It has been a few weeks since the shootings that took place in the church in Charleston. I usually write my columns four or five at a time and submit them in advance, but I would like to offer up my thoughts concerning the events of that day.
The first thing I would say is that something like this confirms one thing I mentioned last week — the existence of sin. Anyone who would make the claim that racism is not a sin is not in touch with reality. God created the human race, and we are all related in some way. It is a tragedy when someone hates others simply based on the color of their skin.
But another thing has stood out for me in the wake of this event. The remarkable people of Emanuel AME Church have responded to their attacker with grace and forgiveness. They have taken seriously the charge to follow Jesus. As he was on the cross, it is recorded that he said, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”
In a similar vein, one of the early church leaders, Stephen, also spoke dying words of grace. “Father, do not hold this sin against them,” as he was stoned to death.
And now we hear of survivors and family members of victims offering forgiveness and love to the young man who was responsible for such a horrible deed. I wonder if I would be so kind and loving in similar circumstances.
I cannot imagine the scene from that Wednesday evening. Those gathered for Bible study and prayer should not have to do so in fear. Coming into God’s house for worship is to be a joyous occasion. I pray that joy and peace will again be experienced in that place.
I pray for the peace that Paul says “passes all understanding” to be present in their churches and lives. And I pray that we will all look to the one who loves us and trust him for both the present and the future.
May God grant us the ability to be faithful and follow him wherever he leads.