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The Bible study turned into a scene from the Old Testament. Murder, hatred, death, gentiles eliminated. A man who believed himself to be from a superior race took it upon himself to destroy the infidels. Like Judas he sat with them in prayer but then he slaughter them in a house of worship.

There were nine martyrs. Disciples of Jesus who died because they gathered to love, teach, pray, be. Killed simply because God created them in His image and His likeness.

Black. Strong. Beautiful.

The ones who remained reacted like the New Testament.

They forgave him. They advised him to repent for his sins, and asked for God’s mercy on his soul. One even told Dylann Storm Roof to repent and confess, and “you’ll be OK.”

They understood something that the killer did not understand: We were all created in the image of God.

Dylann was formed in his mother’s womb; fearfully and wonderfully made.

White. Strong. Beautiful.

[bctt tweet=”To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”]

Relatives of the nine people shot down during a Bible study session inside their historic black church confronted the 21-year-old suspect Friday during his initial hearing. They described their pain and anger, but also spoke of love.

“I forgive you, my family forgives you,” said Anthony Thompson, whose relative Myra Thompson was killed. “We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. … Do that and you’ll be better off than you are right now.”

Jeffrey Collins of the Associate Press reported that Roof was ordered held until a bond is set on murder charges. He appeared by video from the county jail, looking somber in a striped jumpsuit and speaking only briefly in response to the judge’s questions.

The victims included the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, a state senator who doubled as the church’s lead pastor, and eight others who played multiple roles in their families and communities: ministers and coaches, teachers and a librarian, counselors and choir singers and the elderly sexton who made sure the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was kept clean.

A police affidavit released Friday accused Roof of shooting all nine multiple times, and making a “racially inflammatory statement” as he stood over an unnamed survivor.

The families are determined not to respond in kind, said Alana Simmons, who lost her grandfather, the Rev. Daniel Simmons.

“Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof — everyone’s plea for your soul is proof they lived in love and their legacies will live in love, so hate won’t win,” she said. “And I just want to thank the court for making sure that hate doesn’t win.”

It’s the choice of Old Testament Law vs. New Testament Love. An eye for an eye or the cross of Christ.

And we get to chose with them. 

The survivors of the Charleston shooting are teaching this nation that love is the way (the only way forward). They are discipling us in righteousness. Their revelation, their wisdom and their response is showing the world once again, that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

And the Bible they studied with Dylann on Wednesday night, is the Bible they are now manifesting:

But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies and do good to those who hate you. – Jesus in Luke 6:27

Felecia Sanders survived the Wednesday night attack by pretending to be dead, but lost her son Tywanza. She also spoke from Chief Magistrate James Gosnell’s courtroom, where Roof’s image appeared on a television screen.

“We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most beautifulest people that I know. Every fiber in my body hurts … and I’ll never be the same,” Sanders told Roof.

“Tywanza was my hero,” Sanders added, but then even she showed some kindness to the man accused of killing her son: “As we said in Bible Study, we enjoyed you but may God have mercy on you.”

Roof bowed his head slightly. From the jail, he could hear them talking, but couldn’t see them; the camera showed only the judge.

Roof’s public defender released a statement from his family offering prayers and sympathy for the victims, and expressing shock, grief and disbelief as to what happened that night.

The comments in court seemed in keeping with a spirit evident on the streets of Charleston Friday, where people built a memorial and thousands attended a vigil to repudiate whatever a gunman would hope to accomplish by attacking one of the nation’s most important African-American sanctuaries.

Dylan was trying to silence their voices but love has now given them the loudest song.

It’s a hymn of deliverance, of change and redemption. The souls of Pinckney, 41, Cynthia Hurd, 54; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Myra Thompson, 59; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; and the reverends DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; and Daniel Simmons Sr., 74 are now the messengers of God’s way.

They welcomed a stranger. They paid with their lives. And we will never be the same.

As I wrote in the article Who’s the Racist, “We have an intentional choice to make. To decide for forgiveness, understanding, compassion and kindness. And it’s not just saying the word, “I hate racism”, “I love all cultures”, “We are all God’s children” – it’s actually living it.

It’s the invitation to an open table. A reaching out to those who are different. And there, engagement is necessary. “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

There is no way to make sense of what happened. And it seems unfair to even quote this verse. “But we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Rom. 8:28

Yes, all things.

Today I am proud of my brothers and sisters in Charleston. Today I grieve with my brothers and sisters of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Today I follow their leadership and I forgive Dylan for his sins.

Because hate won’t win.

Let’s join the thousands of voice that sound like Jesus today. Even if it’s just a whisper, let the atmosphere hear as we pray together, “Father forgive Dylann… and have mercy on us all.”

It’s time for the church to truly live as the one who died for love.

Christ. Strong. Beautiful.

Peace.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

Nelson Mandela in Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela.