My faith family, that is.
Squabbles, scandals, and division. Disputes over denominational differences. Competition rather than cooperation. “Black churches” and “white churches.” These have broken my heart and made me ashamed.
But this week, I’m proud. PROUD to call myself a Christian.
I’m so proud, of Debbie Dills, an ordinary believer whom God called to do an extraordinary thing. Early Thursday morning she watched FOX and Friends’ coverage of the church shooting. On her way to work, providentially running late, she spotted Dylann Roof’s car.
“I got a little nervous,” she told FOX news afterward, “I’ll be honest with you. I’m not a hero, and I’m not brave.”
She pulled off onto an exit ramp, phoned her boss, and told him what she’d seen. He called police, who asked Debbie to get back on the highway, catch up with Roof, and confirm the license plate number.
Would you chase after an armed man who had just killed nine people in cold blood? And get close enough to read his license plate and confirm his identity?
But with courage that only came from God, Debbie got back on Highway 74, chased Roof down, phoned in his license plate number, and tailed him until police arrived.
"I’m not the hero,” she’s quick to admit. “God’s the hero. He just used me. . . . I hope he’s pleased with me. I want him to be pleased with me more than anything else.”
I’m so proud, of Marcus Stanley, a black rapper and survivor of black gun violence. He looked past the horror of Dylann Roof’s crime into the darkness in his soul. He posted a message on Roof’s Facebook page calling him to repentance and salvation.
“Give your heart to Jesus and confess your sins with a heart of forgiveness.” Marcus wrote. “He is the only one who can save your soul and forgive you for the terrible act you have done.”
I’m so proud of the families and loved ones of those who died in Charleston. Wracked with grief, they followed the example of their Savior, who interceded for his killers by saying, “Forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
Through tears, Ethel Lance’s daughter said to Roof, “I forgive you. You took something very precious from me, and I will never talk to her ever again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you. And have mercy on your soul."
I’m so proud that when some called for a race riot in Charleston, Pastor Norvel Goff, standing in the pulpit of Emanuel AME church, said, “A lot of folk expected us to do something strange and break out in a riot. Well, they just don’t know us. They just don’t know us because we are a people of faith, and we believe that when we put our forces and our heads together, working for a common good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus.”
I’m so proud that Emanuel AME opened their doors in faith and commitment as they’ve done every Sunday since the church’s founding. And of the hundreds from all over the state and nation who sat in sweltering heat and crowded conditions inside the church for Sunday school and service.
The church met for Sunday morning services to send a “message to the demons in Hell.”
Perhaps this is what Jesus foresaw when he told Peter, “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Mat. 16:18).
I’m so proud of the hundreds who held vigil outside the courthouse while Dylann Roof’s arraignment hearing took place. Black and white, young and old, they held hands and sang hymns in support of the bereaved families inside.
And I’m so proud, of St. Andrews Evangelical Church, a mostly-white assembly in my hometown of Columbia, whose congregation walked down the street and surprised a mostly-black church by joining them in worship. “It was crowded, hot, emotional, and awesome,” one church member wrote.
Perhaps this is what Paul foresaw when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).
There have been times when I’ve been ashamed of my faith family. Ashamed to reveal that I’m a Christian “like them,” but not today.
Today, I’m proud.
“The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Mat. 4:16).