Nine: The number of innocent lives taken at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in Charleston, South Carolina this week. America is again outraged that one man could cause such destruction, and we grieve together as a nation. The focus is on the mentally deranged and gun control—as though the right to bear arms caused the outcome of this latest attack. This and all related tragedies have less to do with guns or psychiatric medications, and more to do with the fact that we live in a fallen, depraved, and ever more groaning world. Whether it occurs at a place of worship or a school like Sandy Hook, every person, believer or not, recognizes the battle of good versus evil taking place when tragedy strikes.
Public places and the freedom they represent are prime targets for those who seek to kill, steal, and destroy. For many parents, the go-to emotion is fear, often followed by the desire to isolate our kids from any place that may endanger them. If we aren’t careful, however, we can go overboard by thinking we can protect our children from the evils of this world. While we say we trust God, our actions often speak differently, and because of our great love for our babies, we wind up trusting in ourselves more than the Lord. We must cast our cares on the Lord and know that He is sovereign in all things. By holding on to our emotions, rather than His infallible Word, we are proclaiming that the sovereign plan of God is not the one we truly trust or want. When we pray “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” do we really mean it? While we know our children are His creation, we need to live it by allowing Him to reign in our hearts and take every thought captive to Him. We must not cower away and stay in those places we deem “safe,” but go and make disciples of those who want to understand why this world is such a dark place. There is nothing quite like a tragedy to make hardened hearts soft and ready to receive.
My heart is broken for the families left behind—especially the parents and children. My heart is broken for the men, women, and children who survived and the impact this will have on them for the rest of their lives. My heart is hopeful, however, for the Gospel to bear much fruit as the voices of those in the congregation praise the risen Lord and share His eternal Truth with a city (and a world) in great need. Emanuel AME’s website bears witness to a beautiful quote from Sister Jean German Ortiz: “Jesus died a passionate death for us, so our love for Him should be as passionate.” Dear brothers and sisters, that is a desire we should all have, and I know God will yet again prove Himself faithful in tragedy.
I pray we never again experience such devastation—not in our church, not in our families, and not in our country. The reality is, we know how the story ends, and we know this world is not our home. While we are in this world, we must fight against the emotion of fear and not shelter our children—His children—from life. Above all, while we share the hope found in Jesus with those around us, we need to live it out to those in our care and know that He loves them even more than we do.