How Should We Respond to Charleston?
My heart was broken yesterday morning about the shooting at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. There is no intro to this blog, no funny story, and no creative writing techniques to dig you deeper into what I am writing – I’m at a loss for words. All I can say is, “Why?” Nine dead by the hands of a crazed loon–six women, three men, one the head pastor–during a Bible study. Why? The victims of this shooting were digging deeper in their faith, building and encouraging each other in the faith. Why? Why, God? We hear of the deaths of Christians, church shootings and war against the People of the Cross (Christ Followers), but not here in the United States. A man does not go into a church and kill people during a Bible study unless there is hate in his heart – this certainly was a hate crime. Nine were killed while simply doing what Jesus commanded us to do: love and encourage one another.
I can’t help but think about the death of Lazarus. When Jesus heard of Lazarus growing ill, He intentionally waited two more days until he travelled to Judea to see his dear friend. By that time, Lazarus was already dead for four days. Lazarus’ two sisters, Martha and Mary (who were also two of Jesus’ closest friends), confronted Jesus once He arrived. Martha was saddened that Jesus was not there when Lazarus was sick because she knew that Jesus could have healed her brother. But, she also knew that she would see Lazarus at the end of days (The Day of Resurrection).
Martha held onto the hope of the future, hoping to see Lazarus one day in Paradise. Her sister, Mary, was in a state of severe grieving. She ran to Jesus and dove to his feet, sobbing uncontrollably. “Where were you?! If you were here, my brother would still be alive!” Jesus has an amazing ability to meet us where we are. Martha held onto the hope of the future. Mary didn’t see hope; she wanted to know why Jesus had left them alone in time of need. In response, Jesus did not tell a parable, try to console her, or simply say, “Don’t worry. I am going to raise Lazarus from the dead.” Instead, He wept with her. Jesus was present in her grief.
We, as Christians, are not called to have the right words to say when tragedy and death strike loved ones. We are not called to have a list of verses to “cheer up” those who mourn. We are called to be present. We are called to rejoice with those who rejoice, and to mourn with those who mourn. Jesus did not tell Mary that His plan is perfect; He did not tell her to have more faith. He held her and wept with her. Jesus is present in our grief, too.
People of the Cross, just as we mourned for our brothers killed by ISIS in Egypt and Lebanon and the persecuted Church around the world, let us mourn with Emanuel A.M.E. Church. “Mourn with those who mourn.” However, let us rejoice in knowing that while nine lives were lost in Charleston, nine Christ Followers met Jesus face to face and were welcomed with a greeting, “Welcome home.”
Jesus grieves with us, but he pulls us out of the valley, just as He commanded the dead man, Lazarus, to rise, and Lazarus obeyed. We have hope in knowing two things. One, this terrible, horrible world of broken promises and pain is not our home. We are simply on a pilgrimage; we are just passing through. Second, we are promised the greatest feast and banquet in heaven when all is said and done. We will sit with all those we have lost who proclaimed Christ as King. We will sit with Martin Luther King, Peter the Disciple of Jesus, The Apostle Paul, Brennan Manning, the thousands killed by ISIS, Lazarus, and the nine that were called home Wednesday night.
Title Photo by www.bbc.com