believer has been given a much higher standard than the world for its behavior. The world system is based on the “tit for tat”, “eye for an eye”, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” principles. The world says “love your friends, hate your enemies”. The world never rises above that which is natural (1 Cor 2:14). Nor does it rise above the sinful and weak flesh, as it has no power to do so (Rom 8:7-8). So the world might say, “Don’t forgive your enemies until they repent.” Or, don’t forgive them at all, depending on the nature of the crime. But friends, we are not of the world! We are called to a supernatural life in Christ! We have the indwelling Spirit of God. Therefore we are to be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect (John 15:19; John 14:16-17; Matt 5:48). What then is more like God-like and perfect, than forgiving our enemies? Recall what Jesus did and said as He suffered upon the cross, an innocent man, being punished unjustly by His enemies. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).
I believe this was Jesus speaking from His perfect humanity, to the very end of His earthly life showing forth the grace and mercy of God towards His enemies, exemplifying His own teaching that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. His heart towards His enemies was one of forgiveness. Even in the midst of extreme physical and spiritual anguish, Jesus prayed for the mercy of God to fall upon His enemies, that some of them might still be saved. What an amazing, beautiful, merciful Savior we have, so awesome in grace and forgiveness.
We do not and cannot by our forgiveness remove the guilt of any sinner…. But being confident of God’s full justice, and empowered by His amazing love, we too can offer forgiveness to others in the name of Christ.
So brothers and sisters, this is why I was deeply moved by the forgiveness the Charleston families offered a cold-blooded killer. I was reminded of the Savior. Surely a killer does not deserve mercy! Neither do I. But our God is a God of mercy. The families showed how God acts towards His enemies. He “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45)” and “God shows his love for us in that whilewewerestillsinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8).” If we are to represent Him as sons and daughters of our heavenly father, let us be like Him in having merciful hearts that express forgiveness in words and actions. Again, we do not and cannot by our forgiveness remove the guilt of any sinner. God will execute His justice on all sinners. But being confident of God’s full justice, and empowered by His amazing love, we too can offer forgiveness to others in the name of Christ.
The challenge of forgiving
Forgiving is not natural to sinful human beings, and even for Christians given a new power and new desires through the indwelling Spirit, forgiveness is still a challenge because of human weakness (see Rom 7). Certainly if someone repents for their sins the believer is obligated to forgive them ((Matt 6:14–15; 18:23–35; Mark 11:25; Luke 17:3–4; Ephesians 4:31–32; Col 3:13). But the question in this debate has been whether the unrepentant person must be forgiven by the Christian. I think so, and my argument is summarized in the following points. Christians should offer forgiveness to all, even the unrepentant:
For the sake of one’s own spiritual health and relationship with God and others, which will be poisoned by resentment and bitterness if we do not forgive others (Matt 5:23; Mark 11:25; 2 Cor 2:11);
As a testimony consistent with the love and grace of God we as sinners have received (Matt 18: 21-35; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13);
As a means to possibly win the offender to Christ through offering grace in His name (Rom 12:20-21)
To follow the example of Christ, showing ourselves God’s children by the mercy we give the undeserving (Matt 5:44-45)
I close with a quote from the reformer John Calvin:
Assuredly there is but one way in which to achieve what is not merely difficult but utterly against human nature: to love those who hate us, to repay their evil deeds with benefits, to return blessings for reproaches. It is that we remember not to consider men’s evil intention but to look upon the image of God in them, which cancels and effaces their transgressions, and with its beauty and dignity allures us to love and embrace them.
For many in the American South, attending Wednesday night Bible study is not just a tradition, but a way of life. Like-minded folks gather for prayer and Bible study mid-week, together drawing spiritual strength and sustenance from God. Such meetings also often provide opportunities to welcome newcomers, as attendees follow biblical admonitions to welcome the stranger in their midst (e.g., Deut 10:19, Matt 25:40; Rom 12:13). The Wednesday night gathering on June 17, 2015, at historic black church Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) in Charleston, South Carolina, was no different. The doors of the church were open to all, and among the 13 black regulars in attendance that night was a 21-year-old white man.
