Do you ever get so down on the evils of this world that you just can’t believe there can be any good left here? That we must be living in the end days because the world is so filled with evil?
And then just when it can’t get any worse, something happens. Something so inexplicable that it turns your stomach. Your emotions are swelled deep inside and all you can do is ask, Why God? How long will this last?
Last week, this is exactly what happened. Most of us saw the unthinkable tragedy happen on television, the internet, or via newspaper on Wednesday night. For me, it was ten o’clock at night and the Farmer had just left to bale hay all night. I turned to a trusted news feed on my internet and was immediately overwhelmed by what I saw.
A small bible study found itself welcoming a new face. A face that participated in that bible study for an hour. After an hour, this new face that was welcomed with open arms, pulled out a gun and started shooting–only stopping to reload. This welcomed stranger was received with love, and then, as he had preplanned out of hate, he killed perfect strangers who treated him like family.
Then he deliberately left one person alive for the sole purpose to tell others who he was and what he had done. The only reason he left someone alive was to bring attention to himself. That’s it.
And then he left.
Sometime later, he was caught.
Do you remember when you heard the news, Friends? I do.
I cried. Not just tears falling. But the real deal–the ugly cry. I cried for those individuals in that church–that 5 year old little girl and what she saw. With hands reaching to the sky crying out to my Lord for these people I don’t know–and never will this side of heaven.
I didn’t sleep all night, my heart had been broken so.
I walked room to room placing a hand on each of my children’s heads praying for them, and pouring my heart out to Jesus. I cannot hide these things from my children, yet I don’t want for them to experience the hate in this world.
I imagine many of you had similar broken hearts, similar reactions, and similar sorrowful words for our Lord.
When the families of the deceased had the opportunity to talk to him, they had the right to say anything they wanted to him. What did they say?
Overwhelmingly, over and over, they acknowledged his crime and sin. Then they told him they forgave him, and may God have mercy on his soul. Then they encouraged him to repent and accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. (See bits of the video here.)
These words were so powerful. You have sinned. I forgive you. Confess your sin and ask Jesus to forgive you. Let’s be clear, these words were only spoken a couple of days after the tragic slaughter of the people they cherished most. Before hearing any answers. Through the pain of having what they loved most ripped away from them in a second. Before healing.
These are words and emotions that don’t seem humanly possible. But all things are possible with Jesus. Not one person said they forgave him because they were strong or they were good. Their message? They were able to forgive because God is good. And they wanted him to understand and experience His goodness.
“We enjoyed you,” you can hear a woman saying to him.
Jesus tells us,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Matthew 5:14
We see over and over Jesus forgiving the worst of sinners. And He forgives you and me. And what He asks us in return is to forgive others as He has forgiven us.
What He is asking of us isn’t easy. But with God, and through God, it is possible.
He tells us to represent Him in our time here–to be the light.
Dear Body of Christ in Charleston,
I sit here hundreds of miles away from you right now. But I see your light. I can feel the heat of the flame and I am undone with your love and your compassion. I know the rest of the world is seeing and feeling it too.
Though many who see your light do not understand, many are starting to. I have no doubt of this.
I pray the rest of the body of Christ as well as the rest of the world takes notice. And I am praying with you for the salvation of this young man.
I have a policy not to talk about world politics. But today I break that rule. I am moved by the compassion of these beautiful people even now, a week later. May we all be inspired by their acts of forgiveness. May we all continue to grow in His perfect grace.
Thank you body of Charleston for being the light in this dark world.
All is not hopeless. All is not lost. God is good, and He extends perfect grace to us all. He is here and He is there. And His people are out there everywhere. They are shining for him, sharing His love, and begging sinners everywhere to repent and come to the family.