So much can and should be said in response to the horrific murders that occurred in Charleston, SC at Emanuel AME Church. But one thing is for certain, the actions of the murderer cannot be adequately described in anything less that theological language. What the murderer did was evil. Yes, it was sick and criminal and revolting. But above all it was evil. It was sin. It was an affront to a holy and good God. It was an evil act committed against men and women who were gathered to pray. And adding to the wickedness of the killer's actions is the fact that these brothers and sisters in Christ welcomed him into their midst and by his own admission showed him kindness.
One is tempted to apply the word “incomprehensible” to the event. But we must recognize that the murder of those nine souls is not altogether incomprehensible. Indeed it is all too comprehensible. Man has been murdering man since he has lived east of Eden. As Jesus taught us, murder is in our hearts. It is the sinful engine of our anger. There may well be a complex of issues that motivated the murderer in Charleston. Certainly racist hate was a glaring factor. There may also be links to psychotropic drugs, alienation, and a steady diet of violent images. But above all what drove the murderer’s evil acts was his willful dismissal that he was accountable to God. On the evening of June 17 in a prayer meeting in Charleston, SC he declared himself to be his own sovereign; his own god.
The sin and evil which drove the Charleston murderer was a species of that evil which drove the first man and woman to shake their fists in the face of their Maker (Genesis 3).
God’s answer to that evil so long ago is still the answer to man’s evil today: Jesus Christ and him crucified. And it is here where we continue to need theological language and categories. Our brothers and sisters in Charleston have been pouring out their lament in prayer and song just as God’s people have done for thousands of years. Their sorrow is the sorrow of those who long for “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (Heb 11:10).
There have also been extraordinary acts of mercy in response to Wednesday's evil. For example, the son and daughter of Sharonda Singleton have already breathed out forgiveness to the man who murdered their mother. Remarkable. Mere sentiment cannot explain such beauty. Only the gospel of Jesus Christ is able to provide these sorts of glimpses into the age to come.
The following are the names of those whose lives were taken as they prayed on Wednesday June 17, 2015:
Pastor Clementa Pinckney
Ethel Lee Lance
Rev. Daniel L. Simmons
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
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