Tragically, this evening of sincere fellowship, worship and prayer would come to a shocking and bloody end. The young white man, having sat with the group for an hour, suddenly drew his gun and opened fire. In the end, nine people (three men and six women, all African-American) would die, including the church’s pastor. As the country reels from yet another act of violence involving black victims, the police have called this horrific and violent act a “hate crime” while the city’s mayor labeled it an act of “pure hatred.” The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of South Carolina have opened hate crime investigations into the incident. In the media, some are calling the incident an act of racially motivated “terrorism”, since the killer confessed that by his murderous act he intended to “start a race war.”
Thankfully, the suspect, Dylann Storm Roof, was apprehended in Shelby, N.C. the following Thursday morning, during a traffic stop. Police believe he acted alone. Mr. Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder and one charge of weapon possession during the commission of a violent crime. At the hearing, Chief Magistrate James B. Gosnell Jr. said he could not set bond for the murder charges, but set bond for $1 million for the charge of possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. (In cases involving people charged with a capital offense or who face life in prison, only a circuit court judge can set the bond, according to the county.) Gosnell said Roof would appear in court in October and again in February 2016.
In the face of such monstrous evil, the heart and mind struggle to understand, and we may grasp at answers to our questions. If people simply sitting in church, praying and studying the Bible can be shot down in cold blood, is there any safe place? Why do people hate so much, murdering others simply because of the color of their skin? Perhaps we think, “If only we knew why such things happen, we could prevent such evils from happening.”
There is discussion of mental health. Was this the act of a mentally ill person, or perhaps the act of a man under the influence of addictive drugs? How do we best monitor people with such issues?
There is discussion of societal influence. Perhaps hateful agitators behind the scenes manipulated an impressionable, unhappy loner to commit this heinous act of racist violence. Or perhaps the strongest contributing factor, the thing we most urgently need to address as a nation, is a residual legacy of racism that remains deeply embedded in our culture, unacknowledged and therefore unaddressed. For a start, remove Confederate flags from public display, some say, as these are painful reminders of a legacy of institutionalized racism.
There is also the “What could have been done better?” brigade. Why were obvious warning signs in this man’s life and behavior seemingly ignored? Why are such signs so often overlooked? Maybe hate speech on social media must be more seriously and carefully scrutinized, so that appropriate action may be taken.
Most poignantly, there is often anguished spiritual wrestling. If God really exists, why so much evil? If God is all-powerful, why does this he not prevent evil acts like this that cause the innocent to suffer? Why, especially, does God not stop attacks against those who seem most dedicated to his service?
With all emotions intensified by raw grief, unhealed pain, and bubbling anger, human reasoning is strained. We seek quick answers and solutions to relieve the gnawing pain we feel. Solution-makers speak past one another, often unable to find any truth outside their own ideological persuasion.
Is there an easy answer to all these questions? No. Yet I believe the answer Christian faith gives is the best place to begin understanding and healing, because it identifies the heart of the matter.
There is a universal truth Christian faith points to as the root issue underlying the evil we encounter in this world, including both evil acts and evil circumstances. This universal truth is the dark presence of sin in the human heart and in creation. It is sin that has left such devastating destruction, evil and misery in its wake. The world is NOT as it is meant to be; this is not the Paradise God originally created.
We ourselves are not who we were created to be, nor what we ought to be. We are fallen sinners, in need of a Savior. But in the face of horrible sin and evil, Christian faith gives hope and a promise: a new world and a new kingdom have arrived in Jesus Christ, who will again return to establish His permanent kingdom, a kingdom where evil and its effects will be fully eradicated. All who trust and follow Him will be included in this kingdom.
The story I want to tell in the remainder of this article is one that exemplifies this powerful hope, that is, the power of God through Christ to overcome sin and by His love, to overcome hate. As Wanda Simmons, granddaughter of one of the victims, Daniel Simmons, declared at Thursday’s bond hearing for the accused killer: “Hate wont win!”
