Charleston: How Should We Think?

My first inclination after the recent shootings in Charleston, S.C., was to immediately write something or even say something on Sunday morning. However, I decided to think and ponder the truths of God as they relate to this incident rather than react. After some days of thinking and prayer, I have come away with a few thoughts I would like to share with you.

First and foremost, this was a hate crime – clear and simple. As with most hate crimes, this was driven by anger, bitterness and prejudice. While God is a God of grace and compassion, He is also a God of justice. Thus, justice should, and I believe, will be served concerning this matter.

In recent days, much has been said about what should be done to curb such heinous crimes. As a citizen of this great country, it would be easy to be drawn into that discussion. However, as I listen to all the pundits waxing eloquently, I can’t help but think, “they have all missed it.” The problem is not the lack of laws controlling whatever. The problem is the condition of the heart of man (and woman) in this country. First, we have to ask the question, where does anger and hatred originate? It originates in the human heart which the bible declares as “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” This is especially the condition of hearts outside of Christ. Please allow me to be a bit more specific when it comes to recent events.

One of the things those of us who do significant counseling understand is, that anger often grows out of a heart that feels (or perceives itself) unloved and rejected by the significant people in his/her live. These would be people such as parents, grandparents, siblings, peers, teachers, aunts, uncles, coaches or any who have had a strong influence in his/her life. When a person perceives oneself as unloved and unlovable, anger grows to the point that it becomes a deep root of bitterness. These people are angry with themselves and with others largely because they don’t like themselves. This root of bitterness leads one to displace one’s anger and bitterness onto someone or something else. For example, a few years ago I read that 70% of the inmates in the state penitentiary of Mississippi did not have a father growing up. Life without a father can lead to a sense of feeling abandoned and unloved. Such reproduces itself from one generation to the next. Anger begets anger. Bitterness begets bitterness. Bigotry and prejudice become convenient feeding grounds for such displaced anger. Thus, the breakdown of the family and marriages…and the anger and conflict that come with such are a root cause of much of the hate and anger that we see – whether it is in a crime such as the magnitude in South Carolina or simply the kid on the playground taking his/her anger out on someone else, or the kid or kids in high school bullying someone else. I suspect if one were allowed to dig deeply into the background of this perpetrator (in Charleston), you would find something akin to what I have said. Now, does this absolve him of his actions? Absolutely not! We are all accountable for our actions. My point is to show that anger, hatred and prejudice in our society have a root cause and it’s solution can’t be legislated.

So what is the answer? Yes, it would probably help if the leaders of our country championed the importance of the institution of the family and marriage. Perhaps it might help if they even provided legislation that would give incentives for staying married, etc., but that would not solve the problem of the human heart in this country or the world for that matter. The only answer to this dilemma is for people to find that love and acceptance for which they deeply long in Jesus Christ. In the first chapter of Ephesians, the Apostle Paul states that “we are accepted in the Beloved (Christ).” He also wrote that his prayer was that all believers would come to understand the “riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints (believers).” In simple terms, the Apostle Paul’s great desire was that all believers understand just how much they are loved, accepted and valued in God’s eyes. This is the healing balm that so many today desperately long for and need.

We are an angry society. Ultimately, people are angry, mean, bitter and unforgiving because they are void of the transforming power of God. The family unit, for many, is falling apart because Christ is not at the center of it. God is left out of our government. This is why the Church of Jesus Christ must rise up and be the Church in America. We must stop playing church while the world around us is dying without a Savior.

These are chilling days but they are also days in which so many long for the Truth. Let’s not be deceived that the answer is out of our hands…that it is somehow left to those in Washington. The Church of Jesus Christ is the only one that has the answer. We must, with a great sense of urgency individually and corporately, storm the gates of hell with God’s transforming message of love and forgiveness. The stakes are too great to do otherwise.

Of course, let’s not forget, that the Body of Christ (the Church) has been assaulted and wounded, as well. These are our brothers and sisters in Christ in Charleston. While I have been incredibly impressed with their testimonies of forgiveness, I know their pain is incredibly deep and we should pray for the members of this church well into the days ahead. They have lost their shepherd, as well as many of their members. Except the healing grace of God intervenes, the pain will be long lasting. To that end I will pray and ask that you please join me in that prayer.