Lessons from the Charleston Tragedy

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. – 2 Timothy 3:12-14

Dylann Roof is an evil young man who committed acts of great evil. Most of us cannot begin to comprehend what could lead someone to commit such terrible acts because to understand would put us on his plane. I am thankful my mind cannot go there.

As the city of Charleston and our nation have begun to process the murder of nine people at a Wednesday night Bible study, some lessons have emerged for the rest of us.

  1. Racism still exists. No one can deny the existence of racism in our increasingly polarized culture. But it is more than a black-and-white issue. It is an us-them issue that permeates every cultural divide. On my recent mission trip, I became aware of racial hatred between one group of Hispanics and everyone else. One lone, misguided white gunman doesn’t prove widespread prejudice against blacks, but it does further demonstrate our nation’s need for healing of our deepening racial fissures on virtually every front.
  2. Blacks weren’t the only ones targeted in the attack. Christians were targeted too. The shooter hated blacks and deliberately chose a city with a large black population. In that city, he could have chosen any number of targets, but he chose a church. A church. He chose a place where people would be most vulnerable. He chose a place where he would be welcomed and accepted. In fact, everyone was so nice to him that he nearly backed out. But he didn’t. Instead he acted as the devil’s instrument of destruction. As a result, nine blacks were murdered, but nine Christians were martyred.
  3. Finally our nation can agree on something. We may not agree on how this tragedy could have been prevented, and people may already be politicizing the murders, but for the first time in a very long time, everyone can agree on what evil looks like.
  4. The body of Christ needs a greater sense of unity. Years ago, I remember driving past a black church much like Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church, where the shootings took place, twice each week on my way to my predominantly white, middle-class church. Two city blocks and a seemingly impermeable cultural divide separated the two congregations. Why did we never partner with them, I would wonder? Why didn’t we share our supplies? Why didn’t we help them disciple the young people in their beleaguered neighborhood? It’s past time for the body of Christ to begin to tear down the walls that separate us. This doesn’t mean we have to compromise doctrinal principles. It means we need to stand on common ground – the firm foundation of Jesus Christ – and do kingdom work hand in hand.
  5. You can forgive the unforgivable. Jesus commands us to forgive as we are forgiven. He asked the Father to forgive those who sentenced Him to death. But surely He wouldn’t expect the survivors of those murdered to forgive Dylann Roof, would He? Only a saint could do that! Well, here’s a revelation: If you’ve trusted Christ, you’re a saint. (Here’s a search of the term throughout the Bible if you’re interested.) And the family members of the shooting victims proved their sainthood during Roof’s hearing when, one by one, they forgave him and even implored him to come to Christ. I pray I would be able to do that, just as I pray I will never have to. But how I commend my brothers and sisters in Christ for showing the rest of us how it’s done.

Pray for the people of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopalian Church. Pray for the people of Charleston. Pray for the redemption of people who, like Dylann Roof, are dangerously misguided and possibly under demonic influence. Pray for unity in our country and the body of Christ. Pray about how God will use you to tear down the walls.

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