Several months ago, I visited Charleston, South Carolina for the first time. I was quite impressed with the food, culture, history and people of the city. In my exploring, I walked several times past Emmanuel AME Church.
That historic church, and the horror that took place there, has been the focus of our national news for the past week.
As I have prayed about and thought about this monstrous event, two faces have become clear to me.
The first face is the face of evil. Pure evil. How could somebody do such a horrible thing, to inflict such violence upon those who extended hospitality to him? How could someone's life be so filled with hatred? His horrific deed reminds us of the ever-present reality of evil in our world.
The second face that I see in this tragedy is the face of Christ. I could see this face in the people of Charleston coming together to share their mutual grief. I could see the face of Christ as the members of Emmanuel AME Church courageously came together on Sunday morning to worship as a people of faith in the sanctuary where this all took place.
I could see the face of Christ in the families of the victims last Friday as they spoke in the courtroom to the one who inflicted such pain upon their lives. They said such things as, “We forgive you. Our hearts are broken. We are so hurt. But we forgive you.” And they implored him, “Repent. Turn to Christ.”
In the midst of grief and horror, two very different faces emerged in Charleston. The face of evil. The face of Christ.
Let’s continue to pray for the members of Emmanuel AME Church. For the people of Charleston. For the young man who committed this horror. And for our own community. May we see the face of Jesus, even in midst of tragedy.