God is Sovereign in all Things

Forgiveness in the Charleston Church

By Jim Allen

They went to church believing their day would end with the wonder of living, learning, and discovering the endless beauty and majesty of their Savior.

On June 18, a man joined a Bible Study group at a local church in Charleston, South Carolina. He came with a friendly tone and was warmly welcomed. Almost persuaded not to shoot after spending an hour with them, the killer said after his capture, "I thought about not doing it because they were so nice to me."

What drove this person to pull the trigger was the unbridled spirit of hatred. What drove this church to forgive was the unbridled spirit of love.

With growing racial issues besieging us at every turn, the mind strains to understand any of it. How can such hate exist and how can such love find its way to the forefront of the news cycle to capture national attention? This is incredible!

Our minds have a hard time grappling with answers to questions like these? We are not always able to understand why things turn out as they do (2 Corinthians 4:17-18) .

But, there is a message and meaning in everything. Deeply moved by the tragic event, Mike Johnson (a Colorado State Senator) drove in the middle of the night to a local affiliated African church to pin a letter on the door. He wanted them to know of his heartache and that he spoke for millions. Part of what he wrote follows:
For centuries your church has stood for the unconditional love, unfettered hope, and relentless forgiveness that define the American spirit. I want you to know I stand arm-in-arm with you today in your grief. I refuse to let one deranged man speak for me, and I also refuse to stay silent after his abomination.I drove here to reaffirm the overwhelming supremacy of love...And to stand with millions of other white men who are proud to call you brothers and sisters, and who feel compelled not to right the wrongs of generations past by ensuring that these lost loved ones you will not grieve alone, this hollow hatred you will not face alone, and this righteous justice you will not seek alone. (Source)
The Innocent Nine never imagined evil would come as it did and sit quietly observing them pray and study and sing hymns. It never occurred to them he had a weapon and hid away bad thoughts about them. They never imagined they could be in danger and especially when abiding in loving fellowship. (Matthew 18:19)

During the prayer meeting the Innocent Nine believed their day would end with an inspiring message about Jesus and his love for them. Without any doubt, they loved the Lord and knew him personally. They desired only to draw closer to him. But, on that fateful night they never imagined to meet him face-to-face and go home.

From our perspective, their unexpected departure was a horrible event. But, from their perspective, I cannot imagine a more joyous celebration than for them to meet the love of their life.

As one might imagine, cynical unbelievers might well look upon this Christian massacre as proof there is no god. Others might say, "Where is your Christ when you need Him most?" But the same was said of Jesus when on the cross between two criminals (Luke 23:39).

Was Jesus there, that fateful night, for the Innocent Nine? Yes, he was there. His abiding presence was known and felt by those who gathered in faith. But for Dylann Roof there was no abiding presence except for the evil that possessed his soulless heart.

Surely God knew about the deadly intent of Dylann Roof, this hate-filled white supremacist, and yet allowed it to happen. He saw them fall one-by-one as the killer reloaded to fire again and again. Our minds scream, "What is this...where is the protection promised to those who put their trust in God?"

Those who found the Innocent Nine knew they would not get up from where they fell; and yet, Jesus did not leave them there. In fact, no believer will be left when the time comes to go home.
While the Bible does not say precisely, I believe their souls were taken in an instant...I cannot imagine Jesus allowing a single one to endure the fullness of the moment. Why would he and for what gain? The apostle Paul wrote, "Death has been swallowed up in victory! Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:55) (Source)
I am sure Jesus snatched them away in a twinkling of an eye, removing them from a world they long endured but yearned to leave. The world was not their home and it is not our home. Were they raptured? Perhaps, but not in the way the body of Christ will be taken when the time comes (1 Corinthians 15:51).

God is sovereign and allows evil for purposes far beyond our ability to imagine. Even if we understood, it would never seem right that any life should be taken. Who among us can fathom how God transforms evil into good (Genesis 50:20)? And yet, that is exactly what happened when we saw black and white come together as one in faith in a South Carolina community.

In closing, the Innocent Nine were living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:1-3). They were beloved by all. They were filled with the Spirit. They were found worthy to bear His name.

Now gone, their memory lives. It is a force that brought a community of all color together in loving tribute to sing amazing grace, how sweet the sound.

Let us hope and pray this tremendous victory goes on and on because it is a powerful dispatch from a community in South Carolina to the world. As Martin Luther King once said:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.
Are you encouraged by this display of great faith? I am!


Image Credit: Tom Hackshaw; "1"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life Current-Issues God-Father Hardships Sin-Evil

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Published 6-22-2015