Dylann Roof killed nine people Wednesday night at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, a historic congregation in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Roof attended the evening Bible study for an hour before opening fire on his victims.
I recall when I was in grade school, the good sisters of Notre Dame would remind us to pray for everyone whether you liked them or not. It wasn’t a matter of choice, it was your good Christian duty. Period.
Faith leaders have asked people to join in prayer in churches across the country and on Twitter, using the hashtag #AMEStrong. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and social media as a whole are great opportunities to connect with people. It is often a catalyst to deeper discussions. However, there are many times when it makes us stone throwers.
One reader on the HelloBeautiful’s Facebook wall posed a valid question with deep emotional charge behind it.
The reader challenged:
Styles Taja: Usually people pray for something specific…right??? What should people be PRAYING for?? We’re the victims not PRAYING enough?? Just questions…trying to dig DEEPER than “PRAY”
The reader inferred that it was repulsive to think that someone who committed such a heinous crime could get a “bulletproof vest,” meals, protection and a prayer.
My siblings in Christ, here are two absolutes: The first is everyone is created in God’s image. Period. Scientists say we all share one gene that is 100 percent the same. So, if God felt us worthy of being made in His image, then no matter our station in life, we are worthy of love. Everyone else is worthy of that love because of who made them.
The second is Christ changed the rules by offering love, grace and forgiveness (Romans 5:8). If God can love us, surely, we can love those around us. We can even love the lowest of us. And that means love the unlovable.
Many people were shocked when the family members of those slain in the shooting not only forgave Roof, but offered him love. This is the perfect example of what Christian love is–it forgives despite the pain and suffering they will be going through for the rest of their lives.
What this young man did was an unspeakable crime on many levels. Hatred, anger, racism and violation of one of the Ten Commandments does not bode well for his soul. Yet, as unlovable as he is, we are called to pray for him.
The perfect example of loving your murderer is Judas. He betrayed Jesus for silver and still tried to kiss Jesus. However, because of the nature of forgiveness, Jesus still washed his feet, sat down and had a meal with him (John 13 4-5). Christ was also very clear that not everyone would love you and death might even beckon at your door.
The Apostle Paul never quit serving God. No matter what attacks came against him he continued to do what God called him to do. He still prayed for everyone. He was beaten time after time and even left for dead on a few occasions. He never cursed his persecutors once he decided that Christ was for him.
Paul and all the Apostles reminded us that we should say a prayer for someone who offends us no matter how we feel about that person.
Prayer is more than asking for something. Prayer is communication of the soul with the Creator. It is not the magic salve that fixes. The idea that prayer is magic fairy dust is a product of modern times and the prosperity gospel. It took me many years to finally realize the strategy of the enemy is for us to think that prayer should result in something. Evil’s goal is to hit you hard after your obedience to God. Evil is real and it entered holy ground and killed nine people on Wednesday June 17th.
So pray unceasingly. It’s more powerful than throwing stones.