“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.” Tears were in the voice of a mother who had lost her daughter to a gunman this past Wednesday in Charleston, South Carolina at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As she saw the young man who had chosen to take her loved ones’ lives in court, she chose to give grace. And because of that, through her eyes, though misty with sorrow and tears, the world saw a glimpse of divine love against this backdrop of tragedy. However, one wonders, is a glimpse enough?
A day after the massacre, a news reporter went on air asking, “If Immanuel means ‘God with us’ then was God with them?” It is a question asked often in the face of tragedy. If God truly does sit high and look low (Psalm 138:6), then were these deaths an oversight on His part? Or was He there, and simply choosing not to intervene? Did God not care enough to save their lives?
These are questions similar to ones likely asked by Jesus’ followers as He hung between life and death two millenia ago. God, the self-proclaimed embodiment of love, did nothing to stop His beloved son from being tortured and murdered. Later on, He did not stop his followers from being fed to lions, or burned at the stake. In fact, the annals of history have been violently stained by the blood of His children for centuries. God does not always keep those He loves from harrowing death. Why? He knows something better is coming soon. As an answer to the questions surrounding tragedy and death, God promises two things: a reward in eternity that will immeasurably surpass any loss on earth (1 Corinthians 2:9), and knowledge that none of His children’s lives are ever taken in vain (Romans 8:28, Genesis 50:20). So though the fires of hate breed the ashes of hurt, from the dust, hope rises.
Along with this hope, however, must come action. For every account relayed in the biblical canon of hate and hurt that God allowed to pass without intervention, there are ample counter-examples of when He acknowledged the mistreated (Exodus 3:7), spoke up for the defenseless (Proverbs 31:8), and challenged those who follow Him to stop injustice (Isaiah 1:17). As reported by individuals at the scene of the crime, the young man who has recently captured national attention raised a gun at his victims and reminded them that their race was the reason he was going to kill them.
NEXT STEPS: Young Adult Ministry Training
In order to stop hate crimes like the tragedy in Charleston, SC, or the senseless deaths or mistreatment of persons like Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin, you, dear reader, have to choose to acknowledge the mistreated. You, dear reader, will have to speak up for those defenseless against a system often stacked against them. You will have to make a conscious effort to raise the next generation to be more aware of racial bias, prejudice, and injustice. And if you choose not to, the next victim’s blood will be on your hands (Ezekiel 3:18).
When the world asks where God is in the midst tragedy, may they see you, His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) showing them His love by both reflecting grace, and by fighting to prevent further tragedy.
Psalm 138:7 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the low; though lofty, he sees them from afar.
1 Corinthians 2:9 However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’ the things God has prepared for those who love him
Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Exodus 3:7 The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.
Proverbs 31:9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Isaiah 1:17 Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.
Ezekiel 3:18 When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.[/box_holder]