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graphic: Martha G. Brady

graphic: Martha G. Brady

This week we have watched the news with horror as a young man entered a church as if he was joining a Bible study group, was welcomed in and shortly after, opened fire, killing most of the people there.

An incident like this makes many of us feel very vulnerable in new ways. For the most part, we tend to feel safe in our churches. Now, another place to feel unsafe…grocery stores, movie theaters, places of business, now churches…? There is no place to feel completely safe apart from GOD’s providential protection.

Those who have lived in the inner city have known this for years. Now those of us in the rest of America are having to learn it too. We aren’t happy about it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good thing for us. Trusting GOD for daily protection doesn’t come easily for any of us does it?

A little more about Charleston and its effect on all of us

I have no illusions that my words about Charleston will make a difference…or will even be particularly profound. I have been reading many great words already today and been touched by so much of what has been happening there. Deeply touched.

I was grieved for innocent people who were killed while worshipping together. I was also deeply touched by their families who forgave while in the throes of fresh grief! It was no small thing.

When all is said and done, racism is not about geography or politics. It isn’t even about history. It is about our hearts. Do we love each other? Are we willing to humble ourselves and look at people in a new way for the sake of loving a brother or sister? Are we willing to pay the high price of forgiving people we previously considered our enemies. If we want to call ourselves Christians, the option to turn our backs on our brothers and sisters is not our to take.

But I’m getting off track!

The point of what I wanted to talk about today was the power of forgiveness. I have been very impressed by the families of the people who were killed. They confronted the killer with forgiveness.

Not the milquetoast kind that ignores consequences. But the kind that tells him how his actions have impacted them and acknowledges what it is costing them to forgive! It is also the kind that recognizes that there will be consequences for the one who is being forgiven…but the gift of forgiveness is offered anyway!

One person told how she would never be able to talk to her mother again. She would miss her, but she still wanted to forgive this young man!  Another person mentioned the physical effects from the loss of their loved one that they were feeling, but they wanted to forgive him too.

What a powerful testimony of the grace and love of Christ! That is not something that comes naturally. It just does not!

I know there are some who want repentance from this generation for slavery and its sins from the past. While I agree that it was an awful sin. I’m not sure I agree that we are responsible to go back and repent for the sins of our forefathers. We have enough sin to repent of for our own lifetimes. Honestly.

It may be possible to want to exact payment from those we perceive have offended us when they aren’t the guilty parties. Certainly, the color of our skin doesn’t make us all automatically guilty for slavery does it? Not all white people were involved either directly or indirectly in it. At this point, it is difficult to know who did what.

For now, we all can repent of being patronizing, cliquish with the groups we feel most comfortable with, holding grudges against a group because of the behavior of a few, generalizing about a group instead of seeing them as individuals made in GOD’s image, seeing other human beings with the eyes of hope and grace as GOD sees us…to name just a few of our sins. I have committed these sins against others within my race and toward other races and I have been sinned against by others of my race and other races in these ways as well.

Of course, we can can repent of sin we committed during our lifetime which often can include carry overs from other generations.

They are basic human failures that are exacerbated by many of the racial differences. We can always find ways others don’t treat us right. But it will keep us in bondage to our own misery whether it is a racial problem or some other relational issue.

We need to remember GOD often works quietly and in small ways

Rarely does GOD do big splashy events to bring about change. He works quietly, softly, almost imperceptibly. Think about Bethlehem, even Calvary. Watch for the quiet, the subversive. That is probably where GOD is working to bring about change.

The small charter schools and academies that have been working in communities around the country, the churches that have faithfully been working for years with very little publicity, that have been bringing change in their communities. Yes, it is small and not enough in the grand scheme from our perspective.

The darkness seems so dark. But the light is there. In some places it is little candles lighting the way. But GOD is at work. It doesn’t make headlines, but there are many good things happening around the country that show He is working. We can be encouraged by what GOD is doing.

It’s not being done by the government, or politicians or the news media. But it is being done…all over our nation and the world.

GOD is working to answer prayer.

He works in unusual ways doesn’t he?

Could it be that out of these awful deaths, GOD will work to soften hearts and make us all more tender not only to each other, but to our own blindspots? to our blame shifting? to the places where we don’t want to repent?  to the ways and areas where we don’t want to forgive? It wouldn’t be the first that happened.

May GOD grant us the grace to realize we won’t find solutions in politics, spectacular news reports or events, blaming a category of people for the problem, finding policy solutions…

May He change our hearts to move closer to Him and to each other in healthy reconciliation in Christ.

Where do you see GOD at work in your community reconciling groups who once did not get along? Where is He at work in your community improving relations between races that you can see over the past 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?

Can you trust Him to work in a specific area in your community? working with others? working with your church?