I'M ANGRY...BUT NOT FOR LONG (I PRAY)
While I wish I were writing on a more positive note today, I must admit I’m angry. I’m angry because of what happened at one of our sister churches in the Wesleyan movement, Emaneul AME Church in Charleston, SC.
First, I’m angry because we live in a post-Genesis 3 world in which evil, while it doesn’t have the last word and hasn’t since Easter, is still at work and through humanity’s submission to the power of evil tragedies occur that impact so many who did not deserve to be the victim of a particular crime.
I’m angry, secondly, that there is someone whose worldview is so clouded that they felt a need to carry out this crime that devastated a church family, individual families within that church, the Charleston community, and the world as a whole as the ripple effect of this is felt in other communities around the world. My heart hurts not only for the victims of this crime, but for someone who, for whatever reason, felt they were accomplishing something by shooting up this place.
The third reason I’m angry is that so many are calling this a ‘hate crime.’ I may be a bit of a simpleton on this, but in my eyes, any crime is a ‘hate crime.’ Any offense we commit against another is, by definition, rooted in the hate of a certain person or situation. Whether it’s hatred of a rule, or hatred of an institution, or hatred of a person, or hatred of self (just to name a few), we are, indeed, acting upon a level of hatred.
Finally, I am angry because there are many that think that if we pass certain laws, we can prevent these kind of things from happening. If only we find the right penalty, or some other preventative measure can ‘ensure that nothing like this will happen again.’ From the aforementioned Genesis 3 incident on down, humanity has chosen to violate whatever rules are put in front of them because of a certain level of hatred against a person or situation. The reality is that since Christ came to be one of us, to live fully human, experiencing every emotion we do, facing much more hostility than many of us can ever imagine, we have seen that it is indeed possible to live a life where our love of God and faithfulness to Christ is perfected in us not by what we do, but through, to paraphrase Paul, living in such a way that it is no longer we who live, but Christ who lives within us.
“OK, Lamar, we get it. You’re angry. Now what?”
Well, dear friends, there have been myriad books and articles written about this, and I could write forever here with advice and suggestions. However, here’s a few brief things to ponder as you see the coverage of this and the next and the next tragedy that hits the news:
Fulfill the Great Commission found in Matthew 28 by spreading the truth we encounter in Romans 8: For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can never tire of embodying and sharing this essential truth to a world that is so hurting that people are led to believe that an answer or response must be the horrific violence perpetrated last night in Charleston.
Additionally, we must hold fast to the words of comfort we find in 1 Corinthians 15: For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So many times in response to things like Charleston, it has been my experience that people enter an emotion of fear – “We’d better batten down the hatches – for we’re all in danger.” Listen – FEAR OF DEATH AND PERSECUTION IS NOT SOMETHING WE SHOULD CAVE IN TOWARDS. Because of our sure and certain hope in Christ, we have nothing to fear – for Christ showed that the worst the world can show us, death – is not as powerful as God’s redemptive love.
Lastly, embody and be inspired by the words found at the very end of 1 Corinthians 15: Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. It can be easy at times to simply throw up our hands and say, “What’s the point? Evil is going to work no matter what.” Let us never forget that our efforts to live as the faithful people of God are never in vain.
I started by telling you I’m angry. Now, upon reflection, I realize that anger must be overcome by the hope of embracing the eternal truths we find in the scriptures. After all, there is a reason we are told to not let the sun go down on our anger. I believe this because when we hold on to anger (for whatever reason) too long, it penetrates our heart and then our lives and then our families and then our church and then our world. May we never be people whose anger over the things of this world is ever more powerful than our trust and belief in the triumphant, victorious love of God embodied in Christ and sustained in us by the Holy Spirit.
Grace and Peace, Lamar