Say “Amen”, Somebody!

"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal..."

My wife had our little 4-year old foster boy at Chick-Fil-A this week for lunch. While they were eating, a police officer came and sat in the booth across from them. Suddenly, this little hispanic boy stiffened up, looking frightened.

My wife gently asked him, “You don’t like police men?” He shook his head “no”.

“Why not?” The boy was silent.

“Is it because you saw them take your daddy away?”  He nodded “yes” and looked down.

It certainly wasn’t that policeman’s fault this boy’s father had been arrested, nor was it the boy’s. And yet the residue of that necessary act of law enforcement brought a wound in this child’s heart that will not be easily healed.

Another act last week, completely unnecessary and evil, brought wounds that could have erupted in violence. A 20-year old white man walked into a Bible study in Charleston, SC and killed nine innocent African-American people. While the man was obviously mentally ill, he didn’t lash out randomly as a insane person would.

Instead, he chose a house of worship. Not for one minute do I think that was a coincidence.

There were larger venues that would’ve yielded more “kills”. But he wanted to bring chaos to a place where his prey found peace and strength. He wanted to destroy their spiritual sanctuary. The psychological damage would go on for years, he thought, and would hopefully start a race war.

While this sounds naively ambitious, after the specters of Ferguson and Baltimore the last thing our country needed was another dose of racially-motivated violence. With grim expectations, community leaders prepared for the worst, as the eyes of the country focused on the following Sunday’s service and a march planned for Sunday evening.

Please forgive the way my mind works, but I’m reminded of the moment in How the Grinch Stole Christmas when the Grinch listens for the cries of the Whos as they discover their Christmas gifts have been stolen.  But instead, he’s stunned to hear joyful singing! 

One of the problems with ending racial strife is that, just like the Grinch, we’ve been misdiagnosing it. It’s not just a cultural or political problem. All racial hatred at its core is a spiritual problem, so it won’t be fixed by mere political band-aids.

In all our calls for political solutions, we are in effect “bringing a knife to a gun fight”. We are woefully under-equipped with anything powerful enough to fix the problem…until we all turn to God!

Have we forgotten the battle for civil rights only started turning the corner when one pastor from Georgia started talking about the “dream” God planted in his heart? Politics followed along behind his lead, and the world was changed.

So leading up to Sunday, instead of cries for revenge these people of faith responded counter-intuitively. One son of a slain woman was joined by his college baseball team at a rally proclaiming his trust in God. Another family member of a victim offered forgiveness to the attacker at his bond hearing.

Seriously, you ought to stop and go watch that video. Nothing you see will be more jaw-dropping or inspiring.

That Sunday, church member Harold Washington was asked what might be different about that day’s services. He replied, “It’s a church of the Lord, you don’t turn nobody down.”  Though the members would have had every right to worship in private, instead they flung wide open their church’s doors to everyone.

The interim pastor preached triumphantly, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper!”

Then came the march across Arthur Ravenel Bridge, an event expecting around 3000 participants. Some warned this would be the perfect venue for rioting. But again, you need to watch the video, because my words don’t do it justice.

If you do, you’ll see a beautiful mix of almost 20,000 joyful faces of all races. As they marched, everyone is smiling, singing hymns, and hugging each other. They high-fived police officers as they passed, and those officer’s smiles were just as big.

What a contrast to Ferguson and Baltimore, because this time the victims recognized the battle was spiritual, and they responded with great spiritual courage.

Maybe now our nation will realize the issue of race has an answer: God’s transforming power working in our hearts. And perhaps now, something Satan meant for evil will be turned around for good using the greatest weapons known to man: mutual love and forgiveness.

Say “amen”, somebody!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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4 thoughts on “Say “Amen”, Somebody!

  1. Sorry Dave, I have to disagree with some of the points in your post. It highlights a non biblical forgiveness. The forgiveness that is mentioned in the Scriptures is a process and involves at least two people or two roles: the roles of an offended and the offended. The process is as such: first there is offense that is done; followed by an apology, confession or repentance by the offender; followed by forgiveness on the part of the offended. See Luke 17: 3-4; Matthew 18: 15-17. God, Himself calls for confession prior to Him forgiving anyone. See 1 John 1: 9. The problem I have with the brand of forgiveness mentioned in this post and what the grieving families of the victim at Emanuel AME are practicing, is that the offender is never given the chance or expected to repent, confess or even apologize. As you mentioned the “battle is spiritual” but the battle is to be spiritual for both the perpetrator(s) as well as the victims. So far, the focus in the media and in your post, is on the forgiveness of the victims. What about the repentance of the murderer and the racist’s system that poisoned a 21 year old mind? This too is spiritual.

    • Roger, I respect your description of repentance, but I think you’re misunderstanding forgiveness. Yes, for the young man to be forgiven by God, there must be repentance by him personally. And the families forgiving him does not absolve him of the responsibility of standing before God in judgment.

      In fact, what these families have done is exactly what God commanded. Jesus clearly taught that if we do not forgive those who offend us, God will not forgive us. So their forgiveness actually did more to free them spiritually than to help the young man. (Matt. 6:15, Matt 18:35, Mark 11:26). So they are in effect leaving the judgment in God’s hands where it belongs, and not taking Into their own hands for vengeance.

      As the preacher said, “Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die”

      God bless,
      Dave

  2. Roger, I also respectfully disagree with you description of forgiveness. Jesus gives us the parable of the prodigal son. Please note that the Father accepted the son and forgave him when he first saw his son. Luke 15:20, But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. Sure, the son was repentant but the father didn’t know that when he saw him a “long way off”. That is powerful.

    Many times our forgiveness is the vehicle through which others come to repentance. That is Grace. Not Grace that we just read about in scripture but Grace that is lived out daily in our lives as we encounter the world.