I had a conversation with someone at church today and I could tell Charleston has been on both our minds. I’m sure the community is still reeling from the horrific events that happened this past week at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church and I have certainly spent my time praying for this situation. Events like this have a way of shocking us into the reality that there’s something about this life that’s not right. Something is incredibly broken…
I’m not sure if anyone has noticed this but I’ve been appalled at just how much of the dialogue immediately afterwards has been centered on issues. It’s almost taken a political tone as people feel like they can vent about things like gun control, the misuse of prescription drugs, and even the confederate flag. Almost immediately after the event, I began to see people posting pithy sayings, some angry, others catchy (almost cute) sayings that deflect from the absolute horror of the situation.
I would like to ask something… please stop. I hope the time will come to have a dialogue about these issues without using the kind of rhetoric that speaks past people. I, for one, hope we can continue to have an honest discussion about overt prejudice and subtle prejudicial beliefs and treatment. But for the time being, can we have a moratorium on all of this please? Even before there was a memorial service at Emmanuel we need to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15). Is your heart really more concerned with the confederate flag or for arguing for or against the right to bear arms? What about taking a moment to grieve for the families and the church who lost loved ones?
But second, I would also ask this. Wouldn’t it be good to take some time to explore your own heart’s propensity toward evil? What I mean is that it’s very easy to elevate yourself as ethical or smart or “civilized” in a way that looks down on others when it comes to the evil desires in your own heart. I appreciate morally good people, whether they believe in God or not, but there is a strong temptation in those who are moral to believe that they are not as bad as others. While they might not be as wicked as some, they are certainly as bad off. Why? Because the moment they stop looking at their own heart’s tendency to deflect, to cover, to justify, to remain blind to, their own pockets of brokenness, they demonstrate at least that it’s hard for them to honestly and accurately deal with the depth of their own “badness”.
Jesus says some startling things to his listeners in Matthew 5, that murder is just not the act itself but something resident in the heart that comes out in different ways. I don’t know about you but I read about murderers in the newspaper. I”m not one of “them”. Yet, while my action might not be the same, Jesus says there is something resident even in my own heart that we hold in common. I just carry it out in a more socially acceptable way.
Maybe our prayer should not only be for the people of Charleston and to grieve with them, but also to pray that the Lord to have mercy on us. Dallas Willard in Renovation of the Heart, wrote,
“‘Outer darkness’ is for one who, everything said, wants it, whose entire orientation has slowly and firmly set itself against God and therefore against how the universe actually is. It is for those who are disastrously in error about their own life and their place before God and man. The ruined soul must be willing to hear of and recognize its own ruin before it can find how to enter a different path, the path of eternal life that naturally leads into spiritual formation in Christlikeness.”