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Evil exists and it rears its ugly head when we least expect it. The terror experienced by the participants of a bible study at Emanuel AME Church in  Charleston, SC on Wednesday night, June 17th, is a prime example. The killer made his move in a church building, a place of sanctuary. We usually think of our churches as safe locations where we will not experience evil. Those dear people gathered to study God’s Word and fully expected they would be in a protected environment, part of God’s house. They welcomed the young stranger into their circle never anticipating the horror that would unfold an hour later.

Our God is a God of love not of division and hatred. We are told in 1 John 1:11 that “he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” What a perfect description of the young man who killed nine members of the bible study! He was a portrait of darkness and evil bent on destroying those gathered to share God’s love. We ask ourselves why would anyone do this, and we learn that they died not for their Christian beliefs but for the color of their skin. How can a human being become so twisted that he wants to exterminate others because of their skin color? We are all humans and under that skin we have the same blood, organs and tissue.

Do we give up hope because of such evil? No, because then evil would get the upper hand. The relatives of the victims showed their determination to conquer evil at the arraignment of the perpetrator. They spoke of their loved ones lost to this senseless display of violence but offered forgiveness to the accused. Their faith was a brilliant light after a dark attack. Their actions showed the world their true Christian love. It reminded all of us that even in their grief they were not going to be overcome by evil, but would overcome that evil with good (see Romans 12:21).

Many, many people across the United States and really throughout the world witnessed their commitment to their Christian faith. Their loved ones had paid a dear price but rather than let darkness take over, they have encouraged all of us to forgive others and depend on the Lord. Their lights are shining brightly for all the world to see! May we also reflect that light, God’s light, to the world around us.