Last Thursday the nation awoke to the news that nine people had been murdered at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. A lone gunman joined a group of worshipers who had gathered for Wednesday night Bible study, and after spending about an hour with the group pulled out a hand gun and began firing. Fourteen hours later he was in police custody and details about this disturbed, deluded young man began to surface. This young man, corrupted by a white supremacist ideology chose to kill those he believed to be less worthy of life than himself.
These events have become far too common. Two and half years ago the country was shaken when over twenty students and teachers were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut. In 2007 a Virginia Tech student killed thirty-two people before taking his own life. Sadly, these spree killings have become far too common in our country – particularly in our schools. While the details and motives change, the result is always the same. Lives lost, families destroyed and communities shattered.
In an attempt to make sense of it all politicians and media focus their attention on ancillary issues like gun control, mental health and in this case, the Confederate Battle Flag. The problem is today as it was in December 2012, as it was in April 2007, as it has been since the fall of man – sin. No matter how many laws we enact, no matter how many regulations we create we cannot change one simple fact. We are, by our nature, sinners and we are powerless to change it.
All of this is not to say that there is no hope, it’s just that it’s not within us. When there was no way, God made a way and that way is Christ. It is in surrendering to His lordship and receiving the gift that only He can bring. That was never more apparent than Friday after the shootings in a Charleston courtroom. At the gunman’s arraignment, the families of the victims did something that no one expected. When given the opportunity to speak to the man who had taken the lives of the ones they loved they forgave him.
Nadine Collier, whose mother was one of the victims said “I just wanted everybody to know, I forgive you…you took something very precious away from me…but I forgive you…” Anthony Thompson, the grandson of Myra Thompson told him, “…we would like you to take this opportunity to repent … confess, give your life to the one who matters the most, Christ, so that He can change it – can change your ways no matter what happens to you, and you will be OK. Do that and you will be better.”
In their darkest hour, they chose the Light. They allowed the love of Christ to push back the darkness and they met hatred with love. In a moment, they did more to honor God and exalt the name of Christ than I or any other pastor could do in a thousand sermons. They showed the world a supernatural ability to forgive someone who had taken what was most precious to them. They forgave him, not after years or months but hours. They showed him the grace and mercy that he had denied the ones they loved. In doing so they showed the world Jesus.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44–45.
In His Service,