The nation is still reeling from the mass murder of 9 African-American Christians by a 21-year old Caucasian man consumed with racial hatred at a church in South Carolina. The shooting spree was a stark reminder of how increasingly sinful the God-rejecting world is becoming. And as the families, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ of the victims try to get through this horrific tragedy, it is a critical reminder that true peace will only come through Jesus Christ.
“He Wanted to Start A Civil War”
Those were the words of the roommate of Dylan Roof, the young man who murdered 9 people at The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston on Wednesday night after spending an hour in Bible study with his victims. Roof, who has already confessed to the crimes, confirmed his racist aspirations to authorities telling them that he “wanted to start a race war.” His roommate and friends have now gone on record saying for months Roof had made racist comments and jokes while saying he was planning on doing something to harm African-Americans and ignite a racial battle. As he murdered his victims Wednesday night, Roof reportedly said African-Americans were “raping our women.”
The Depraved State of Humanity
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? – Jeremiah 17:9.
Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? do ye judge uprightly, O ye sons of men? Yea, in heart ye work wickedness; ye weigh the violence of your hands in the earth. – Psalm 58:1-2.
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, – Jesus Christ, Mark 7:21.
While the media may spend the coming days trying to determine how a person could commit such a cold-blooded, horrific act, the Bible makes the answer very clear: it is the result of the depraved, sinful nature of humanity. From the first sin in the Garden of Eden, a nature with a proclivity towards sinful rebellion against God has been passed on to all people: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Romans 5:12).
Despite our advanced educational systems, technological breakthroughs and all sorts of philosophies about peace, harmony and human rights, the world is just as corrupted and depraved as it was when the Apostle wrote those verses in the first century AD. Murder, slavery, human trafficking, profanity and sexual perversion are at record levels. Singers who perform barely clothed or promote fornication, drug dealing and gangs are some of the most celebrated people in society. At the same time activist groups are working feverishly to remove any mention or reference to God and Christianity in public life. So it should come as no surprise that murder sprees and cold-hearted violence breaks out as it did in Charleston.
Scripture is clear that sin is a cycle in which a person continues to get more and more corrupt: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15). What started as a simple desire to see African-Americans marginalized in society turned into a plan to murder and then brought forth actual death. Those close to Roof said he was drinking and using drugs in the months leading up to the murders. These are the conditions that Satan looks for. The first murder in human history, Cain, the elder son of Adam and Eve killing his brother Abel over perceived injustice.
And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. – Genesis 4:3-8.
Notice The Lord’s warning to Cain after his offering was rejected – if he continued in unrepentant sin it would “lie at his door.” Those who in their pride and arrogance reject God’s salvation will always have sin’s temptations close by. Cain killed Abel with no cause. It was merely a hatred sown by Cain’s own wicked ways. The Bible explains: “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother’s righteous.” (1 John 3:11-12). When our heart is removed from God’s grace and His Spirit a person can fall into all manner of evil. Dylan Roof exemplified that like Cain, he was “of that wicked one” – meaning Satan. And Satan wants to lure all people to ultimately kill in the name of sinful rebellion. Roof’s constant research into White Supremacist philosophy formed him into a racist murderer.
The Sin of Racism
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. – John 7:24.
“..for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7.
The Bible is clear: “..Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.”(Acts 10:34-35). The Apostle Peter said those words once God showed him through a supernatural vision that all people, Jewish or Gentile, were to receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He was in the home of a Roman centurion – something that was culturally unacceptable at the time for a Jewish person to do because of man-made laws about ritual cleanliness. But God opened Peter’s eyes to know that His Word and His salvation is for all people. God does not give higher priority or favoritism to any people – so no person should do the same. If you give preference to people of a certain ethnicity or look down on others of a particular race, you are in sin. If you stereotype a person based on their appearance you are in sin. If you laugh at other races in mockery (as Roof was fond of doing) you are in sin. If you read racist articles and websites, you are in sin.
The temptation to have sinful racist thoughts or prejudgment about a certain ethnic group is no different from the temptations of lust, stealing or profanity. The satanic temptations of racism dwells in the flesh of all people and it is through living led by the Spirit that a person can resist And trusting God’s Word with faith is the first step to that. The book of Acts says:
God: “… hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being…For we are also his offspring.” – Acts 17:26-28.
