A couple weeks ago, you couldn’t go on Facebook without seeing someone link to this plugin that calculated your most-used words. It runs through everything you’ve ever posted on Facebook to determine what words you say the most. The bigger the word appears on the “word cloud” and the more centrally it’s located, the more frequently that word shows up in the things you’ve posted.
Even pastors and their wives make mistakes in marriage. Not everyone can be vulnerable enough to admit their mistakes, but Matt and Lauren Chandler want to show you that every Christian couple has their own challenges to overcome—and as you’ll see in the video below, the mistakes they’ve made were rooted in some of their biggest problems as individuals.
In Every Square Inch, Dr. Bruce Riley Ashford surveys a variety of perspectives on the relationship between Christianity and culture. According to Ashford, the conversation boils down to these three main views:
1. Christianity against culture
This first perspective sees Christianity and culture as two opposing forces of influence. The church stands on one side of the line, and culture on the other. Ashford says, “This is especially a temptation for Americans who realize that their country is becoming increasingly post-Christian—and in some ways, even anti-Christian. They realize that their beliefs on certain theological and moral issues will increasingly be rejected and mocked by the political and cultural elite and by many of their fellow citizens.”
Within this perspective, Ashford identifies two analogies to represent the perceived relationship between Christianity and culture:
“Some proponents of ‘Christianity against culture’ tend to view the Church primarily as a bomb shelter.”
This stance transforms the church into a sanctuary, where people seek refuge from the spiritual siege of the outside world.
Christians sometimes talk about trying to find the balance between immersing yourself in the world and isolating yourself in a comfy little bubble. This perspective has fully embraced the bubble.
“Believers with this mentality have good intentions,” Ashford says. “They want to preserve the church’s purity, recognizing that the church is under attack and that therefore we should hold fast to the faith (Revelations 3:11). They know that there is a great battle being waged (Ephesians 6), a battle that plays out both invisibly in the heavenly realm, and visibly in the cultural realm.”
But these man-made barriers only create the illusion of safety from sin.
“[This] externalizes godlessness and treats it as something that can be kept out by man-made walls, rather than understanding that godlessness is a disease of the soul that can never be walled out.”
So what happens?
“This mindset tends toward legalism and tries to restrict Christians’ interactions with society and culture,” Ashford says. “While it rightly recognizes that the Christian life involves war against the powers of darkness, it wrongly tries to wage that war by escaping from the world. This obeys only one half of Jesus’ admonition to be in the world, but not of it (John 17:14–16).”
The bubble of legalism can’t keep sin out of the church, and it hides one of God’s most useful tools—us.
Ashford’s second analogy for this perspective takes a more confrontational approach to the conflict.
“Other proponents of “Christianity against culture” view the Church primarily as an Ultimate Fighter.”
You can certainly find biblical support for a view that pits the church in the ring against culture. “Believers with this mentality are clinging to the biblical principle of waging war against what is evil. They rightly recognize that we must put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11), fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12), resist the devil (James 4:7), and cast down anything that exalts itself against God (2 Corinthians 10:4–5).”
That being said, Ashford believes this mindset still falls short—it’s too easy to see ourselves fighting against people instead of sin. God uses the church in his plan to rescue people, not destroy them. Ashford says, “Our social and cultural contexts are full of unbelievers—but those unbelievers are not only enemies of God, but also drowning people in need of a lifeboat. The church is not only a base for soldiers, but also a hospital for the sick.”
Here’s a different take on the fighting analogy: culture is actually beating people up. Left to their own devices without God, people will take blow after blow—perhaps without even realizing that it’s culture (and themselves) delivering the pain. The false promises, social norms, distorted morality, and unchecked sin present in various cultures can all appear good to people without God. But we know that God’s law is actually designed with love (Matthew 22:37–40). People are fighting themselves, not the church, and many of their wounds are self-inflicted.
The church fights culture by continually pointing to the one who heals the brokenness.
