Evil entered a Bible study/prayer meeting at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Wednesday night. It came in the guise of a 21-year-old white man who hates blacks. After being welcomed and sitting with them for about an hour, he stood up and shot 9 of them to death with a gun his father reportedly gave him as a gift.
The church and community grieves. It’s hard not to. These were 9 of our brothers and sisters in Christ, probably showing his love to a visitor who came with devil-hate in his heart. They’re with Jesus today. But they leave behind mourning loved ones. May their Lord and ours comfort them (Matthew 5:4).
We want answers. We want to prevent future slaughters. As President Obama said, “We’ve seen far too many of them.”
So we suggest solutions. Tighter gun-control laws. Better mental health care. Fewer violent video games and movies.
I don’t know what gun-control laws are on the books. Perhaps they should be tightened. However, here it seems no law, however stringent, could have changed anything. I know little about the state of mental health care in the country. But short of turning us into a police state with neighbors urged to report “suspicious behavior” that would result in forcing a potential killer into mental health care, I don’t know how improved health care would work. Certainly violence in video games and movies should be reduced. But free-speech defense always wins the day. Besides, enough of the public wants entertainment violence. And producers want the money it puts in their pockets.
In his blog today, Dr. Ben Carson writes wisely of a more insidious cause that requires resolution . . .
“I worry about a new hate that is growing in our great nation. I fear our intolerance of one another is the new battle ground of evil. Today many feel it is ok to hate someone who thinks differently than you do. The left hates the right. The right hates the left. This attitude is poison. Poison that will sicken all of us. Just because someone is for Obamacare and another is against doesn’t change the fact we are all brothers and sisters. All Americans.”
It’s important to remember the slain were Christians. And Christians endure hatred because we belong to Christ (“You will be hated be all for my name’s sake”—Jesus, Luke 21:17). Intolerance comes with the territory. Furthermore, hatred is a product of the sinful nature. (“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: . . . hatred”—Galatians 5:19,20). What drives a man to hate and murder? Frustrated desires. (“You desire and do not have, so you murder”—James 4:2a).
So what’s the solution? Humble repentance and genuine faith in Christ by which sinners are joined to Christ! (Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come”—2 Corinthians 5:17). This “connection to Christ” is the work of the Holy Spirit. (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”—Galatians 5:22:23).
Tighter gun-control laws, better mental health care, and fewer violent video games and movies may help. But they’re external or just superficial band-aids. Only the Father through the Son by the transforming power of the Spirit can change the human heart!
But how does this Gospel get to the haters?
One, by us Christians repenting of our own hatred, intolerance and prejudice. The Lord commands us to love one another (John 13:34,35), to love our neighbor as ourselves (Luke 10:27; Leviticus 19:18), and to love our enemy (Matthew 5:44). That about covers it. We’re not allowed to hate anybody.
Two, by praying for the Holy Spirit to revive the church with a passion to love. God is pretty easy to love. Singing praises to him, telling him in prayer we love him, raising our hands in worship—all that’s a cinch. But those people—red or yellow, black or white—they’re a bit more challenging. Yet, unless we live the love of the Gospel we’ll never effectively preach the truth of the Gospel.
Revive us again—fill each heart with Thy love;
May each soul be rekindled with fire from above!
And, three, by taking the Gospel to as many people as possible in any way possible, relying on the Spirit to empower us. We’re afraid to sound “fundamentalist”. We fear rejection. We have no game plan. We don’t know what to say. Or worse, we don’t care enough. So we need courage and creativity and knowledge and love. It’s not up to the government to change evil hearts. Only God can do that—and he’s given us his message to spread.
Evil in Charleston—or anywhere—can’t be overcome by law and rules
or even by trying harder.
Evil can only be overcome by God’s saving work through Christ
applied to the human heart by the Holy Spirit.
(Guess you could say it’s our move.)