Our friend and Pastor, Eugene Hamilton, looked up in surprise at his North Charleston prayer meeting on June 10, 2015 to find a White man had slipped into a pew and sat down. Unusual, yes, but nothing over which to stop the service. After prayer meeting, the man simply asked if the church could help him with some money, and it did. Hamilton soon learned that another lone White man visited prayer meeting across town, sought out the pastor, sat through Bible study, then rose to kill nine worshipers before fleeing. “Mother Emmanuel” African Methodist Episcopal Church was left bloodied and bereaved.
“Wow, that could have been me,” Hamilton shuddered in disbelief.
Just as unbelievable has been the praise rising from the city, the church, and believers who flocked in for support, said Hamilton. There the killer’s name, story, and evil are not spoken of. Families of the victims pronounced forgiveness in lieu of condemnation at the killer’s arraignment. And, there, powerful praise still rises in the very church where the enemy sought to ignite a race war.
The Huffington Post captured the essence of that when Alanna Simmons, granddaughter of Daniel Simmons who was killed that day, addressed the shooter. “Everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies live in love.”
While it seems unthinkable that one could be prepared for such a horrific event, the “Emmanuel 9” were. Real readiness is not only one’s outward preparation; it is also the clarity and commitment that resides within. This distinction was lost on a South Carolina legislator—a colleague of the 41 year-old slain Pastor and legislator Clementa Pinkney—who said the nine “waited to be shot,” and lamented cynically that things would have been different had someone at the church been armed. One can be prepared, and not ready!
The Mother Emmanuel Nine spent their last moments immersed in the Word.
The nine who died that fateful day in June were ready, in the best sense of that word. The aftermath of the tragedy showed that they had lived so well in life that even in death, their spirit of love and forgiveness reached out enveloping the unrepentant murderer who took their lives. If they could send a message from the grave to our cold, cruel world, they’d don the idiom of their forbears and declare, “There are things you don’t know nothin’ bout.
“You don’t know nothing about being so immersed in the Word that you welcome your murderer unawares into the warm embrace of spiritual nurture, only to be mercilessly killed by him moments later. Loved ones left to live on and love on without you.
“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout this—this having the Word so deeply rooted in your heart that Emmanuel comes to inhabit your being, for the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:2). We knew Emmanuel, and we reflected His love when gave our enemy a seat in the circle. That was consistent with who Jesus is, but you don’t know nothing about this.
“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout people who surrender the relentless struggles of life for moments in the presence of the Spirit. But we, the Emmanuel 9—the God-With-Us-Nine—wanted to be with Him. Do you know anything about that?
“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout being ready. Since when did exercising faith in God become conditional on whether or not someone was going to do us harm? Aren’t we supposed to be ready for whatever comes (2 Peter 3:12)? We’re sorry. You wouldn’t know nothing about that.
“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout surrender—about leaving burdens at the altar, artifice on the chopping block, yourself at the cross. You don’t know what it is to be vulnerable, unmasked, and exposed, or what it feels like to bring faith to a firefight. It does not compute. Yet, even the Great “God With Us” forestalled legions of angels when His enemies came to get Him (Matthew 26:52-53; John 18:10-11).
“You don’t know nothin’ ‘bout forgiveness, the kind that is spoken through grief, and offered with trembling hands and blood-stained clothes (Luke 23:34). We forgave not because we are good, but because that is what Jesus did—not because we have to, but because we are free to.
“You don’t know nothing about the mystery of evil that constantly threatens humanity (Ezekiel 28:15). Its invisible infrastructure is directed at you every day in a myriad of micro-assaults. Do you know that you are under attack by the enemy of your soul?
“Are you ready?”
Lose the Fear: How to BE Ready for Anything!
1. Jesus will be back, John 14:3.
2. Learn to discern the impostors now, Matthew 24:24.
3. Expect Him to come literally, Acts 1:11; Luke 24:36-43.
4. When He comes, if you are alive, you will see and hear Him, Matthew 24:30; 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
6. Live for Him now, Matthew 25.
7. Hold on and use the “patience of the saints,” Revelations 14:12.
8. Open your heart for the sealing of the Holy Spirit, Revelation 7:1-3.
9. Be an angel. Help someone get ready, Revelation 14:6-10, 2 Peter 3:12.
10.Accept His love. Jesus is waiting for you, 2 Peter 3:8,9; Malachi 3:17.