Most people will only know of you, or your name because of what you decided to do on June 17th 2015. For some reckless reason you slaughtered nine innocent people during worship at Mother Emanuel AME Church….not just nine people, but nine innocent lives – cut short because of you, and the lives of their families and loved ones turned upside down, again – because of you. That’s the truth, and it might hurt to hear it.
When I first heard of what had happened, my heart broke. Not only for the beautiful people who welcomed you into their fellowship, into their spiritual family, into their safe space…for Cynthia, Susie, Ethel, Depayne, Clementa, Daniel, Tywanza, Sharonda and Myra. But my heart broke also for you, and for your family. Whilst I have absolutely no sympathy for the motives behind your actions, I do have sympathy for your heart, mind and soul. Hatred is always rooted in fear, and that you fear black folk so much that you’re willing to shoot them down says alot about you. What troubled me more than anything was the fact that you went into the house of God to commit that evil. That in that one place of sanctuary, you brought the evil in your heart to birth on that sacred ground into which you were welcomed, and embraced. That night could have gone so differently.You could have found the God who has spent his life searching for your heart…..but you didn’t.
I suppose, you’d think by now that as a black man, and someone who sees your crime for what it is, I’m supposed to hate you, and be glad that you are going to pay the cost for your actions. But I don’t hate you, and I’m heartbroken that you face the death penalty. Many people reading this will assume that I’m going to advocate some Christian niceties about forgiveness. My thoughts go much deeper than that. Forgiveness isn’t nice – it’s tough, it’s costly, it’s painful, and I can’t forgive you for what you did, because what you have done is not my grievance to forgive. In my eyes, you are still a child of God – and this will upset some, and alarm others. In my eyes, you are still a person full of the potential to do good. In my eyes, you do not deserve to be killed by the state, or by anyone – because your life, like the lives you took, isn’t ours to take. I see you through the eyes of God.
It doesn’t make sense to me, that in too many countries around the world, but particularly yours – we kill people for killing. It doesn’t make any sense. And that so many people are rejoicing in the outcome of this whole thing, is disturbing to me. If it doesn’t sound too cliche ‘two wrongs never make a right’, and I believe that. Capital punishment is cowardly, it’s sadistic, and it is incompatible with the Christian truth and the Christian way. Because, as I said before – you are a child of God. A messed up, deluded one in desperate need of repentance – but a child of God nonetheless.
I feel helpless in respect of what you might soon face, not just on earth – but in eternity….but my only hope – and my prayer (and I will be praying for you), is that God is more merciful to you than we have been. And that in turn he might forgive us all – for before his throne we are all in need of redemption.
Make peace before the sun goes down…
God hold you in my prayer,
‘Sinners my gracious Lord receives,
Harlots, and publicans, and thieves;
Drunkards, and all ye hellish crew,
I have a message now to you.
The worst unto My supper press,
Monsters of daring wickedness,
Tell them My grace for all is free.
They cannot be too bad for Me.’ – Charles Wesley