2. Christianity of culture
The second view Ashford presents embraces culture and brings it into the church.
“Those with a ‘Christianity of culture’ perspective tend to build churches that are mirrors of the culture.”
Cultural shifts that happen independently of the church aren’t always bad. Ashford says, “God has enabled all people—Christian or not—to make good and valuable contributions in the cultural realm.” The human rights movement and the abolition of slavery brought about monumental positive changes. Looking back now, we can recognize that there were Christians on both sides of these movements—some advocating them, and others resisting them. We can agree that the Christians resisting these cultural shifts were in the wrong. But culture isn’t always right, and the church can’t mirror every move culture makes. Without God, culture raises up idols in his place—celebrities, politicians, sex, wealth, power, and even productivity and freedom.
Can the church embrace culture without also embracing its idols?
Ashford says, “Christians with this mindset tend to view their cultural context in very high esteem—perhaps disagreeing with aspects of it here and there, but for the most part finding it to be an ally rather than a threat.” Generally, this view sees advances in culture as positive changes the church should embrace. While parts of Christianity can be defined in black and white, culture often creates large gray areas. Different perspectives may identify the gray as black or white. This perspective fully embraces the gray.
“Believers with this mentality rightly recognize that God ordered the world in such a way that humans would make culture, and they rightly recognize that their culture exhibits real aspects of truth, goodness, and beauty,” Ashford says. “However, this mentality is misguided because it fails to sufficiently see the way in which every culture, and every aspect of culture, is corrupted and distorted because of human sin.”
By becoming a reflection of culture, the church can lose its position as a champion of a better way to live. When Christians embrace the “gray areas,” the better way of life we offer can become a gray area, too. (Click to tweet.)
Ashford puts it this way, “When Christians adopt a ‘Christianity of culture’ mindset, they take away Christianity’s ability to be a prophetic voice and usually end up sacrificing doctrines and moral beliefs that run contrary to the cultural consensus.”
There are good intentions and can be positive fruits, but it may not ultimately be the best route for the church to take.
3. Christianity in and for culture
It’s no secret that Ashford believes this is the best way to view the relationship between church and culture: “A third and better mindset is one that views human beings as representatives of Christ who live their lives in the midst of and for the good of their cultural context, and whose cultural lives are characterized by obedience and witness.”
Ashford doesn’t use a metaphor to describe this perspective, but here’s a common example you might find helpful:
As Christians, we are Christ’s ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)—we represent another world, while we live in the midst of this one. (Click to tweet.)
God created the structure that allows culture to exist, shift, and progress. As humans, we formulate and shape that culture within God’s structure. “Every cultural context is structurally good, but directionally corrupt,” Ashford says. “For this reason, we must live firmly in the midst of our cultural contexts (structurally), all the while seeking to steer our cultural realities toward Christ rather than toward idols (directionally).”
As ambassadors, we are fully immersed in the culture, but everything about us points back to the one we serve. This doesn’t mean we agree with everything culture does, but we learn to understand it and speak its language, identify its true desires—all with the intention of showing how Christ is the only one who can correctly fulfill those well-meaning (though often misplaced) desires.
Ashford says, “Every aspect of human life and culture is ripe for Christian witness. Every dimension of culture, whether it is art, science, or politics, is an arena in which we can speak about Christ with our lips and reflect him with our lives. We thank God for the existence of culture and recognize whatever is good in it, while at the same time seeking to redirect whatever is not good toward Christ.”
Learn more about cultural engagement with Dr. Ashford’s book, Every Square Inch.
This fall, New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Blomberg is enjoying a well-deserved sabbatical. How is he spending it? Naturally, at Tyndale House in Cambridge, working on a new book on New Testament theology.
