Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof, a white man, sat through a Bible study on June 17th at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Around 9 p.m. he fatally shot nine black members of the church! Roof uttered some racist comments before killing his nine black victims. One of his desires was to “start a race war.”
Roof’s father called authorities after seeing his son’s picture in the media. Roof was taken into custody in Shelby, North Carolina, after a tip from Debbie Dills, a white woman, who saw Roof driving on the highway. Debbie praises God for allowing her to spot Roof.
As tragic as this event was, the response of most family members of the victims is instructive and hopeful. What an incredible lesson of how to be light during a culturally dark time.
Christians are increasingly being defined as haters, homophobic, non-progressive, racists, etc., through the mainstream media. As the culture continues to call us “evildoers,” how should we respond? How can we change the headlines? How can we focus the spotlight, be it briefly, on the truth?
Difficult times present opportunities to model a message that silences many of our critics. The message of trust, obedience and forgiveness, and unity within the body must be consistently modeled. These biblical principles can be seen from the response of many to the Charleston shootings.
Trust: God Is Sovereign (1 Peter 4:12-19)
Believers in the most difficult of circumstances should, by faith, trust in the sovereign control of God over their lives. We may not totally understand why tragic events touch our loved ones, but we cling, even through tears, to the sovereign God who loves us.
Numerous voices from Charleston spoke of the God in whom they trusted. They ran to God during their trials rather than running from and blaming Him. Where would you turn if your loved one was fatally shot in the church? How do you handle disappointments?
Good Works, Obedience, and Forgiveness (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12-15, 18-25)
More amazing than trust in God was the expressed obedience to the command to forgive! Relatives of the victims were allowed to speak to Mr. Roof through a glass mirror as he faced the judge. “You took something very precious from me, but I forgive you,” said Nadine Collier the daughter of shooting victim Ethel Lance.
“We would like you to take this opportunity to repent. Repent. Confess. Give your life to the One who matters the most. Christ. So that He can change it.” These were Anthony Thompson’s words to the accused gunman. These statements and others were broadcast internationally through mainstream media!
Unity within the Body (John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 2:17; 4:8)
The church members modeled the strength of their fellowship. Through tears, hugs, and messages of hope there was a resolve to move forward in faith. The city of Charleston, the state of South Carolina, our nation, and the world took note of a community embracing their God and one another during a tragic time, while forgiving the perpetrator of the crime!
Mr. Roof wanted to ignite a race war. Instead, he caused faith and a diverse fellowship of people to be displayed around the world through the media!
Do we need a tragedy to bring our faith and love through good works to light? Could the Charleston event stir us to deeper trust, obedience and forgiveness, and unity within the body simply because we love God, His Word, people, and will? We must become proactive in preparing to be salt and light in a rapidly decaying and darkening culture.
Practical Questions to Begin a Conversation
Given the direction of the American culture, how can we demonstrate our trust in a sovereign God?
How can we demonstrate obedience to God—at home, work, church, community, nation, etc.—that will bring glory to God?
How can we demonstrate love for one another that will cause unbelievers to affirm that we are Christ followers?
How do we expand unity within the body of Christ rooted in truth and love?
What might capture the attention of the secular media concerning the power of the Word of God to transform lives?