Everyone has a fuse. It is the initiation device of our inner pyrotechnics. When it is lit, it transmits heat to the emotions that are simmering in us. When our emotions are ignited, terrible things can happen. Like Wednesday evening. A killer's fuse was lit and nine precious people are dead.
There is so much that is not known about the killings in Charleston Wednesday evening. Whether the shooter was motivated by racial or religious or some other hatred we know something lit his fuse and the resulting explosion was deadly. We can all debate the influences that give fire to our fuses. We all have biases, preferences, and social contexts and therefore understand how we are shaped by an environment. It's been an argument between social liberals and conservatives for many years, the final impact of the world around us on our persona. Even with all the truth on both sides of that issue there's still the personal accountability for the fires smoldering in us.
There are at least three angles on the fuses that light our systems.
(1) The personal angle. I have primary responsibility for managing my emotions. Self-control is a fruit of the spirit and should be visibly practiced by Christ's disciples. For unbelievers it's a matter of maturity and personal development. We all know that, painting with a broad brush, culture today is more immature than in previous generations. That is why so many people are later in life when they make important life decisions---marriage, careers, education, spiritual decisions, etc. Still, humans are given great personal autonomy and must be responsible for our own actions and reactions.
(2) The community angle. Much of the New Testament addresses the personal relationship of people within the community of faith. That there was tension in the internal functions of his church is attested by Paul's Epistles and the abundant instruction about the unity of the body, the danger of divisions, and the mutuality that defines the Christian community. At least sixteen "one another" passages specify these internal mechanics to insure distance between the fuses and fire. Over them all is the counsel to encourage one another, given several times.
(3) The societal angle. Most of us don't live in a vault. As Jesus prayed we're assigned a place in the world while guarding against being of the world. We're on the streets, in the classrooms, around the neighborhoods, working in office buildings, attending sporting events, and just living among thousands of other people from varied walks of life. We've been called a stew, quilt, boiling pot, and many other metaphors that depict our complete diversity. And, we never know whats going on in another persons life. Many of these people have their fuses out in public view. Some are mentally deficient. That's why we have road rage, senseless beatings, rude and offensive behavior, and many other crimes against humanity. Again, Scripture provides clear guidance for how we interact, influence, or are influeced by that world.
The killing of nine precious people at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston brings all of this into sharp focus. As I write this Thursday morning little is known about the killer, his motives, or many of the details about what happened inside the church. But, something lit that man's fuse and now the nation tensely waits to know what ignited his inner fires.
Instruction? There's plenty. But, here are five clear points---
(1) Pray. "First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayer, intercessions, and thanks- givings be made for all people...that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way" (1 Timothy 2:1).
(2) Practice personal restraint. "Know this my beloved brethren: let every person be quick to hear and slow to speak, slow to anger, for an angry man does not produce the righteousness of God" (James 1:19).
(3) Be watchful. "Be sober-minded, be watchful. your adversary the devil prowls around like a lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8).
(4) Speak wisely. "Let our speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may knw how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6).
(5) Be wise. "Jesus said, Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16).
Now, to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.