While he’s currently in the early stages of the work, Dr. Blomberg has hinted that his book will chronologically trace the promise-fulfillment scheme throughout the New Testament. He notes that even just a year ago, he could have summarized the opening chapters of Acts without touching on the fulfillment of Scripture. This new work will emphasize “the centrality of fulfillment” in the New Testament.
So what does this have to do with you?
Tell Blomberg what you think
Dr. Craig Blomberg wants to hear your feedback. If you’re interested in Dr. Blomberg’s new book, or New Testament scholarship in general, follow his Faithlife Group here. About once a week, Blomberg has been sharing where he’s at in his work, how his thesis is interacting with Scripture, and how you can join the discussion.
See how a top Bible scholar navigates Scripture
Perhaps one of the most valuable facets of Dr. Blomberg’s Faithlife Group is that you get to see his whole process. You get to see how he reads, writes, studies, and connects Scripture—all while interacting with him directly. Seeing Dr. Blomberg’s process behind-the-scenes could be just what you need to challenge and inspire your own study of Scripture.
Introduce yourself and join the conversation
Dr. Blomberg says, “I’m a 60-year old baby boomer who still likes to learn first and last names, if you’d be so kind. Tell us a little about yourself that would explain your interest in the group—past or present seminary or Bible college student, Bible teacher or translator, avid Logos techie, or whatever.”
The body of Christ is vast and full of brilliant minds. Not all of those minds get the opportunities they deserve to be a part of influencing future scholarship. Dr. Blomberg is tapping into the body of Christ to help him produce scholarship that will benefit the church the most.
Follow Dr. Blomberg’s Faithlife Group and introduce yourself!
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A few months ago, I read Radically Normal by Josh Kelley, right after I read Radical by David Platt. The two books presented very different perspectives on a similar issue: how do we live out the gospel and devote our lives to Christ in this modern world? What does it look like to be “all in”? Platt advocated for radical abandonment of the American lifestyle and finding our place within the global mission of Christianity. Kelley suggested that a radical devotion to Christianity could be just as dangerous to the Christian as living a life of complacency, and urged that we invite God into every aspect of our life instead.
As a reader, the relationship between these two books was fascinating. I don’t normally reach out to authors, but at the end of Radically Normal, Josh’s invitation to continue the conversation seemed genuine, so I figured, “Why not?” and tweeted him. He responded right away, and we had a great conversation about his book over email (and eventually in an interview on Faithlife Today).
Radically Normal is too close to Josh’s heart for him to not be invested in what you think as a reader. The book shares what his family has shown him about enjoying life’s pleasures as a child of the creator. He discusses what he learned when he took a second job at Starbucks and became a bivocational pastor during one of the busiest, most stressful times of his life. Most importantly, he casts his vision for modern Christians called to live in this world but not of it. As a pastor, Josh wants to stir up meaningful conversations—and participate in them.
That’s why Josh is inviting you to join his Faithlife Group for Radically Normal. Once you get the book, you can ask Josh questions directly within the book using Community Notes, or you can start a discussion with Josh and other readers.
Josh has included two suggested reading plans to help you get started (note: you can’t join the reading plan until you own the book), as well as a small group planning guide and small group discussion questions—you can find it all in the documents tab.
The Bible is constantly revealing how big, how wise, how powerful, and how awesome God is. Psalm 139 is one of the many passages where God’s omniscience is put on display—but here, God’s omniscience is a powerful reminder that nothing can separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39).
Faithlife employees recently went through Dr. Darrell Bock’s Mobile Ed course, Learn to Study the Bible together. The study united employees from different departments to focus on reading and studying Scripture. To get a better sense of the experience, I sat down with Instructional Designer Jon Pierceson, SDA Product Manager Martin Weber, and Conference Marketing Team Lead Kelly McCoy and asked each of them about their experience with Dr. Bock’s course.
Why does Bible study matter?
Jon Pierceson: Christians study the Word of God because it’s just that—God’s word. It’s what he says. Christians want to know what God has to say because it impacts Christians’ lives and how we relate to one another. It impacts how we live and what we do. I use my personal Bible study time to prepare for preaching and leading my men’s small group.
