The events that transpired last Wednesday night in Charleston, SC have shaken the conscience of America, and is shaking the foundation of the Church in America. Unless you’ve been under a really big rock, you know that last Wednesday night, a very twisted and trouble young man showed up at the historic Emanuel AME church for Bible study. From eyewitness testimony, he sat in with the members and was welcomed. Sometime right around 9 pm, he presented a handgun and shot 10, killing 9 including their beloved pastor, Clementa Pickney. He did so for a known reason: he was white, they were black. He targeted this church because of their color. He did something very evil. He hated them.
But that isn’t what I want to focus on, I want to focus on their response. During the bond hearing on Friday morning, representatives for the deceased were allowed to address the shooter via video and express their feelings. I should imagine the response he would receive: you killed innocents, you killed in God’s house, you’re an animal. No wait, you’re less than an animal.
Instead of typing out their responses, I want you to follow this link to hear it for yourself:
First I hope you paid attention to their raw emotion. These people were grieving, were deeply hurting and the wound has not even been completely inflicted yet. There is something about their voices that conveys a darkness so great as not to be described by human words. That part you cannot miss. They were suffering, intensely.
But second. I want you to see the content of their response. So shocking was their response(s) that the world has taken notice. And I am 100% God is calling us as the church in America to take notice, There are 3 things that we can, no, NEED to learn from the people of Emanuel AME church:
1- We need to learn biblical love. If you do a little history, you’ll know this church has dealt historically with racial bias, as the nation went through troubling times. Members understood what it meant to be looked down upon for the color of their skin. Yet, when this young white male came in unknown and unannounced, they welcomed him. They did not turn him away, nor treat him badly. We know this because by his own admission, the shooter said he almost did not kill anyone because they had treated him so well. They looked at someone who by appearance was not like them, and they loved him anyway. That indeed is profound, because we know God is love- 1 John 4:16
2- We need to learn forgiveness and mercy. What these people did in that bond hearing is unheard of. Instead of cursing this man for taking what was most precious and irreparably damaging them, they blessed him. They told him he was forgiven, when he had not asked to be. You heard that right, they forgave him for killing their family, for shooting them down like a dog. That is unfathomable: to forgive someone for ripping what you love most dear completely away. Yet, they did. “I forgive you” can be heard from a trembling and crying voice, the raw emotion does not conceal how she had to actively fight against the hate, she poured out love. She was pleasantly obedient to our Savior who said we should pray “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” Matt. 6:12
3- They asked God to be good to him. They took serious the admonition of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:14, “bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse”. You can hear one wounded female response “bless you”. Do you know how incredible that is? Many who watched the bond hearing were cheering for a devastating blow to be dealt to the shooter. I’m sure many were wishing karma upon him. Yet the families asked God to be good to him. Folks, that is out of this world, and certainly not of this world.
4- They evangelized him. One male voice can be heard pleading with the shooter to both respent and turn to Jesus for salvation. Where many people would have quickly pointed him to the hottest part of hell, these people pointed him to heaven. And in so doing, they evangelized the world. Prominent atheist and a writer for The National Review Charles C.W. Cooke tweeted a response saying “I am a non-Christian, and I must say: This is a remarkable advertisement for Christianity.” Folks, that is massive.
These precious saints at Emanuel AMC aren’t superstar heroes who possess something nobody else can. They are serious disciples of Jesus, who by faith possess the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is the same Holy Spirit that dwells in everyone that calls Jesus their Lord.
So why is it, we get our feelings hurt by others, and cannot forgive? Why is it when someone is different we cannot get along? Why is it even when others aren’t doing as we would like, we don’t ask God to be good to them?
Why do we not live according to the book we claim to base our lives on?
What lesson can we learn from the shooter? Hate won’t win, love does. Last Wednesday night, Satan took a shot at the Gospel, and lost huge.
The shooter didn’t attack some distant church on Wednesday night, he killed my brothers and sisters in Christ. I love them dearly and so should you.