How the Charleston Calamity Can Change All our Lives
I came to Christ 45 years ago. What drew me was the love of a black man who picked me up and gave me a lift after my car broke down on the freeway.
Before exiting the car he invited me to attend his church. Because of his kindness, I went to a little storefront church in the inner city of Cleveland where I was impacted by the witness of about 30 black brothers and sisters who loved God and me, the only white guy there.
My description may sound similar to that of the young, terrorist killer in the Charleston, South Carolina church last Wednesday evening. He admitted afterwards that the love of the people so affected him that he almost changed his mind about his diabolical plan. Unfortunately he didn’t, but what followed this heinous act are unmistakable examples of true Christianity.
Was it also a sign of how people of faith should respond to increased persecution in the days before us?
In Hebrews chapter 11 there is what is often referred to as “God’s Hall of Fame.” Describing the adversity and even martyrdom of exemplary people, it says “the world was not worthy of them” (Heb. 11:38). Might this be an accurate way to characterize the lives of those who perished and their loved ones’ responses in the wake of this disaster? And shouldn’t what we witnessed change our lives for the better if we follow their example of faith and forgiveness?
Try to imagine for a minute, your mother… brother… grandmother… sister… son gunned down in sacred space in a manner that shocks the nation’s conscience. As news reports flooded TV and computer screens, millions shuttered and shook their heads, wide-eyed and whispering, “Oh my God! Why?”
Shielding little ones from the horror, people lingered and waited for responses to try and make sense of the tragedy. Think how many people across this nation lifted up prayers of support for these folks in their darkest hour?
Soon thereafter, politicians and pundits politicized the moment to our chagrin and disgust. Secular intellectuals pontificated their theories and reinforced the notion that multitudes don’t like God or religious references mentioned in the marketplace. Then, just as we were ready to click the remote, voices and faces appeared from the Christian woman who tipped off the police, and another Christian, Nikki Haley, the Governor of South Carolina and mother of two, and then the actual family members.
Would they spew venom or similar comments? We leaned in and listened as scores of people in America and abroad stood at attention, riveted by the unfolding story.
The lovely lady who contacted the police leading to the apprehension of the suspect stood smiling, saying humbly that she prayed for the comfort of the grieving family members and church when she heard the report and believed it was “divine intervention” that God used her to help the authorities arrest the young killer after following him for over thirty miles.
She then seized the opportunity and communicated how God wants to use people who have yielded their lives to Him. She added that she gave “the credit to God who is the only One deserving all the glory.”
Republican Governor Haley, the youngest sitting governor in America, stepped to the podium at a hastily-called press conference and modeled for all the scripture, “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn…a time to be silent and a time to speak…” (Eccl. 3:1-7).
She demonstrated sensitivity, dignity and feminine grace as she haltingly attempted to speak, held back tears and appealed for calm amidst a time of grieving. She later refused to exploit the situation or be drawn into controversy over confederate flags and other political matters saying “This is not the time. Thank you.”
Then, with heavy hearts and tear-stained faces, the family members and relatives began to speak. What went through the minds of atheists, agnostics, secularists and opponents of people of faith as they heard supernaturally inspired expressions of love, mercy, forgiveness and faith? Most of the remarks were spoken directly via video to the arrested murderer who later confessed.
Tywana Sanders was killed and his mother said to the shooter: “We welcomed you Wednesday night in our Bible study with open arms. Every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same… He was my hero. But as we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you, but may God have mercy on you.”
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