The reality of evil

June 20th, 2015

While reflecting on the tragedy at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, I'm wrestling with mixed emotions. On one hand I'm enraged that humanity has become so impregnated with evil that people can lose their lives in the house of God.

A church should be the place where one is not only inspired with the Word of God but also encouraged to have hope in challenging times.

On the other hand, I’m distressed that what happened in South Carolina is no different than what has happened throughout our nation — in a Connecticut school, a Virginia college campus, a Texas military base, an Oklahoma office building, a California fast-food restaurant, a Colorado movie theater.

The list is seemingly endless. But these horrific acts have a common theme: anger, despair and evil.

The latest attack on innocent people has been labeled a hate crime because of the perpetrator’s statement. But let’s be clear: All attacks on innocent people are hate crimes. Simply put, hatred is evil. It knows no socio-economic-ethnic-cultural bounds.

As a pastor, I am particularly disturbed that people were assassinated while seeking to become stronger followers of Jesus Christ. Last Wednesday night nine children of God were met by evil head-on.

Even as a person of faith, sometimes I have to ask: Is the church a safe place? And where is God in all of this?

In spite of this horrific event, I still believe in the power of the local church. As the senior pastor of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, I believe that the church is called to be a beacon of light in moments of darkness, and of hope in times of despair. In the face of injustice and ongoing evil, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. prophetically stated that the local church is still the hope for the world.

Many people say that America needs more gun control laws. I do believe we need more legislation on guns, but we also need more love governing and guiding our hearts. Love is critical to combat hate, injustice and other forms of evil.

The love that helped people navigate through the horrific periods of slavery, the Holocaust and the Civil Rights Era is the same love that will help this nation heal from this pervasive form of evil. Jesus’ teachings reminded us that love covers a multitude of sin. Jesus also demonstrated the power of prayer throughout his earthly ministry. Despite this painful incident in Charleston, let us not devalue or underestimate the power of prayer.

So, regardless of evil, let's continue to be the church that prays in times of struggle. The church must continue to be that prophetic voice that speaks truth to power. Let us pray fervently for the nine people whose lives were stolen through by a terrorist act. Let's also pray for the members of Emanuel AME Church, for the AME denomination and for our nation. In the face of evil, let’s remember that we are people of the resurrection. Because of the resurrection, evil will never have the last word!

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