Tears ran down my cheeks. I have to confess, it caught me by surprise. It’s not that I didn’t care, because I did. I had watched the news, read the articles, and even talked about it with my husband. But there was something I hadn’t done up to this point.
I hadn’t seen a picture. When I did, I saw a wife and mother of three with her arm around her college-aged son – a baseball player. Seeing a photo of one of the victims for the first time made it click – this is real.
My eyes burned until a tear finally spilled over the edge. His mom is gone. Yes, the tears came because I hurt for this boy, but they continued for another reason. I thought about losing my own mom, and I realized that I’ve worried about things happening to my loved ones, but never because of their skin color.
The tears kept falling, now coupled with a sinking feeling in my stomach. It was the first time I stopped to consider how being born white in the United States has shaped my experience.
Members of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC were killed last Wednesday night because of their skin color. Husbands lost wives and wives lost husbands because they were black. Children lost fathers and mothers because of their race.
Horrible isn’t a strong enough word.
I recognize that there are layers to issues like this one. It’s complicated to talk about, especially with so many political, social, and historical matters tangled together. Because there’s quite a bit I don’t understand, I’m tempted to remain silent. But I’ve come to the realization that, although I don’t understand everything, I do understand something. And it’s time to speak up.
According to our nation’s Founding Fathers, it’s a “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal.” Christians must go a step further and affirm Scripture’s teaching that all men are created by God in His image (Genesis 1:27). Regardless of age, race, gender, or creed, we are all divine image bearers. Furthermore, all who are in Christ are part of “a chosen race” – a group of people linked, not by culture or natural lineage, but by a bloodline stronger than that of any earthly family (1 Peter 2:8).
When Jesus died, peace with God and with others became a reality. That which stood between fellowship with God and unity with others was abolished as Jesus made “one new man in place of the two” and reconciled “both…to God…through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2:14-16). Jesus’ crucifixion dealt the deathblow to the racial enmity stemming from the false belief that knowing God was only for the Jews. Paul’s message to the non-Jewish church in Ephesus was that they too were “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19). The blood of Jesus defines us more decisively than the blood that runs through our veins.
When people are devalued in any way for any reason, believers don’t have the option of indifference. Non-Christians are fellow image bearers, and Christians are our brothers and sisters. Our response to hatred should be an accurate reflection of our transformed identities because the blood of Jesus also motivates us more persuasively than the blood that runs through our veins. How else could victims’ family members look at the gunman and offer words of forgiveness in the midst of unspeakable pain?
The tears haven’t stopped, but we grieve as those with tremendous hope. The events of last Wednesday will be seared on our nation’s memory for years to come. Prayerfully, they will be the catalyst for a drastic change that foreshadows a coming day when diversity will never again bring division, but will be an eternal testimony of a God who shed His own blood to save people from every bloodline on earth (Revelation 5:9-10).