It is painful to imagine the tragic reality that smacked us all in the face last week. Senseless murders of innocents. We can relate to sitting around a table with bibles open and listening to a pastor lead us in study; laughter, questions, smiles and nods. The scene is familiar. In Charleston, even though welcoming a new person, evil lurked in that heart. Death is far from their thoughts. Dylann Roof himself, feeling the kindness, considers relenting, resisting evils wicked whispers.
Then, shoving aside those kinder thoughts, he reaches for the gun. Chaos and confusion descend and the acrid smell of gunpowder fills the air. Moments of heroism as one person steps in front of an older woman but falls himself and she too is slain, unimaginable carnage.
How to respond to such blatant evil and the violation of sacred space? How can we find any sense in this senseless tragedy? The world seeks blame and attack. Yet the words and actions of the grieving loved ones preach the gospel in blazing testimony. In the midst of sorrow, loss and pain these dear people spoke of forgiveness and love. Truly their responses model the words of Romans 12:20 “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
At the very time this sad person stood before a judge for arraignment, a crowd gathered to sing gospel songs and pray for Charleston and all those grieving. A young television announcer came to tears observing this supernatural expression of God’s love. Their songs reflecting God’s overcoming grace. In the words of the pastor’s sister, “We are the family that love built. We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive.”
These senseless murders remind me of other deaths in places far distant; beaches in Libya where orange clad men face beheading for naming Jesus as Lord. Also, with the passing this week of Elizabeth Eliot, I recall five young men slaughtered on the beach of Ecuador so many years ago. From those lives sacrificed with forgiving responses we watched as God brought savation to the very people who killed them. Elizabeth’s book, Through Gates of Splendor, ignited hearts and missions. I pray that the lives lost in Charlton set ablaze the fires of revival in our nation.
Believers of all backgrounds and race are joining in unity in Charleston. The church is speaking of Christ’s love for sinners and His provision of forgiveness. In the face of despicable evil, they are overcoming by modeling the gospel.
We live in a word of tag lines and slogans. Might the slogan modeled in Charleston inform us as we deal with our own encounters with evil? Let us choose, not vengeance, but forgiveness and “overcome evil with good.” Let us all become what we truly are, “family that love built” even as Jesus commanded. May this senseless tragedy bring many to their senses.