When a 21-year-old white young man attends a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church for an hour and then takes out a gun and massacres nine people “because they are black” we question why. Why could someone harbor such hatred? How could he sit in a Bible study while plotting the deaths of the ones participating in the study?

The news media struggles to handle such a tragedy. They immediately cite external reasons, things one can see. Less guns. More psychological care. Lack of education. Pervasive prejudice on the internet. Political leaders do the same. They (and we) must be reminded that humankind cannot ultimately be trusted:

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. (Jeremiah 17:5-6 ESV)

In a sentence: man cannot be trusted. Left to ourselves we self destruct–all of us. We are hopelessly lost unless God intervenes. But, if that same man trusts in the Lord, a complete turnaround takes place:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

So what makes the difference between a man who is a shrub in the desert or a tree by streams of water? The answer is what lies underneath:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 ESV)

Jesus came to change us from the inside out. He came to do open heart surgery on desperately sick people. The front page of Emanuel’s website says it well: Jesus died a passionate death for us, so our love for Him should be as passionate. 

So how should we feel? What should we think? Do?

  • Pray for the families of the nine victims. They have moms, dads, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.
  • Pray for the 21 year-old shooter. Apart from Christ he will die and spend eternity in hell.
  • Trust the God who knows you (and everyone else) better than you (and they) do.