The Painful Journey of Grace

November 1, 2019


AFAM Staff

Learning from the Charleston Church Massacre.

The wave of recent racially-motivated killings covered in the media has left me emotionally drained. These injustices can spur any number of valid responses—anger, grief, fear, despair… or grace.

The Charleston massacre has taken on special meaning for Jane and me. Our dear friends and colleagues in ministry, Dex and Patriece Johnson, lead a Navigator ministry among military personnel in Charleston, and are deeply grieving over this loss. We are feeling their pain.

Perry and Kathy, also dear friends of ours, live in Charleston. We are involved with Kathy on the Tuskegee University reunion committee. I spent a day with them last year, helping them develop a neighborhood ministry. Two of Kathy’s relatives perished on that fateful evening at Emanuel AME Church, and we, too, are gripped with emotion.

We live in a real world with real pain. Nothing surprises God, for Jesus promised in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (NIV). 

This is a season of pain for us, and for our nation. But we’ve also witnessed something that may be a first in American history. The families of the Charleston victims made public statements to the assailant. Each applied God’s grace. This grace empowered them to crawl through their pain and offer forgiveness. Their words demonstrated profound humility.   A forgiving spirit is not a product of rational thought. Rather, it comes from deep spirituality, with a keen understanding of the Gospel.  Social media is ablaze with opinions on how these families responded. While some people question “why forgiveness,” these believers did precisely what Jesus would have done. They took the first step on a difficult journey of grace. 

In the face of such evil and injustice, may God grant us the spiritual capacity to boldly pursue justice while humbly offering grace. 

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