It happened one year ago today, the tragedy inside of a church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was senseless, it was evil, and my heart still hurts for this city today. Charleston is a beautiful city that is full of rich history, beautiful buildings, and the most gracious and hospitable people you’d ever find. Charleston is only a three hour drive from Charlotte and in the hours following the attack inside Mother Emanuel, there was a manhunt for the shooter that ended with him being apprehended in a small town just 30 minutes from where I live. For those of us here in the Charlotte area, there was a special tie that was felt in the days following this tragedy and it wasn’t just because of our geographic proximity to the city. Around here, there’s talk sometimes about being “One Carolina”. Most of the time it comes out when sports are involved, but it rang especially true in the wake of what occurred on a Wednesday night in June one year ago.
Here in the South, we have a rich history that is soaked with the reality of past segregation, discrimination, and countless other atrocities that continues to show its ugly face in our current society. Days after this tragedy, the people of Charleston and the survivors of the Charleston Nine exhibited strength and grace that inspired me and countless others. As Time Magazine put it so perfectly, “…instead of war, Charleston erupted in grace, led by the survivors of the Emanuel Nine.”
Erupted in grace.
What a perfect description of what happened in this beautiful city. Instead of riots, thousands stood in hand-in-hand on the Ravenel Bridge in unity. Instead of continuing the media’s running headline of unrest and violence, there was forgiveness and mercy. I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the words of Nadine Collier and a relative of Myra Thompson in that courtroom, just days after their relatives were murdered (shared here at The Washington Post). Expressing their forgiveness in the face of unspeakable loss and love in the face of unspeakable evil, the words of Romans 12:21 began to be lived out throughout the city and across the country.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21, NIV
I wish that we haven’t had to endure any more tragedies in the wake of the Charleston shooting last year. In the span of a year, we have seen hatred and evil expressed in the most brutal forms in my dad’s hometown of San Bernardino, California, in Colorado, Oregon, Tennessee, and most recently, in Orlando. We are living in a time that feels eerily like warfare. From the political race to the streets in our hometowns, there are hate-filled battles that are happening with seemingly no end in sight. But we are called to live out the words of Romans 12:21, just as Charleston showed us one year ago. God calls us to love and to extend grace to everyone. We are called to do good in the face of evil because that is what Jesus would do, and has already done. And as my dear friend Emily said earlier this week, “He has already won the war – with LOVE.”