Martin Weber: The Holy Spirit breathes life into the Word.
Kelly McCoy: Bible study is important for people who are searching for answers or clarity or understanding that they have a tool to help them find that.
Which Bible study tools do you use?
Martin Weber: I love that I can use the Topic Guide or Factbook in Logos Bible Software. Logos is with me no matter how deep or superficial I want to go into a particular topic. Logos is just like a good friend.
Jon Pierceson: I’m a firm believer in Mobile Ed. It’s what the church needs—theological education. Mobile Ed delivers an easy and accessible way for leaders to obtain theological education. Every Christian in a leadership role should have a copy of Logos. I think Logos Bible Software and Mobile Ed bridge the gap of theological and biblical study to help Christian leaders further develop in their faith.
Who are Mobile Ed courses for?
Martin Weber: I think a lot of people who never had chance to go to seminary and are expected to present the Word of God. Mobile Ed replicates the very best aspects of the seminary experience.
What are your favorite Mobile Ed courses?
Jon Pierceson: Bryan Chapell’s Preaching Bundle (CM151 and CM152)
Ben Witherington’s The Wisdom of John: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Johannine Literature (NT221)
Doug Moo’s New Testament Theology (NT305)
Martin Weber: Morris Proctor’s Logos Academic Training (LT161)
Jon Paulien’s Biblical Eschatology Bundle (NT386 and BI290)
Find your own favorite! Browse all Mobile Ed courses by name or professor.
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Have you taken a Mobile Ed course? Tell us about it in the comments!
What is the proper response to violence? In an increasingly violent culture, this is a question we must all ask ourselves. And as Christians, we must answer this question in a way that is not only practical but also faithful. It isn’t just a question of what “works” to reduce violent crime; it’s also a question of how God has called his people to live. In what follows, I will offer my own convictions, though I readily admit that fellow Christians will differ in their responses to this sensitive subject.
I can think of no better place to start—for this or any other issue—than with Jesus. So let’s begin by considering what he has to say on the subject.
How to be sons of your heavenly Father
When asked about the greatest commandment in the Law, Jesus replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37–40).
Jesus does something radical here. He doesn’t simply list the most important commands—he reframes the entire Law in the light of one basic mandate: love. Love is the reason for every command God has given.
This concept is so important that all three Synoptic Gospels include a similar account (see Mark 12:28ff and Luke 10:25ff), and in the Gospel of John, Jesus narrows it down to just the second half. “This is my commandment: that you love one another just as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this: that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13).
Jesus essentially says that love of neighbor (or “one another” or “friends”) is how you show love to God, and he defines that love as sacrificing yourself for the sake of others. This echoes what he said in the parable of the sheep and goats, “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). And such love of God via love of neighbor fulfils the Law, as Paul and James would later confirm (see Romans 13:8–10, Galatians 5:14, and James 2:8).
But “who is my neighbor?” This question was posed to Jesus in Luke’s account cited above. Jesus responded with a parable. And in this parable—we call it “the good Samaritan”—Jesus cast the most unlikely of characters for the role of neighbor. Jews hated Samaritans. They viewed them as the lowest of the low. Yet this is who Jesus said to love.
But that’s not all Jesus taught. He didn’t merely say, “Love the neighbors you don’t really like.” He also said, “Love your enemies.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48)
Jesus taught that love of enemies is so important, it defines us as sons of our heavenly Father. God loves his enemies, and so must we. But who is my enemy? And what does it look like to love them? Let’s jump back a few verses to give context to Jesus’ words:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38–42)
When Jesus spoke of those who force you to go a mile, he was referring to the Roman soldiers occupying Israel. These violent men were known for executing Jews at random, just to show off their power and keep their subjects in line. Yet these are the kinds of people Jesus said we must love—evil people intent on harming us.
