The Charleston Massacre victims haven’t yet been buried, and already the buzz of social media has lulled. Most will simply move on after hearing the shocking headline, forgetting it as quickly as their own faces upon turning from the mirror.
Few of us will mention again the slaughter of nine unique and precious lives at the hands of a man fueled by hatred.
There will be fewer and fewer prayers said for the families who will now have to work to see white men as their brothers and not their enemies.
Nine men and women were ruthlessly slaughtered for no reason, just the horrible hatred of a skin color within the mind of a twisted man.
This is our country’s history. And Charleston has forced us to face the reality that our country was built on soil soaked in blood.
The nine Charleston victims: Rev. Clementa Pinkney, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Twyanza Sanders, Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Susie Jackson, and Ethel Lance, graciously welcomed the man who in return for their outpouring of God’s love, ruthlessly murdered them.
And shockingly, in response to their murders the families of the nine chose to forgive. There is nothing easy about this choice, what they did was an act of will, a defying act of mercy. It is a choice they will have to make again and again as the reality of a world diseased by sin will continue to remind them of what was stolen from them by a man who saw those nine people as less than human because of the pervasive, wicked ideology of white supremacy. A man who resurfaced history, a man who has forced many to stop denying the existence of white supremacy in our country and its unfortunate hold in our history.
And I hear my African American brothers and sisters groaning under the weight of this burden that has been placed on their shoulders by pseudo-science and corrupt men, and they are tired. Tired of the politics, tired of the hatred and anger, and tired of being afraid because of their skin. Their skin. The absurdity, that they would be a target of hatred because of their skin, this organ that should be a shield to protect their precious bodies has become something used against them by wicked men.
And I look at my own hands and feel the weight of helplessness. Because I have no idea where to even begin. I have no idea how to tear out the cancerous hold racism has taken, with deep roots in the soil of half of our country.
But then I look to his hands, with those deep holes, those scars put there by our hatred, and I know his blood is the only place we can begin.
And I know that what one man did to try and propagate great evil, our God will use for good.
Because while Dylann Roof wanted to start a race war, many men and women have used it instead to begin the necessary conversation needed for reconciliation. Roof wanted to breed hatred, but the families of the victims instead gave him grace, and many in the African American community have once again chosen to forgive.
They have forgiven over and over and over. These image-bearers of God who have been treated with brutality, with enmity, with injustice, have been the greatest witness of the redeeming power of Christ’s blood every single time they choose grace instead of hate.
Darkness descended on Emmanuel AME Wednesday night, but so many in their community are responding with the most beautiful grace we have had the honor to witness.
Let us not marginalize how greatly God’s love is magnified in their witness. In every African American church where a white man enters, it will take faith and great courage to welcome him, and not to give in to the very real fear that perhaps he too has come to create victims of racism.
I commend you brothers and sisters, for risking your lives in this way, for entrusting your lives to the God who holds all things, and for being so committed to reconciliation that you continue to open your doors to white men and women, when you would have all earthly reason to close them.
So, please, brothers and sisters, do not grow weary in doing good. Keep fighting for reconciliation, keep forgiving, keep revealing the injustices and keep proclaiming the gospel that covers us all in the same red blood.
And to us brothers and sisters, who see racism through a distant lens, may we look at our country’s history with honesty, may we open our hearts to conviction, may we enter the conversation for reconciliation and listen with humility, may we weep with compassion, may we sit under and learn from those who’s lives are scarred by racism, may we learn from their faith, may we encourage them, and may we come alongside them and seek justice together.