I don’t even know how to accurately describe my feelings right now. I guess “grieved” sums it up best…deeply grieved. Yesterday in Charleston, South Carolina, a gunman entered a peaceful church gathered for Wednesday night prayer meeting, sat in the congregation for a good part of the service, and then rose to shoot 9, peaceful people in cold blood. I’m stunned at the cruel, dark, hate that must reside deep in the heart of the shooter. Evil…this is pure evil on display for all to see.
As a pastor, I can’t help but identify with this congregation. My heart goes out to the families of those killed, and to this congregation who lost their pastor along with 8 other brothers and sisters. The fact that this was apparently racially motived adds another layer to the fear and horror that this congregation must be experiencing. There was no reason, no issue…no conflict that led to this killing. No, they just happened to be a black church.
I want to write this off as the horrible, random acts of a lunatic…but I can’t. This was most likely a hatred that had been fed and fostered over a lifetime, culminating in one final act of violence and desecration.
What am I supposed to do with what I feel? I refuse to listen to the crass and callous posturing of those who would try to politicize this issue to further their agenda. I recommend you tune them out, as well. No…my heart is drawn to pray…for the Emanuel AME church, the city of Charleston, and for our nation. I pray for comfort and healing, and for God’s incomparable peace to guard our hearts and minds. It’s also an opportunity for us to take an honest and prayerful look within, and let the Spirit of God reveal any seeds of hatred that might take root.
While we are tempted to look away from the unfolding tragedy in Charleston, we mustn’t. No, we need to take in every detail, because this is where hate ultimately leads. What we are seeing is the mature fruit of hatred on full display. Jesus said if we hate, it is like we are committing murder in our hearts! The answer to hatred is never more hatred, but love. I would caution each of us...don’t let righteous anger, or even a healthy desire for justice, become a façade for hidden hatred. Lord, we pray for peace in Charleston and in America. And Lord, may you bring Your peace to our hearts. Amen.