In the last several weeks world media has focused our attention on both institutional and individual causes of violence. On the insitutional level movements like ISIS continue to use violence to expand their influence. In addition to territorial conquest, ISIS seeks to secure its future through indoctrination, strategic alliances, and continuous global recruitment. But generational racism and individual violence also continues to dominate news headlines in our own country. The murder of those in the Black Christian church in Charleston, South Carolina illustrates the extent to which evil permeates even so-called “sanctuaries” or safe places.
How ought we respond? In the last two weeks, the believers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church have suggested the Christian response, that of forgiveness and prayer...a response that flows out of continued practice of the discipline of studying the Bible and praying together.
This response mirrors that of our “missional God” who responded to our global evil by sending His beloved Son, Jesus. Jesus lived among us and gave His life, taking our evil upon Himself so that we did not have to pay the penalty. This same Jesus could not be bound by the chains of evil and death. He did not respond to evil with evil but with grace. He was resurrected and settled the sin/ death question forever.
As a result His strategy for His followers reflects His own model. He asks us to take the good news to “all the world”. He asks us to forgive our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” [Matthew5:43-45]
So we are encouraged...even exhorted... to pray for our brothers and sisters both in our own country and around the world who daily face great evil, great violence and even death itself. Pray that they would respond, as did Jesus, by asking the Father to forgive enemies and face heaven with joy.