Thanks to social media, news has spread quickly about the tragic shooting at Emmanuel AME in Charleston, South Carolina last night. The death of my Christian brothers and sisters weighs heavy on me this morning.
As I read the description of the young man who killed nine people after an hour of sitting in a prayer meeting with them, I felt the unfamiliar sting of hate. Hatred is not something I’ve felt often in my life – but I suddenly found myself burning with a desire for vengeance.
I tried to remind myself that this young man has a story. And I tried to remember the words of my beloved savior:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. – Matthew 5:43-46
So I am called not only to love this young man, but also to pray for him?
I closed my eyes, imagining the the pain of living with poisonous hate. I tried to find ways I could dissolve my vengeful feelings just enough to pray for this young man. I tried.
But any prayerful breath for this person who killed 9 people while they prayed felt wasted….even sinful. It felt like breath that should be saved to pray for the loved ones of those killed. It felt like breath that should used to groan in mourning. It felt like breath that should be used to petition for the kingdom to come now – Lord please come.
Any breath used to speak on behalf of this young man feels unjust.
So what now?
I pray anyway. I pray, then I hope love comes later.
I thank God for his redeeming grace and love, and pray that this young man be found and brought to justice – but that he may find warmth and reconciliation in the embrace of God’s holy spirit.
I praise God he reigns with both mercy and justice, and ask that he might give me the internal peace needed to be merciful to all.
I pray for the healing power of the Holy Spirit to move swiftly through communities fragmented by racial tension.
I pray for the wisdom needed to act justly, and advocate for others.
I pray anyway.
Will you pray with me?
I confess that nearly as often as I breathe I contribute to injustice,
but I believe in the hope of your coming kingdom and the grace of your son Jesus Christ whose goodness transcends my misdeeds.
I believe that at the heart of your Gospel is reconciliation –
show us the path, my God, to peace and reconciliation today.
My God, My Hope,
Grant me the humility to hear the brokenhearted;
Lend me the grace to embrace those who I do not understand or even despise;
and Empower me with the courage to act on behalf of, and alongside, those who do not look like me.
Jehovah our Healer,
Mend our hearts,
heal our system,
redeem our country,
Bring your Kingdom.