We grieve with our brothers and sisters in South Carolina today as they mourn the deaths of nine people – including their beloved pastor, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney – at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Authorities believe the shooting was racially motivated. The suspect, now in custody, is a 21-year-old white male, Dylann Roof. Inexplicably, he was said to have sat in on the worship service for almost an hour prior to opening fire on those in attendance.
In a world riddled and stained with sin, tragedy is an all too common occurrence. Yet, it still somehow comes as a shocking blow that such rage and hatred could reside in the heart of man.
Adding sorrow upon sorrow is the setting of this shooting. In a space set aside as a sacred sanctuary, near a pulpit that once hosted the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., within walls where reconciliation and peace were preached for generations, a killer invaded, displaying the very antithesis of the hope and love that the Gospel brings.
Our hearts break for those families whose lives have been torn in two by this senseless violence. We ache for the church and faith community of Charleston. Their sense of security has been shattered.
In the end, hate and violence will not overcome against a community of Christ-followers filled with love and peace. The community of Emanuel will rise again and recover from this tragedy, but it would be impossible to overstate the horror of last night.
“I have decided to stick with love,” Dr. King once reflected. “Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Dr. King was obviously invoking the words and command of Jesus to “Love one another … Just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). It is a timeless word and one that we must embrace. May the “peace that passes understanding” be with our brothers and sisters in Charleston during this dark hour.