The Reverend Charlie Jones

A great man died this week, though few outside of Grand Rapids have ever heard of him. I never met Charlie Jones, but when I hear his name, I think, “forgiver.” Several years ago, after his brother Willie was brutally tortured and beaten to death by four teenagers, Charlie was able not only to forgive the four young men but also minister to their families. It was a stirring example of what it looks like to heed Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek,” and Paul’s reminder to “forgive others as God in Christ has forgiven you.”

Charlie and Willie were African-American, old enough to have experienced the Jim Crow South and the de facto segregation of Grand Rapids. Charlie told the Grand Rapids Press in 2000 that the brothers learned to respond to mistreatment by reminding each other, “They don’t know no better.” Charlie said the same of the white boys who killed his brother. That response – echoing Jesus’ response to his own murderers – has stayed with me ever since. I don’t always remember it, but when I do, it helps me forgive.

Thank you, Pastor Jones, for teaching me about forgiveness, and for modeling the love of Christ.

 

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