Though I was a stranger to the nine who were murdered, I don’t feel like they are complete strangers. I feel like I know them in some way, because they are my brothers and sisters in Christ. Like believers do, they came together one night to speak of God, to encourage one another and to study the Bible, to find encouragement together in the Word of God and to pray for one another for strength to live out their faith. I’m sure they are imperfect, because like all of us, they are sinners. Yet enough information has emerged to recognize this was an extraordinary and rather exemplary group of human beings, nine men and women dedicated to doing good with their lives and being of service of others in the community. So I want to testify to their story, and to applaud the legacy of love they have left behind. That legacy of love, through Jesus Christ, is indeed our only hope.
Of course, brief paragraphs on a webpage can never encapsulate nine lives, nor the impact they have made. Here we can only briefly list their names and a bit about them (sources: this CNN article and other online articles listed below). The point, as we will see, is that in their time on earth these folks lived well and made a contribution to the betterment of their fellow human beings. They point the way for us all.
The Rev. Clementa Pinckney, 41, was a state senator and the senior pastor of Emanuel. He was married to Jennifer Benjamin and the father of two children, Eliana and Malana. His colleague, Rep. Mark Sanford, a former governor of South Carolina , paid great tribute to him. “He was a remarkable human being,” Sanford told CNN’s “New Day.” “He had a gravelly, deep voice — a radio announcer’s voice, if you will — and he approached life with that same level of gravitas.” He called Pinckney “a man of character… He was a God-fearing man, a family man.”
Tywanza Sanders, 26, graduated from Allen University in 2014 with a degree in business administration. The 26-year-old died heroically, trying to save his aunt, Susie Jackson, also one of the victims. This was a young man seemingly intent on going places. His cover photo on Facebook featured only words in light letters set against a dark background. They said simply: “Your dreams are calling you.”
Cynthia Hurd, 54, worked with the Charleston County Public Library for 31 years. A library statement said she “dedicated her life to serving and improving the lives of others. ” The Library closed all 16 of its branches Thursday in honor of Hurd and the others who died in the shooting. Her brother, Malcolm Graham, a former state senator, called Hurd a woman of faith, saying it was “typical” of her to be at the church on Sunday. She lived with her husband Steve in the east side of Charleston.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton was a speech therapist, a pastor at Emanuel AME Church, and a girls’ track coach. She was part of an athletic family, her husband Christopher Singleton a former football player at Tennessee State, and her son, Chris, born in 1995, a baseball player for Charleston Southern University. Coleman-Singleton also had two younger children. Fighting off tears, Chris Singleton described his mother as “a God-fearing woman (who) loved everybody with all her heart. Love is always stronger than hate,” he told reporters.
Susie Jackson, 87, the oldest victim, was a cousin of Ethel Lee and a longtime member of the historic Charleston church, her grandson told CNN. Tim Jackson remembered his grandmother as a “very helpful person.” She was a choir member and on the usher board of the church. Her son, Walter Jackson, said his mother was a “loving person” who had “no animosity toward nobody.” He reported that when he moved away from his home in the projects on the East Side, his mother gave his room to two young people who needed shelter in the neighborhood. “She took in others,” he said. “She was just that type of person.”
Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, was a minister at Emanuel AME, a school administrator at Southern Wesleyan University, a passionate Christian and the mother of four daughters. She had a Master’s degree in management, and was an experienced grant writer and a consultant for school districts. The Rev. George McKain recalled Middleton-Doctor as an enthusiastic singer with “a heart for missions, Christian education, loving all people (and) respective of all generations. She could just bring out the praises of God and was a delight to know, a joy and a light in the midst of darkness.”