In Luke’s parallel account, Jesus further explains how to love our enemies, “. . . do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28). And when we do this, “. . . you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35–36).
Having seen the importance of Jesus’ mandate to love everyone—including those who would do us harm—we’ll now look at how Jesus lived this principle in his own life. John tells us that “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). So we must consider how Jesus responded to violence, for we ought to respond in the same way.
To that end, let’s examine the most violent episode in Jesus’ life—his arrest and crucifixion.
Buy a sword . . . but don’t use it
Shortly before his arrest, Jesus told his disciples, “Let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (Luke 22:36). Why did Jesus say this? Was he preparing them to defend themselves? Not quite. Jesus explained, “For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment” (Luke 22:37).
The disciples said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords,” to which Jesus responded, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). Enough for what? Two swords would hardly have provided sufficient defense against “a great crowd with swords and clubs” (Matthew 26:47), but they were enough to fulfil the Scripture. Alternatively, many translations (CEB, CEV, HCSB, ISV, etc.) suggest that Jesus’ response is better rendered, “Enough of that!”—indicating that the disciples had misunderstood his intent.
When an armed band of soldiers came to arrest Jesus, his disciples asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49). Then Peter, failing to wait for Jesus’ response, drew his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (John 18:10).
Jesus said, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51). “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:52–54). And he healed the servant’s ear.
To the crowd he said, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled” (Matthew 26:55–56).
Jesus then allowed himself to be arrested, endured a mock trial by the Sanhedrin, and ultimately came before Pilate, who said, “Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:35). Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36).
Jesus endured scourging, mocking, humiliation, beating, spitting—all with no attempt at retaliation. He then went to Golgotha, where he allowed himself to be crucified between two criminals. While dying on the cross at the hands of his enemies, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
In summary, Jesus prohibited his disciples from using a sword, even in self-defense. He instead entrusted himself to the Father, enduring the suffering that followed. He made it clear that his kingdom does not follow the pattern of this world—his followers do not fight. And as his ultimate response to the violence he had suffered, Jesus forgave those responsible for his persecution.
At this point, an observation should be made. Jesus had a very specific mission to accomplish. He was in the process of fulfilling Scripture and atoning for the sins of mankind. Though we may face violence, we will not do so under these same circumstances. Does this negate the idea that we should follow Jesus’ example, at least in this instance?
Peter—having walked in the Spirit for some time since his incident with the sword—provides us with a definitive answer to this question:
For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:20–23, emphasis added)
Having now examined both Jesus’ instructions and his example, let’s consider how we can practically live this out.
The first thing to clarify is that Jesus never told us to adopt a position of passivity. He did not mean that we should simply let evil have its way and do nothing to stop it. For this reason, I tend to like the term “nonviolent resistance” better than “pacifism.”
But didn’t Jesus say, “Do not resist the one who is evil”? That is one possible translation, but it isn’t without its difficulties.
Here’s what Preston Sprinkle has to say in his book Fight: A Christian Case for Non-Violence:
The Greek word for “resist” is anthistemi, and it often (though not always) refers specifically to violent resistance. Throughout the Old Testament, for instance, anthistemi refers to military action: Israel resists its enemy in battle, and the Canaanites weren’t able to resist Israel in the conquest. In the New Testament, other words related to anthistemi refer to violent revolts, insurrections, and war. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, almost always used anthistemi in ways that convey some sort of violent action. So when Jesus tells His followers not to resist evil people, He uses a word that suggests a violent resistance.
N.T. Wright, in Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, translates this phrase as “don’t use violence to resist evil!” Rather than prohibiting resistance, Jesus prescribed a very different kind of resistance. No longer should we respond in kind—“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” We should instead respond by turning the tables on our aggressors. N.T. Wright explains further:
Jesus offers a new sort of justice, a creative, healing, restorative justice. The old justice found in the Bible was designed to prevent revenge running away with itself. Better an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth than an escalating feud with each side going one worse than the other. But Jesus goes one better still. Better to have no vengeance at all, but rather a creative way forward, reflecting the astonishingly patient love of God himself, who wants Israel to shine his light into the world so that all people will see that he is the one true God, and that his deepest nature is overflowing love. No other god encourages people to behave in a way like this!
