Things that make my heart hurt about the Charleston massacre

As the news unfolds about the young white man who entered an historic black church and killed nine people there, a number of things have passed through my head and heart, making me hurt along with those in Charleston.

I hurt because racism is not dead.

I hurt because my country is still broken by racism. The Bible makes it clear that the people of God are to be a blessing to all nations (Genesis 12:2-4) and that in Christ there are no distinctions between ethnicities (Galatians 3:28) for Jesus broke down the dividing wall of hostility, making one people (Ephesians 2:14-22).

While racism may linger in these supposedly united states, the people of God must reject it and must live out the unity God has dreamed about long before he called Abraham to be a blessing to all people, the unity Jesus died to achieve.

I hurt because my people have been killed.

I never met any of the nine who were gunned down, but they are my brothers and sisters nonetheless. Christ has made us family. We share the same Spirit. We worship the same Lord. I belong to them and they belong to me (Romans 12:5).

I hurt because of the increased us/them language.

I hurt because the black members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church welcomed a white man into their midst, erasing us/them boundaries. I hurt because he couldn’t accept their acceptance and defined himself and others by those false boundaries. I hurt because the news, Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of mass lunacy are filled with us/them language.

We cannot heal our racial divide with us/them language. It can only be healed by the “brotherhood” that MLK emphasized in his Dream speech.

i rejoice because of the triumph of love.

Just like Jesus on the night before he was brutally killed, the members of Emanuel invited into their midst the one who would betray them to death. Jesus welcomes and ate with Judas. And these Christians welcomed, studied the Scriptures, and prayed for a full hour with Dylann Roof.

Despite the racial tension that has rippled through the country over the past few months, the members of Emanuel didn’t withhold welcome from this young white man. They didn’t look suspiciously at him. They didn’t profile him. They treated him as if he belonged there. He was the one who made the decision that divided him from them, not them.

This, to me, is a sign of the kingdom of God — a refusal to reject the one who makes himself our enemy. This is the triumph of love, even though it looks like death. It follows in the footsteps of the one who is Love himself, the one whose resurrection brings life out of death.

Seeing black and white join hands in prayer and grief and brotherhood in the wake of Charleston is a sign of hope. May this become our reality.

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