This morning I lingered over pictures of the victims of a most hateful man who attacked them while they prayed. He killed nine of them, injured more, brutalized everyone in that church. Why? Because he hated them for the color of their skin.
I read about a five year old who survived only because her grandmother told her to “play dead”. Five years old, my friends. No precious child of that age should ever have to play dead in order to live.
No adult should either, for that matter.
And no child or adult should have his or her value measured by the color of their skin. Never.
As I thought about the brutality and the malice in the heart of that murderer, that terrorist, my heart grew heavier than it already was.
What snakes into a soul to make it capable of such a thing?
I fear that the media will declare him mentally ill, and so doing, stigmatize further a community of folks who have mental illness or difficulties. Or that it will become an issue for the conservative/liberal tug of war (which is pulling us asunder limb by limb, by the way). Or that either side of the gun debate will take this on as a story to make their case and in so doing exploit the nine who died and their sorrow laden families.
To say that my heart is heavy and anxious and grieved is to say the very least. I am troubled. I’m sure you are too.
In these moments I do best to let God know that I’ve got nothing. That I don’t know what to pray. And I do well to force myself to be still (which is dreadfully hard for me when anxiety twitters inside). But the Holy Spirit takes over in my blundering, spinning distress.
The Still Small Voice reminded me, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
But what good is it that will overcome evil?
There are several mass murders every year, far too many. They aren’t stopping because we aren’t willing to truly address them. Racism is still alive and destroying us and we look away because we don’t want to admit there’s a problem. The loudmouths on TV and radio and internet (not to mention all the folks running for president) get all our attention, pulling us from seeing the good. We’ll be told to hate the man who shot the nine innocent people. We’ll be pitted against each other on what side of the gun debate we stand on (if you choose a side at all, which I don’t). We’ll be force fed fear. Hate will grow. Bitterness too.
But we are not to be overcome by that.
We are to overcome all of that hate and fear and bitterness and evil. With what? With good.
But not our Donna Reed spic and span kitchen good. Not the pray before dinner good. Not the I’m better than you because I go to church good. No.
Good that only comes from love for our neighbors and our enemies.
Good that pours from our hearts because we’ve been so deeply loved by our Father.
Good that remembers our own capacity for sin and so has mercy and grace for others.
Good that can and will only come from the life lived trying to follow Christ.
Not from following a politician
or an ideology
or a political party
or a human who stands behind a pulpit.
But from following Jesus.
His goodness is what has saved us. His good overcomes evil.
And what does that look like?
The truth? I don’t know. But I’m trying to see it. I’m squinting so I can make it out. And as I seek out that path of goodness, following Jesus, my threadbare string of hope thickens. It’s restored.
And I try to imagine what Jesus’s voice sounded like when He said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world!”