The mass murder of nine dear souls in a Charleston church last week has shattered our world. I’ve remained silent because there are no words that help.
And yet I’ve been amazed at the response of the families and the church in Charleston. The victims’ families spoke to the shooter, a picture of strength made perfect through weakness. They offered him forgiveness rather than returning the hate. The church showed the watching world that they are seeking to build unity. They chose to resist the devil’s schemes to use this evil event to further deepen the racial divides in our country.
Their responses are exactly the opposite of what many expected: revenge.
How can they do that? It’s not at all a natural response. It’s supernatural.
Heavy-hearted people of every race crammed into the pews, aisles, and balconies of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Sunday, declaring that a murderer will not kill their faith in God. As they exited the church, a crowd outside greeted them with a glorious rendition of “Amazing Grace.” Later that evening, they joined a throng of 20,000 people for a Unity Rally through the city streets.
Only God could give them that ability to love instead. I’ve rarely seen God’s amazing grace as evident as I have in the events of this last week.
It reminds me of another hero of mine who did the same thing. She offered forgiveness to the people who killed her husband and four others in the Amazon jungle in 1956. She chose to love instead of hate. And she stayed the course, living among the Auca Indians to put that love into action, sharing the hope of Jesus Christ with them until that hope became theirs.
It’s no coincidence that Elisabeth Elliot entered her eternal reward the same week as her nine brothers and sisters.
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
they had already come;
’Tis grace hath brought them safe thus far,
And grace that led them home.