Media often talks about legacy in discussions of politics. However, every man and woman has a legacy. Legacy is not reputation, those remembrances are what people remember of one during life. Legacy wraps the heart and soul of a man, mixed with reputation, character, and their body of work. Most of all, legacy is the impact that life had on others. Inspire or incite, love or hate, generosity or greed.
Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC was thrust into the current spotlight through a tragic event. Nine Church members were murdered at a Bible study, including Emanuel’s beloved senior pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, also a well loved South Carolina State Senator. We all watched as the horror unfolded on the news.
True evil took these lives in the form of a white man filled with hate, a racist bent on starting a race war. A young man who sat with the Emanuel Nine as they spoke of God’s Word, seated next to Reverend Pinckney. This terrible act broke the heart of a nation.
Something strange took place in the aftermath. Rather than riots and vitriol spewed from hate filled hearts, love broke out in Charleston. White and black embraced, wept, prayed, and grieved for their slain friends.
When the murderer was caught, it was because a woman in North Carolina “happened” to spot the killer while she drove to work, resulting in his capture. When interviewed, the media called her a hero. She refused the hero status, giving God credit for her being in the place to help. She honored God for putting her there.
What truly shocked the media and the nation was what happened next. When the killer was arraigned, family members of the nine victims had the opportunity to speak. Their words rang loud and clear around the world. “I forgive you, and pray God has mercy on your soul.” No hate, no anger. Certainly tears and a desire for justice, but all wrapped in love and forgiveness.
Yesterday the congregation gathered at their church and held a service that remembered the victims, and stood firm in their faith and offered praise to God. A rally was held to remember the victims. No anger, no hate, no political statements – rather they held hands across a bridge; the hundreds became thousands of all races.
Contrast these few days to the weeks of riots, hate, venom, and destruction in Ferguson. In Baltimore. Politicians and race baiters incited violence. Encouraged destruction. With loud voices they shouted racist claims. Yet, investigations proved racism was not involved. I suspect those voices were ready to descend on Charleston.
Charleston DID experience a heinous racial attack – unlike Ferguson or Baltimore. Certainly those voices would find a welcome.
No. Rather than hate, love broke out. Forgiveness rang clear and resounded across a nation. Hate did not find a platform
As I watched this unfold, one thing stood out. Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Fellow politicians called him a unifier, loved by all regardless of political affiliation. Congregation members mourned his loss and spoke of his faithfulness.
His reputation is stellar.
When the families of the victims forgave the killer, when the congregation spoke of love, not hate, that goes much deeper than reputation.
The legacy of a man of God is seen in his congregation. The heart of the Pastor will be reflected in the actions of his flock.
Clearly Rev. Pickney spoke often about love and forgiveness and his congregation not only listened, but embraced his teaching. Moreover, the heart of that congregation guided the response of Charleston. Love not hate, forgiveness not anger. It was heard around the world.
While the world watched for riots, vitriol, anger – love broke out and forgiveness rang true. All because a faithful man of God led his flock in the path of God’s heart. I can imagine Rev. Pickney reminding them of the words of Christ hanging on the cruel cross – “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What a legacy, reaching much farther than the good Reverend would have imagined. Churches around the country mentioned it Sunday, and media were left to talk of the love and forgiveness rather than cover riots.
God bless the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, reflecting such a legacy, showing the world true love and forgiveness in the midst of evil.
At a time of civil unrest, when years of progress in racial unity has been shattered, may God continue to use this example and bring healing to our land.
The Apostle Paul gave clear teaching to guide us, words I can imagine resounded by Rev. Pickney and lived our by his congregation and witnessed by the world –
From Colossians 3 –
…14Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. 15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.…
From Romans 12 –
A Living Sacrifice
12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.