The most important words said yet about what happened in Charleston are from the families themselves, who spoke to the shooter today:
“You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people. But God forgives. And I forgive you.”
“I forgive you. You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul.”
“We are the family that Love built. We have no room for hate.”
These are the words of folks filled with Grace.
These are the words of folks who worked hard to be filled with Grace.
These are the words of folks whose family members were in church on Wednesday, because they knew being a Sunday Christian wasn’t sufficient to be the Grace dealers that God needed them to be.
What should we, their national neighbors — who don’t live in Charleston, who don’t live in South Carolina, who don’t live in the South, who don’t live in skin that puts us at risk of falling victim to this twisted form of hate — do in the wake of this burst of darkness?
I don’t know, but I think we should at the very least start by taking a page out of their Good Book and think about how we can be better vessels of Grace this year; better vessels for a country that needs Grace now more than ever.
The easy thing to do is to take this tragedy and use it to think complacently about how some folks we’ve never met in some community we’ve never lived in, way over there, in that far-off part of the country, are outside of the light.
The easy thing to do is to say racism or violence or darkness are apart from us, the disease of the other side.
The harder thing to do is to admit that we have the disease, too. Our own time and our own attention and our own tax dollars are complicit in the racism of our age. Our own souls are susceptible to the violence of thinking that some group is the cause of all of our problems. Our own moments of darkness are contributing to an environment where some child feels like he needs to shoot someone to feel a part of something.
The harder thing to do is to not just feel something, but to turn that feeling into doing something. No, not to tell someone far away to do something for you, but to do something ourselves: to go forth and listen to someone who is different than us; to go forth and amplify the voice of someone trying to say something; to go forth and help folks find a purpose beyond hate.
This isn’t an easy task, being vessels of Grace.
We might need to put in some extra effort. We might need to put in some extra time. We might need to be together more. We might even need to start going to church on Wednesday.
That’s what the family that Love built did to make sure they had no room for hate.