Retired pastor Reverend Daniel L. Simmons Sr., 74, was also on the staff at Emanuel and regularly attended the Wednesday night Bible study sessions. He survived the initial shooting at the church, but later died during surgery. According to a statement issued by his family, Rev. Simmons was “a distinguished man who served his God, country, and community well. His dedication to his profession and the AME church left a legacy for many to follow. A loving father and grandfather, he was very proud of his family including the mother of his children, Annie Simmons, his two children Daniel Jr. and Rose Simmons, and his four grandchildren. Alana, Daniel III, Ava, and Anya Simmons.”
Myra Thompson, 59, was a Bible study teacher and wife to Reverend Anthony Thompson, vicar at Holy Trinity REC in Charleston. According to family friend Bishop Alphonza Gadsden, who had known Thompson for a decade, Myra “was a person who loved the Lord. Her every objective was to please Him in all that she did. She was teaching Bible study when she was killed.”
Ethel Lance, 70, was sexton (custodian) of Emanuel, a church she attended most of her life. From 1968 to 2002, she worked as a custodian at Charleston’s Gaillard Municipal Auditorium. A former colleague, Cam Patterson, was quoted as saying, “She was funny and a pleasure to be around. And she was a wonderful mother and grandmother.”
Killer and lone gunman Dylann Roof confessed to police his intention was to “start a race war”, yet he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him.” Yes, this group of fine men and women he so mercilessly executed met him with kindness, and they leave behind a powerful legacy of love and kindness through their lives. It is one strong enough, let us hope, to help bring healing to a nation divided and tense over racial issues. We can see their legacy demonstrated, in the powerful words of love, mercy and forgiveness victim’s family members offered the killer at the bond hearing this past Thursday afternoon. Read below their poignant, often eloquent words:
“I just wanted everyone to know. To you, I forgive you. You took something very precious away from me. I will never get to talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you, and have mercy on your soul. … You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But if God forgives you, I forgive you.”
“I would just like him to know that… I’m saying the same thing that was just said: I forgive him and my family forgives him. But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that He can change it, can change your ways, so no matter what happens to you, you’ll be okay. Do that and you’ll be better off than what you are right now.”
“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts and I’ll, I’ll never be the same. Tywanza Sanders was my son. But Tywanza Sanders was my hero. Tywanza was my hero…. but as we said in bible study… May God have mercy on you.”
“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof– everyone’s plea for your soul– is proof, that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So hate won’t win. And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”
“Depayne Doctor was my sister, and I’d like to thank you on behalf of my family for not allowing hate to win. For me, I’m a work in progress. And I acknowledge that I am very angry. 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 hate, so we have to forgive. I pray God on your soul…may God bless you”
Friends, whether Mr. Roof obtained a gun legally or illegally, was or wasn’t mentally deranged, was a pawn of hate groups or unduly influenced by racist society, the fact remains there have always been those who simply commit evil acts, even in the face of massive goodness and kindness. This indeed is the story of how Jesus Christ was treated. A man of God, He came from heaven with the message of God. From a heart filled with love and compassion, He reached out to the stranger, touched the leper, healed the sick, all the while announcing the good news of the arrival of His kingdom, a perfect, spiritual kingdom not of this broken, sinful world, but pointing ahead to the world to come. He was not saying earthly needs are unimportant– indeed, He demonstrated how much God cares for human needs and human suffering by miraculously healing and providing for immediate physical needs. Yet at the same time, He conveyed that all the good deeds and miracles He did in the name and power of God were but a foretaste of a greater, everlasting spiritual good. He wanted His followers not to focus on the temporal, but on the eternal, to trust God with all their needs– earthly and spiritual. He demonstrated by His words and deeds and fulfillment of prophecy, that He was the long-awaited Messiah. Yet, this God-man, who only did good to all, was consistently attacked by evil men, falsely accused of wickedness, unjustly condemned, and at last crucified naked, alongside criminals, having first been viciously beaten and mocked. In His hour of greatest human need, His friends and closest followers abandoned Him, fleeing to protect their own lives (now that, is my story). Sin infects us all. Even those who follow Jesus Christ so often abandon, disown, and distance themselves from Him. We do so because, though we have received the great mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ, we remain weak and sinful in ourselves. Indeed, as the sister of victim Depayne Middleton-Doctor testifies, we are all a “work in progress.” Friends, she is right. the Christian is a work-in-progress. Yet the Bible addresses us as saints, not because we are already perfect, but because God sees us as perfectly righteous through the lens of His perfect Son, Jesus Christ.
