A Reflection on the Shooting in Charleston, South Carolina
Last night a terrible act of violence was committed against the pastor and members of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. There are no words to describe the dastardly nature of this crime. To enter a place of worship and without any apparent provocation proceed to killing defenseless congregants points to an evil that is beyond comprehension.
What make this tragedy even more infuriating than it already is, is how quickly the conversation moves away from the victims to the “issues.” I am not saying that there are not problems that need to be addressed. What bothers me is that rarely do events like this lead to a conversation about what is really wrong with our world. We keep putting band-aids on the problem, never really stopping to think about the source of the poison that seems to be seeping into the bloodstream of our nation.
Several years ago I attended a missions conference and one of the speakers gave this analogy regarding justice ministry. He described a man standing on the bank of a river. As he stood there he heard the cries for help of another man in the river. He could not fight the current to get to the riverbank. The first man threw a rope to the man and offered him a life line to safety, which was gladly taken. A short time later, another person came floating down the river, this one in the same predicament as the first. Again the rope was offered and again another life was saved. The man stood on the river bank and helped the people as they came. After several people had been rescued in this way, the good Samaritan decided to walk up-stream to see why all these people were falling into the river.
As a Christian and pastor I feel that too many within the Church have become satisfied with lending a hand and throwing a rope to help those who are floating down the river, but we have not done a good job of finding the source of the problem. Throwing a rope to help is an act of mercy for the individual helped. But, walking upstream on the river and fixing the reason people are falling into the river is an act of justice. We have to speak to the true issue if we are going to see lasting change.
Is racism a problem? Yes. Is human trafficking and slavery a problem? Yes. Are there social issues that have to be confronted and addressed? Yes. However, these are not the primary, rudimentary issues the human soul must be rescued from. What humanity needs to be rescued from is its sinful nature. We are all sinners and because of this sin we all are at risk of falling into the river of death. Sin is not just one problem, it is a billion problems described by one simple reality. We all are incapable of avoiding the hole that sends us floating down the river.
As I have read the news reports regarding the shooting of those nine souls I felt this overwhelming sense that the darkness of sin has been deepening in our world. There seems to be no bottom to the depths of human cruelty and depravity. I am saddened by all of this. And yet, I hold onto the hope that the Light of World still shines.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., had it right when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” [Source] What light was he talking about? What love was he pointing to? It was the light of Christ in the Gospel of the Cross. This is the only light and the only love that will dispel the darkness that threatens to envelop our heart, mind and soul.
For the church the only transformative power give to us is the Gospel of Jesus. If we turn to anything else we jeopardize any chance we have been given to see the heart soften, the soul saved, and the mind renewed. Not everyone will agree with me but, that is alright. I have live according to what I believe.