Charleston, Racism, And Reconciliation

As believers, many Christians may live their entire lives and never experience the direct impact of racism. While some have a firm understanding of the historic role that systemic racism has played in our nation’s history, we would much rather forget the horrific tragedies that plague our past.  Unfortunately, from time to time, we awaken to the headlines of a news story that serves as a tragic reminder that while great strides in racial reconciliation have been made, there is still more to be done. 

The hearts of many were heavy upon hearing of the deadly shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine parishioners dead including Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, the church’s pastor. The church is one of Charleston’s oldest African Methodist Episcopal Churches and has served the community for more than 100 years. The alleged gunman, Dylann Storm Roof, a 21-year-old white male, told police that his actions were racially motivated and that he desired to start a “race war.” 

The thoughts and prayers of many are with the families and friends of those who have suffered loss, the members of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, and the Charleston community directly impacted by this tragedy. In addition, we pray for the Family of Dylann Storm Roof who are understandably under the media microscope as many search for answers. Finally, as a response to the command of Christ that we must “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” (Matthew 5:44), Christians should also be praying for Dylann Storm Roof as well. We can pray for Dylann’s eyes to open to the impact of his actions in this violent tragedy. We can pray for Dylann’s heart to be convicted of the damage he has caused to so many people. We can also pray for Dylann to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ so that he can ultimately be forgiven for the sin of racism expressed in his deadly actions.  

As many desire to see justice in this situation, the hope of the Christian is not found in the justice of a courtroom but in hope that can only be found in Christ. It is in this hope that we rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ will make all things right. 

Many in the media will view this storyline through the lens of the historic racism clouding our nation’s past. Some will view this storyline through the political motivations of a particular party. Still others will use this as an opportunity to address a variety of subjects from racism, to gun control, and even terrorism. As a Christian, we must view this storyline through the lens of a Biblical Worldview. 

All are created in the Image of God – Imago Dei

With regard to the issue of race, one thing is clear from the lens of Scripture, all human beings are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). What makes this situation so tragic is the Christian understanding that every human being, regardless of race, is an image bearer of God with inherent value and worth. It is our Christian understanding of moral absolutes regarding truth that inform us that the taking of innocent human life is always wrong and should be punished. 

Evil is the result of Sin

Even as race is a major thread through this story the issue that is at the root of the problem is not simply a skin issue, it’s a sin issue. Racism, pride, hatred, and murder are all expressions of a sinful heart condition in need of repair. It’s the promise of God that sets in motion the necessary cure for an evil heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

God is Sovereign

As many search for answers to the question “why,” we may never know with specificity the reasons for this horrible tragedy. We can point to racism and other things that plagued our past. We can point to the misplaced rage of a young man who committed murder. Regardless of what you point to in the way of answers, we must know that God is Sovereign and that He will use this tragic event for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). If we allow ourselves, even tragedy can be used to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).