Let us not let hate win in our lives. Let us overcome evil with good, and continue the legacy of love Christ gave us, and that this group of Christians exemplified. Let us be a light that shines in the darkness of a world that so often rejects Christ because it knows not whom they reject. As we shine our light, reflecting the one true Light of the world, may His goodness, mercy and compassion be brightly magnified for all to see.
Please listen to and watch the videos below. The court testimonials, where family members of the victims made emotional statements addressing the killer, and DePayne Middleton-Doctor singing “Oh It Is Jesus”, both brought me to tears as they reminded me of the overcoming goodness of the Savior.
Molestation of children is certainly a deadly serious sin, and it is also a crime. Therefore it must not be treated casually or dismissed lightly. Yet I think some perspective is needed when looking at the Josh Duggar case. From what is being reported, Josh Duggar was only a boy of 14 when over a period of a year or so he inappropriately touched five different girls as they slept (sometimes they were not asleep). The victims including some of his own sisters. His young age doesn’t excuse these terrible acts, but perhaps such acts may be understood as a boy not knowing how to deal with awakening sexual feelings and acting upon them in a highly inappropriate manner. But Josh recognized what he had done was wrong. He confessed his actions to his parents and before his church, and subsequently received help. The authorities were eventually also contacted and made aware of the situation. It doesn’t seem any formal charges were ever made by authorities against the boy or his parents. It might be argued that more severe action should have been taken by the Duggars to deal with their son, in light of the very serious nature of their son’s actions. Josh Duggar apparently underwent 3 months of Christian counseling, which included hard physical labor. Was such adequate for him to have overcome the pattern? I don’t know.
But the thing is, it does seem Mr. Duggar changed. He did not continue in the sinful and destructive pattern– but rather, it seems he made a complete about-face. Apparently he went on to become a very different person, eventually maturing into a decent husband and now, a father. And now, twelve years later, when confronted again with his past (which I am sure he wants desperately to put behind him) he does not cover up his guilt, but owns up to his wicked past acts (publicly confessing, apologizing, not excusing his actions; quitting his position with the Family Research Council).
I think there is a big difference between an unrepentant adult pedophile, and a young teenager of 14 who acted inappropriately but then confessed and actually changed his life. Perhaps if Mr. Duggar had NOT confessed his actions and reached out for help he might have continued his sinful pattern and become irrevocably hardened in it. But apparently he genuinely overcame his pattern and has left it far behind. Of course, he will have to live with remorse and with the consequences of what he did, knowing he caused great harm through his sins. It is to be greatly hoped that his victims have also received the help they need to cope with how they were violated, and are finding healing too.
But in a world where few ever even admit they did something wrong, let alone take responsibility for their bad actions, it is commendable that this young man, with God’s help, seems to have turned his life entirely around as he admitted his guilt, and found forgiveness of his sins and power to change through Jesus Christ. Even if one cynically dismisses the idea that he has really changed, it should still command respect that Mr. Duggar did not continue the pattern of wrong behavior, but owned up to it and changed it. For those of us who believe God is in the business of changing lives supernaturally, through the precious gospel of forgiveness through Christ and by the work of His Spirit in sinful hearts, the story of Josh Duggar offers hope and encouragement. It shows God can really change a person who is willing to confess and repent and ask for help. Let us hope and pray that Mr. Duggar’s repentance was indeed fully genuine, that good fruit continues, and especially that the victims in this case, who have not really been heard from, are finding restoration and healing too.
