With Grief and Sadness- That such an act could take place among humanity. Jesus allowed grief and sadness to move him, even in death, we see this as he weeps over the death of his friend Lazarus (John 11). Lord break my heart and allow me to feel what you feel about this tragedy.
With Just, Love Filled Anger- Quiet apathy is no response to an atrocity like this- it ought to arouse a just anger in us regardless of what our skin color or belief system is. This anger ought to be the carrier, not of hate, but genuine love and compassion for the individuals, families, community and all affected. Jesus too carried this kind of just, love injected anger as he confronted injustice and hypocrisy- clearing the temple and speaking strongly against the apathy of the religious leaders (John 2.13-22; Mark 3.5). Lord arouse my heart to righteous anger for justice and mercy.
With Confession- That though I did not commit this horrific crime, I too am a human who carries in me the same seeds of discrimination. We all have the capacity for both hatred and love within us and need to turn from our tendency to let fear, anger and hatred triumph.This is Jesus laying plain that the same depravity is behind both internally directed hate and external murder in his mountain sermon (Matthew 5.21-26). Lord, but by your grace, I am the shooter. I am a broken vessel, in desperate need of your grace.
With Identification- If Jesus, though without sin, was willing to identify with the horrors of the human condition- if Jesus was willing to die in our place offering unconditional forgiveness, how can we not identify with the shooter? How can we be humble enough to see our own capacity and say “at my core, I am no different”. I am a person whose skin is white, standing in a long painful history of discrimination based on race and ethnicity. It is important to acknowledge this, admit this and have a contrite heart and compassion for those who have been affected by a culture of racism. Jesus, again is our example, He Himself identified with the disgusting array of our depravity to the extent that he would “become sin” for us (2 Corinthians 5.21). Lord, I am no different, give me eyes to understand what it means to humbly and honestly identify with and acknowledge the painful history of racism that is not yet resolved that I might better understand the pain it causes and the grace you have shown me.
With a Heightened Sensitivity to Quieter Injustices- This kind of extreme hate ought to sensitize our eyes and ears locally, to more subtle, everyday injustices- seemingly small comments that fester in conversations behind closed doors, little smirks, generalizations or cultural slanders that reinforce the racial and socio-economic divide in our country. There may be a tendency to explain away or be distracted from the impact of this crime based on the ensuing unhealthy and unhelpful responses. This can paralyze us from talking about what happened and not fully engaging. Jesus saw the micro and the macro, the person in front of him and the person far off, and he dignified and took seriously whatever they were facing. He practiced presence in whatever a person was facing -- illness, doubt, fear, worry, loss, pride -- and was willing to confront injustice, even in a religious leader who was hardened and discriminatory towards the Samaritan culture (Luke 10.25-37). Lord, sensitize my eyes and ears to areas where I or others in my circle discriminate and give me courage to speak out against even the smallest comments, actions, and attitudes of hate.
With Death to Self- Clearly racism and discrimination cut both ways. But Jesus set the example that we are to serve and love without finger pointing, scorekeeping, or preconditions and “Bless those who persecute you” (Romans 12:14). Lord, give me strength to serve others without assessing whether they are one of the ones who “deserve” my service.
With Action- As I die to self, let my heart see one way -- towards service -- and let me understand that my unconditional action can lead to change. We are not powerless (John 14:12). True, internal conviction ought to manifest. This may mean reaching out to friends who are African American to consider how unity can be forged or simply bring it up in conversation. Jesus again, is our example, willing to make extreme sacrifices (action) on behalf of a world filled with hate and injustice. In this singular act He is not just an example but our transcendent and substantial hope. His cosmic death meant a restored world, one without hate, death and discrimination based on externals. Empowered by the Spirit of Jesus, let us take present action with vision of a future that one day will be, rooted firmly in the substantial, transcendent and world-altering action of Jesus’ death for us. His love is meant for the world and as His conduits of that grace in the world, our response should be to action. Reach out to friends who are in the African American community, share your sadness, ask how you can serve, inquire as to a meaningful way to respond in this moment and in the future. Talk about this, allow your heart to break over this, and point people to ultimate hope through this tragedy. Lord give me wisdom to know how I am to take local action.
With Prayer- We are in greater need, of including in the conversation, the One who has ultimate power to act and change the trajectory of a culture in place and time. This was the last act of our dear nine brothers and sisters whose lives have been lost - prayer. Let us take our cue from them, let us pray boldly to our heavenly Father, our Creator, who forged us all in common, in His image. Let us pray the prayer that Jesus instructed us to pray- that greater measures of his coming kingdom would be experienced here, now, on earth, as it is in heaven. Lord, ignite my heart to pray as you would have me pray. May my conversation with you be through the entire day, not just this day, but each day. Lord, let that conversation of prayer orient me towards those whose feet I may wash rather than what I might eat or take in this world.