Like all other sins, racism is not going to end until the Second Coming of The Lord Jesus Christ. This is clearly evident from the seven African-American churches that have been burnt down in the week after the shooting. Christians must be on guard against racism in their own hearts and preach God’s Holy Word to combat its evil in the minds of others.
Forgiveness In The Face of Tragedy
In just two short days after the murders, family of the victims were given a chance to address the killer in court. The judge gave the relatives of the deceased a microphone to speak with Roof, who could also be seen on a monitor. Roof was only able to hear the family members on his end.
“I will never be able to hold her again, but I forgive you,” a daughter of victim Ethel Lance said. “And have mercy on your soul. You hurt me. You hurt a lot of people but God forgives you, and I forgive you.”
Felecia Sanders — mother of victim Tywanza Sanders and a survivor of the church shooting — said that “every fiber in my body hurts, and I will never be the same.”
“As we said in the Bible study, we enjoyed you,” she said of Roof. “But may God have mercy on you.” (source).
It is only the power of Jesus Christ that could bring a person to forgive the killer of their loved ones on the heels of the actual crime. And Roof can indeed receive free forgiveness if he puts his trust and faith in Jesus Christ for his sins. But to be God be the glory that these women used their few moments speaking with the killer of their loved ones to proclaim that they had forgiven him:
How can they do such a thing? How could they possibly offer such monstrous, wicked murderer their forgiveness and prayers? Only through the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus Christ said: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” (Mark 11:25).
The undeserved forgiveness given to Dylan Roof is the same God extends to all people through Jesus Christ. Christians understand their own depravity and while it may not be on the level of the sick, twisted actions of Roof – God’s willingness to forgive those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ stirs believers to forgive freely as well.
The world was able to see one of the boldest proclamations of God’s love. Christians have been scorned, mocked, hated and mercilessly criticized in the media for the Biblical positions that marriage is between one man and one woman. Where is the forgiveness from the proponents of gay marriage? Where is any compassion from those in the atheist community who try to debunk and mock the Bible while suing local governments that have any reference to God in their communities? All those attitudes are based on worldly justice. But Bible-believing Christians know that God is the true Judge – and He will forgive those who have repented of their sins and believing in The Lord Jesus Christ. We forgive because the true Judge has forgiven us.
And this is the message of the Bible – that even a cold-hearted, hateful, degenerate like Dylann Roof can be forgiven. He can stand in Heaven right alongside those 9 victims of his killing spree. In Christ, the worst sinner can be redeemed because Jesus Christ took the punishment of Roof and all people, for all their sins, on the cross. It takes believing in His sacrifice and atonement in order to receive that free forgiveness. And Lord willing, Roof will now see how futile his effort to start a civil war was and acknowledge his wicked depravity. And he can see the power of Christ in the people he spent an hour with before murdering them and in the forgiveness Christ’s servants quickly extended to him. Though Roof may be sentenced to death for his crimes an even greater punishment awaits if he dies in his sin.
Do not be deceived – God is going to judge this world for its sins. And those who have rejected God and rebelled against Him will suffer eternity in hell and the Lake of Fire. The lives of God’s saints will be avenged. The sins of racism and bigotry will be punished. If you are a Christian repent of your sins and continue to live for God. Pray for the victims, families and the city of Charleston to be restored and unite in Jesus Christ. And pray for the killer to believe the Gospel before his own life is ended. And if you are not a Christian – do not let this moment come and go like the many other mass shootings of recent years. Do not simply rejoice that people have come together to support one another during a crisis. Understand that you will be judged as well for your sins and without God’s forgiveness, there will be no pardon. There will be true peace on Earth one day. There will be an end to racism. There will be an end to death itself. But it will only come through faith in Jesus Christ. Believe the Gospel today.
In the LORD put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? For, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart. If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do? The LORD is in his holy temple, the LORD’s throne is in heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The LORD trieth the righteous: but the wicked and him that loveth violence his soul hateth. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright. – Psalm 11.