We must remember that the gospel is about how the Jesus’ death on a cross is a substitute for what we as wrongdoers deserve (Is 53:4-5; 2 Cor 5:21; Rom 3:23-25). We deserve to be punished, but He– though innocent– takes our sin and our guilt and our shame on His own shoulders. By His blood shed on the cross, He washes sinners clean from the very worst of sins– there is no sin, in fact, beyond God’s redemptive reach (1 Cor 6:9-11; Eph 2:3-6). The depth of the love, grace and mercy of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ is simply unfathomable. God not only forgives through Jesus but then by His Spirit begins a powerful process of changing people from the inside out. He takes murderers, adulterers– the vilest, most wicked and most depraved sinners– and washes them clean, changing the trajectory of their lives by renewing their minds and giving them new hearts (1 Cor 6:9-111; Rom 12:2). He is cleansing and transforming lowly, wicked sinners into His own perfect and spotless image (1 John 3:2-3). It is a supernatural, lifelong process that won’t be completed in the believer’s lifetime. But this is the redemptive work God is doing (Heb 10:14; Rom 8:18; 1 Tim 2:12-13).
In light of this, is Josh Duggar beyond redemption? Did he commit the “unpardonable” sin? No. The only sin that puts people out of reach of this marvelous redemption is the sin of continued unbelief (John 3:18). There is no sin so wicked that God cannot forgive it; no life so shameful and vile that God cannot turn it around(1 John 1:9). But if we reject so great a salvation as is available through Jesus Christ, we shut the door upon our only hope as sinners (Heb 2:3). Josh Duggar is a wicked sinner. So am I. So is every one of us. Therefore let us put down the stones of condemnation, turn to Jesus and find in Him grace to walk as forgiven but transformed sinners, who look ahead to the day when sin will be fully eradicated from our hearts, and we will live together with God in a new and perfect world that shines brightly, lit solely by the holy glory of God.
A friend from Facebook posted the NYT opinion piece “Of Bikers and Thugs” by Charles M. Blow. I find the article both flawed and annoying. In fact, more than that, the article made me angry– I feel it is trying to accuse folks of universal prejudice based on very flimsy evidence. And I don’t want the guilt. I have enough personal sins to deal with, thank you very much. I don’t deny racial prejudice exists, and that some are perhaps guilty of it on an unconscious level. But I think it is a huge leap to locate unmistakable evidence of universal and deep racial hatred towards blacks simply because the term “thugs” was used in describing events in Baltimore, but not applied to the recent biker riots. The author argues this is not semantics. I say that it is exactly what it is.
The author himself unwittingly provides a good example of how this is semantics when he notes that the President of the United States and the Mayor of Baltimore (both whom happen to be black) used the term “thugs” in describing the riots happening in Baltimore. Is he suggesting the President and this Mayor are both motivated by deep or even unconscious racial animus towards blacks by using this term? Is anyone who uses the term “thugs”, white or black, guilty of prejudice and perpetuating stereotypes against the black community? Well, I don’t think so. The President used the word “thugs” because it was appropriate– the rioters were acting like thugs (i.e., “brutal ruffians”)– which has no connotation of anything racial, sorry. One does not hesitate to use this word of whites. Or at least I never received the memo that this word when applied to blacks signifies that you are a racist.
If you read economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell on these issues (he also happens to be a black man), he regularly notes that breakdown of the family, not only for blacks but also for whites, is a factor contributing to increased violence and crime, in both black and white communities. But he finds much statistical evidence that this breakdown of the family with its negative effects has been much more common in recent decades (from the 1960s forward) following the embracing and implementation of liberal policies. Prior to this, blacks were rioting less and were more likely to have two-parent households. Sowell makes the case that liberal policies have not been helping blacks or whites. For an example of Sowell’s work, check out his recent article titled, The Inconvenient Truth about Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown.
I fully agree with Mr. Blow when he writes that under certain conditions all human beings are “capable of primal, animalistic violence.” As a Christian, I recognize the fact of universal sin. This means Christians should especially be willing to examine their own hearts, to see if prejudice or other sin lurks there. But I’m not sure this means one should rummage around for evidence of sin within where it does not seem to exist. Such as simply using the word “thugs.” What a sin!