So Jesus gives three hints of the sort of thing he has in mind. To be struck on the right cheek, in that world, almost certainly meant being hit with the back of the right hand. That’s not just violence, but an insult: it implies that you’re an inferior, perhaps a slave, a child, or (in that world, and sometimes even today) a woman. What’s the answer? Hitting back only keeps the evil in circulation. Offering the other cheek implies: hit me again if you like, but now as an equal, not an inferior.
Or suppose you’re in a lawcourt where a powerful enemy is suing you (perhaps for non-payment of some huge debt) and wants the shirt off your back. You can’t win; but you can show him what he’s really doing. Give him your cloak as well; and, in a world where most people only wore those two garments, shame him with your impoverished nakedness. This is what the rich, powerful and careless are doing. They are reducing the poor to a state of shame.
The third example clearly reflects the Roman military occupation. Roman soldiers had the right to force civilians to carry their equipment for one mile. But the law was quite strict; it forbade them to make someone go more than that. Turn the tables on them, advises Jesus. Don’t fret and fume and plot revenge. Copy your generous God! Go a second mile, and astonish the soldier (and perhaps alarm him—what if his commanding officer found out?) with the news that there is a different way to be human, a way which doesn’t plot revenge, which doesn’t join the armed resistance movement (that’s what verse 39 means), but which wins God’s kind of victory over violence and injustice.
Such nonviolent resistance is risky. It makes us vulnerable. But it also exposes our aggressors’ sins for what they are. And if we believe what Jesus said—that “all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52)—then our nonviolent response is actually much safer than carrying a weapon. Wouldn’t you rather entrust yourself to the God who rules the universe than to a piece of steel?
For more specific suggestions on how to respond nonviolently, along with real-life examples, check out Nonviolent Action: What Christian Ethics Demands but Most Christians Have Never Really Tried by Ron Sider.
But in this violent world, there are no foolproof methods of preventing violence. When we choose to live in nonviolent love, we accept the possibility that we will “share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13). When that happens, we have one further response—one more way in which we follow the example Jesus left for us.
It would be easy for me to speak of forgiveness when I have had no major offenses to forgive. So I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to close this post by pointing you to Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof joined them for an evening Bible study. After initially participating with their study, he pulled out a gun, and he murdered nine people. If there was ever a case for retaliation—for responding to violence with violence—surely this would be it? But that’s not what happened.
This is how the survivors and relatives responded:
“No matter how much hate there is in the world, it’s no match for love” Chis Singleton, son of slain Sharonda Singleton, said. “Love is always stronger than hate.”
And the daughter of Ethel Lance, addressing the killer directly in court, said, “I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her ever again. But I forgive you.”
She added: “You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people. May God forgive you.”
Anthony Thompson, husband of the slain Myra Thompson, echoed Lance’s daughter’s words. “I forgive you, my family forgives you,” he said.
Felecia Sanders, the grandmother who shielded her 5-year-old granddaughter from the gunfire, but lost her son in process, told the killer that the parishioners “welcomed you Wednesday night at our Bible study with open arms.”
She continued, fighting tears: “You have killed some of the most beautiful people that I know . . . And it will never be the same. But as we said in Bible study, we enjoyed you. May God have mercy on you.”
Alana Simmons, granddaughter of victim Daniel Simmons, said: “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate . . . everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived and loved and their legacies will live on.”
“Hate won’t win,” she concluded firmly.
A relative added, “I am a work in progress and I acknowledge that I am very angry. But we are the family that love built. We have no room for hate so we have to forgive.”
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