Instead of reacting to each tragedy as an opinionated citizen of the United States, I am convinced I am better off as a humbled, empathetic follower of Christ…
Running down the road, hauling some equipment to Tonopah today, I turned the radio on and listened to the news. In between static and overlapping stations, I hit a few good spots where I got a clear segment of NPR. The past six days have been tumultuous in the wake of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. Other than a surreal fluff piece, glancing at the apparent dangers of wearing skinny jeans, the news has scarcely been about anything else but what transpired surrounding the tragedy at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, and rightly so. The initial headline caught the attention of many, and the developing story kept the attention of that many more. Nine dead at the hands of Dylann Roof, the gunman who sat in on a evening service for a whole hour before opening fire on the pastor and parishioners.
After Roof’s apprehension, the attention has been focused on a number of things. The victims, their families, the gunman’s obvious racist motives, calls for stricter gun laws, as well as a collective outcry to rid public buildings of the Confederate flag. So much violence and contempt for human life so common in today’s world is a stark reminder of just how depraved humanity is. In the face of such depravity, it’s easy to adopt a fatalistic view of everything and everyone. As a result, I am personally tempted to join the latest fly-by-night political controversy, usually casting a stray rant (with a tinge of civic-minded evangelicalism perhaps) out into social media, sounding off to the betterment of none in order to make my pride feel better for saying something.
But outside of all the public debates, which barely waited for mourning to subside, about whether or not acts of violence like the one in Charleston happen in other developed countries, or whether we should finally give the boot to a battle flag-turned symbol of hate, something grabbed the attention of the U.S., I suspect. The words, “I forgive you,” were spoken, aimed at the suspected murderer by a daughter of one of the slain Christians. As I reflect on all of this, I can’t help but be humbled to the point of silence.
Instead of reacting to each tragedy as an opinionated citizen of the United States, I am convinced I am better off as a humbled, empathetic follower of Christ who ought to follow the Apostle Paul’s command in Romans 12:14-15 to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” As a friend recently wisely said on his Facebook account, “Now is not the time for [debates].” It’s time to identify with those, in the household of Christ, who are mourning. For how can we rightly rejoice when it’s time to do so if we haven’t bore in the calamities of others?