As I sit down to write this, I don’t really know what I am going to say, other than what is on my heart. If I can get it out into words that make sense and don’t confuse anyone, that’s all I can hope for.
First of all, one of my daughters and her husband live in Charleston, South Carolina. As a matter of fact, I was just there last week and plan to return not too long from now. It is a beautiful, historic city. It is certainly worth a long visit.
Secondly, I want to visit Emanuel AME Church when I return to Charleston in a week or so. I want to go to the place where so much attention is being directed and pray for peace.
What is truly disheartening is all the hate I continue to read on Facebook. The hate is coming from from all directions, but much is being aimed at white people, like Dylann Roof is supposed to be the spokesman (and gunman) for Caucasians everywhere. Where do people get all this nonsense? One common suggestion from angry blacks is that they should arm themselves and rise up against white America. Like THAT is the answer! It’s a wrong answer to a false perception that is perpetuated in the minds of those who are as racist as the killer being condemned!
The fact is that what Dylann Roof did was horrible, but it wasn’t the first time people were killed in a church – and it won’t be the last. It wasn’t the first time a white man killed black people – and it won’t be the last. It wasn’t the first time a deranged and evil-filled tool of Satan murdered innocent people – and it won’t be the last. But to suggest that an entire race hates another and that the evidence is the actions of one man? Well, that is nothing more than an excuse for perpetuating existing hatred and racism from a different direction.
The best and most disarming response I have heard, so far, came from Anthony Thompson, the son of slain Myra Thompson (59), as he spoke to the killer himself…
“I forgive you. But we would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent, confess, give your life to the one who matters most: Christ. So that he can change it, can change your ways no matter what happened to you and you’ll be OK. Do that and you’ll be better off than what you are right now.”
Some have jumped into the fray and asked, “Where was God in all this?” Those who ask that question evidently know little about the God Anthony Thompson worships. They know little about eternal things, and ways higher than their own. They assume that if God was real He must stop all acts of violence; all crimes; any and all sin. They forget that it is by God’s grace they live and breathe, even when they commit murder in their own hearts when they hate. They ignore the fact that love is never more on display than when back-dropped by hatred.
What we saw in Charleston was the result of hatred and ignorance, of evil, blinding the heart and mind of one who was deceived and used by the Enemy of righteousness, and he acted of his own free will. But what we are also seeing are those whose faith is more than words; those whose love is more than a feeling; and evidence of lives truly changed by a God who was there all the time, able to take what was meant for evil and turn it into good.
Now, while I am still putting my thoughts out here for the world to see, let me say something else. Had someone else in that church been armed, Dylann Roof may not have had the opportunity to do as much damage, at least not reload multiple times. I am all for having individuals in my church who are armed and ready for any such threat. We have to be, for things like this have happened before – in white churches, too – and they will continue to happen as long as men hate righteousness.
You may be asking, “But Pastor, how could you endorse carrying a weapon and possibly killing someone?” The answer is really very simple, I think. You see, I am a shepherd of sheep, and a shepherd is charged with the sheep’s protection. If a wolf were to walk into the fold and try to harm my sheep, I would dispatch it. Should a man walk into my church and try to kill my people, my flock, then that man forfeits his status as a human and becomes an animal – I will dispatch him as I would the wolf. Forgiveness comes after the fight.
So, those are my thoughts for the moment. May God’s grace be with those affected by this tragedy in Charleston.