Once again there’s been a mass shooting in America.

This time, it’s in the south, in the “Holy City” of Charleston, South Carolina.

This time, the violence came to a church.  To a Bible study.  To brothers and sisters in the faith.  Evil and hatred invaded a sacred space.  A place set apart for God and God’s people.  A place that’s supposed to be safe—a shelter where the sinfulness and trouble and violence of this world are kept outside the doors.

The violence came to a place where all people are to be welcomed—as Christ commanded through word and example.  And because the violence did come, nine of our brothers and sisters were murdered—wrongly and senselessly.  They were murdered living as Jesus would wish—welcoming the stranger, sharing the Word, and giving evidence of his love in word and deed.

In the midst of all the sorrow and the grief and the injustice and the questions about the shooting, I think we have to ask ourselves what God is calling us to do in response.

Starting with foundational truths of the faith would be, I believe, a good idea.  And one of the foundational truths is that God has created us all and loves us all.  We are brothers and sisters with all people—even if they are of different backgrounds, different countries or societies, different races.  No one’s excluded from the reach of God’s loving embrace, which means we are called to love others, whether they are different than we are or very much like we are.

Another foundational lesson—the Christian community is not confined to just our corner of the world.  The Christian community extends around the world, and because we are a part of the Christian community, we know when one of us suffers, all suffer—just as when one rejoices, all rejoice.  We’re called, therefore, to look for ways to restore the community.  Perhaps that happens through prayer, through service, through seeking out opportunities to engage in meaningful ministry with brothers and sisters who are different than we are.  As people of faith, we are to listen for God’s call and then act on that call to rebuild and strengthen the Christian community.

Yet another foundational lesson—follow Christ’s instruction about the ways we are to relate to him and to one another.  The Great Commandment says we are to love God and love one another.  The Golden Rule says we are to treat others the way we wish to be treated.  In light of the events in Charleston, Carolyn McKinstry, a survivor of a 1963 church bombing puts the call to faithful behavior this way:

How do we begin to individually and purposefully address this problem? … Each of us is accountable for ourselves. Each of us must examine our lives and our treatment of others if we are going to have even a remote chance of living with the tremendous diversity that exists in our country. We still have not learned the simple principle of living next door to someone who may be different from us. We have not learned to treat others in the same manner that we ourselves want to be treated. We can begin changing America now, and continue one day at a time, if we have the will.

It seems that particularly at this time, each of us has the opportunity to place ourselves at God’s disposal again, praying that he will use us to be agents of his peace and presence, and asking that he give us whatever it is that we need to accomplish his purposes so that the sin and evil that reared its horribly ugly head, can be defeated and his love can overcome that evil and sin to bring about a time of blessing, love and peace.