Let Freedom Ring

“Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer.  The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you.  You will suffer for ten days.  But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you a crown of life.”                                                                                                                                                                     Revelation 2:10

Even after living in Connecticut for 24 years, I still consider Charleston home.  My roots, my heart, my soul are all stored deep in the south – I don’t believe that will ever change.  The news of the Emanuel AME Church shooting Wednesday evening rang through me like a shockwave.  Someone, an intruder, had violated MY HOME…killed MY PEOPLE…damaged MY TOWN…it feels just that personal to me.

I scour social media to get the latest on the offender, his whereabouts, input from President Obama, outcries from the families, reactions from the community – but I know one thing I don’t have to ready myself for – more violence in retaliation.  That is not how MY HOME works.  I love the response of my people…banding together in churches and sports fields, to PRAY.  These people have been through this experience and worse before, and they know who to turn their troubles to, and who not to blame.

Being raised in this community, the difference of race was out in the open, always.  My Mother’s best friend was African American, half of my classmates were African American – heck, the first boy who ever loved me was African American…it was there, and you were either going to deal with it, or you were going to be the problem.  Sure, ignorance existed back then too, but we kids didn’t tolerate it, at least my group of friends did not.  If someone had the gall to actually say something ignorant out loud, they got stared down mighty quickly by about 10 people more than ready to ‘bring them to Jesus,’ and then they were allowed the grace to retrieve their dignity and simply move on.

I understand I can be fairly naïve about many things, though I am not naïve enough to believe my experience was the sum total of race relations in South Carolina, with its Confederate Flag whipping in the wind and the good ole boys making deals in back wood bar rooms.  But these references, as I’ve heard mention, as well as a few others in the last few days, are not the origin of racism, of the hatred displayed Wednesday night.  This story, unfortunately, is not new.  And as the pieces of the puzzle still unfold and we hear from the offender himself, a variety of conclusions can be drawn.  One point is transparent:  this young man messed with the wrong town, the wrong people – the evidence is clear.  His repayment for such unthinkable acts?  Riots, looting, burning my precious city down?  Quite the contrary…prayer, worship gatherings, vigils…inviting Jesus right back to where He was forced out by gunpoint.

I worship a God worth dying for.  I have that right because men and women have given their lives for me to serve this country I call home.  They gave their lives for Dylann Roof without him ever asking or approving as well.  I read an amazing quote last week that I really loved…basically it said Jesus died for you knowing that you might never love Him back.  Jesus died for Dylann Roof, knowing he might never love Him back…he was worth the risk.  Jesus certainly died for Clementa Pinckney, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson, and though they may have feared what stood before them Wednesday night, they had the promise of eternity with God ahead of them and freedom from this broken world, and we must try to focus on that positive picture.

Please continue to lift up Charleston in your prayers – for healing and wholeness, and continuing to let God reign.