Yesterday I awoke to the heartbreaking news that my city, Charleston, SC had been home to a terrorist attack. A white supremacist sat in on a prayer meeting in Mother Emanuel AME Church and then murdered nine people, for no other reason than the color of their skin. You’ve heard the news by now.
Why did Jesus weep? Before God and other mourners Christ our Lord wept over the dead body of his friend Lazarus that day he returned to Bethany. Why? If he had planned to let his friend die for the purpose of performing a miracle, I don’t believe he would be expressing such emotion or putting on a show. No, he was truly wracked with grief. But why?
He’s Jesus. Even if he doesn’t know that he’s about to resurrect his friend, he of anybody knows the hope of heaven, that he’ll see Lazarus again someday, and all the other blah blah blah that we use in attempt to comfort the mourning. But he still weeps.
“Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37, ESV)
Jesus might’ve been wondering the same thing.
He might have been thinking what I thought when I read the headlines: God, where are you in this? God, how does this bring you glory? This is not glorious. You could have stopped this. For whatever reason, you didn’t.
Christ in his humanity was experiencing the most tragic element of our human condition: the painful craving to see God’s purpose, to find meaning in tragedy, and the frustration of only seeing through a glass darkly. It’s enough to break your heart. It’s enough to break your faith.
These are the nine martyrs: Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lee Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Daniel L Simmons Sr, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, and Susie Jackson.
Six of my sisters and three of my brothers in Christ. I can’t bring them back like Christ did Lazarus.
As a Christian, as a Charlestonian, I am lamenting and mourning for them. But as a white Christian and as a South Carolinian, it would be irresponsible not to examine how a young man from my home state came to this decision. South Carolinians have much to be proud of: beautiful beaches, a thriving economy, and the politest people in nation. But the sins of our history should not be sentimentalized or ignored.
This is an individualistic generation in an individualistic country. And as such, my instinct is to throw my hands up and say “WHOA. I didn’t have any part in this. It wasn’t me.” But whether or not I personally knew the guy, it is my responsibility–our collective responsibility– to do our damnedest to make sure this doesn’t happen again. And to repent for not having done it sooner.
Weeping like Jesus did is an appropriate response. But then, let’s continue to do like Jesus in the best way that we can. Rather than letting it break our faith, rather than asking God why he didn’t stop it, let us ask God for strength (for only God can give us enough strength) to stop it ourselves.
I am thankful that we have a Savior–that the nine victims shared the same Savior–that identifies with our heartache. May we also respond as he responds.