"We Shall Overcome" by Mary Beth Woolard
Like many of you, I was sickened by the senseless murder of nine members of the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC last Wednesday. The gunman entered their midst like a wolf in sheep’s clothing for Bible study. These kind people shared the Word with him and prayed for him. And then, he killed them.
It didn’t take long for the police to apprehend the shooter and at his arraignment, the families of those who were murdered expressed not only their sorrow at losing their loved ones to such heinous violence, but something much more…they forgave the man who murdered their family members.
Now, I have omitted two pieces of information from these first two paragraphs. The first is that the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is a black congregation. The second piece of omitted information is that the shooter was white. But, Galatians 3:28 says…”There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ.”
If we are going to “overcome”; if our children are going to play together and not see the color of skin, then we have to remember this scripture… “you are all one in Christ.” How were those families able to put their grief aside and forgive the man who stole their precious family members? They were taught and they believed that love mattered more than anything and that, as Christians, we are called to love those who are most unlovable.
It shouldn’t matter to any of us if the victims were black and the shooter was white because it could easily have been some other color combination. Any time we are in God’s house, we are vulnerable, but would He want us to have armed guards posted outside the doors? I doubt it. We have open doors because it’s our business to be about “Our Father’s business.”
What should matter to us is that times are perilous and there are those who do not like Christians because of _______________________. You can fill in the blank. I heard on one of the news stories that this man almost didn’t carry out his murderous mayhem because these people were so kind to him. Really? No gun law, no gun registration, nothing will stop someone like this from his horrendous plan. Hatred will try to have its way.
But, here’s the thing that bothers me most. After a few days, how many of the white churches were on their faces praying for their brothers and sisters in Christ at Mother Emanuel? How many of us were praying for the blinders to be removed from the shooter’s eyes so that he could see that he accomplished nothing and that his manifesto was no better than old paper in the bottom of a bird cage? We are all one in Christ Jesus. All of us! And the more quickly we put aside our differences and realize that the reason that passage of scripture is in the Bible is because people like all of us need to be reminded of it every day.
My prayers go out to the families who grieve the loss of their loved ones, to Mother Emanuel AME as they, too, grieve, but all of them grieve in the hope of Jesus Christ. Because of their prayers and acts of forgiveness, they have already overcome the wolf who came into their midst and their loss will be vanquished. It is up to the rest of us to make sure that we all become like those sweet souls of Mother Emanuel and proclaim that love, not hatred is what drives us since we are all one in Christ Jesus.