On Reconciliation

We were on vacation last week when we saw the news of the shooting at the Emmanuel AME church in Charleston. Immediately, there was talk that it was racially motivated, that it was a “hate crime.” Later, we found out the hard to comprehend details about how an individual sat through a Bible study with the very people he would later shoot down in cold blood, all for the purpose of starting a race war. And so began a week of contrasts–of “the worst of times, and the best of times,” as Dickens may have said. The worst was displayed when the political opportunists and media talking heads from the left and right used this horrific event to drive a deeper wedge in our nation’s racial and cultural divide. Once again, there was no shortage of people who would use tragedy to further their agenda. And so, a week later, social media is littered with opinions about flags, while the families of nine brothers and sisters in Christ grieve their losses. We grieve with them, as we do for our nation. Which brings us to the other side of that contrast, so vividly displayed by the family members of victims who stood in the courtroom and spoke to the accused killer, offering words of mercy instead of hatred, of forgiveness instead of retaliation. We also saw light shining in darkness as tens of thousands came together, white and black, to line the streets of Charleston for a memorial to those killed. Make no mistake, the problems in our nation are real. But, as Ed Stetzer said this week, “We have a race problem in America, because we have a sin problem.” Or, as NFL player Ben Watson put it, our racial issues are not so much a skin problem, but a sin problem. With that being the case, there is good news–because we have an answer for sin. Just as with Ferguson and Baltimore and every other city in America, the answer to our nation’s deepest problems comes in the gospel of Jesus Christ, a gospel that was so clearly demonstrated and communicated in that Charleston courtroom last week. The gospel is truly the only hope for real transformation. The apostle Paul said in his second letter to the church at Corinth, that Jesus Christ has reconciled us to Himself, and He has given us the message of reconciliation. The folks from Emmanuel showed us what that looks like; reconciled people practice reconciliation. Forgiven people are forgiving people. I know this: I could never preach a sermon so eloquent as those who offered forgiveness in that courtroom last weekend. History reminds us that a little more than a century and a half ago, these United States were divided, in Charleston, South Carolina, and the very uncivil Civil War began. My prayer is that God would supernaturally use the tragic events in Charleston in 2015 to bring us together again, around the truth of His gospel. May the Lord bless you as you live our the ministry of reconciliation this week. I am praying for you, and I look forward to seeing you Sunday. –Pastor Ken