June 25, 2015

The Eternal Victory of the Charleston Martyrs

The nine Bible study attenders murdered in Charleston were targeted for their race but they can rightly be honored as Christian martyrs, slain in their church while examining God’s Word and offering hospitality to the disturbed visitor who became their killer.

Martyrs are typically pictured by Americans as only fearless, exotic people overseas, or long ago, targeted by powerful rulers or invaders, like ISIS, Stalin, Mao, or in ancient Rome by depraved emperors. But the Charleston martyrs were ordinary people, meeting routinely in their church, in supposed relative safety, doubtless never anticipating they would die violently, much less together, on a quiet evening in their beautiful city.

Likely their witness and example, broadcast globally, amplified further by the amazing worship at their reopened church, will contribute to many, many over the years and decades heeding the Gospel and meeting the Charleston martyrs in Heaven. Perhaps some redeemed souls already have.  

The martyrs probably never dreamed their example and sacrifice would reach millions, with eternal consequences for some, perhaps ultimately a lot. But as students of the Bible, they already knew that their God often redeems evil, horror and suffering, as He did most powerfully with the torments of His Son. These outwardly average people on earth now occupy positions of honor in Heaven among the saints, full recipients of divine grace, living in the mansions of The Lord set in a city where there is no darkness because God Himself is their Light.

Last Sunday morning I was sitting in a Holiday Inn Express breakfast room, where the television broadcast the worship from Charleston. Everyone while eating their biscuits and sweet rolls listened attentively and quietly, as the preacher effusively proclaimed Jesus. It didn’t look like any of the breakfasters were heading to church afterwards, but they got plenty of church there at the Holiday Inn Express. I doubt any hotel guests forgot what they heard, even if the memory bears no fruit until far in the future, in a time of need or urgency.

So many social, political, and sociological assertions have been projected onto the story of the Charleston martyrs that their own story as not untypical followers and seekers of Christ has been obscured. Maybe their martyrdom is only the small part of a vast historical narrative about race and oppression across centuries.

But it’s also about small acts of faithfulness that led to global and eternal significance for God’s Kingdom. A demented young man, escaping his dysfunctional family, pursued darkness, unable to find kindred twisted spirits, instead finds sinister validation on the internet. Committed to murder, he unexpectedly meets friendly saints whose kindness gives him pause before he kills, hoping to spread his poison through publicity.

His crime is instead overshadowed by the faith and hope of his victims and their church. We should join the families of those victims in praying that the killer, before he leaves this world, hopefully in the administration of swift justice, accepts the God whom he defied, and can meet in Heaven the martyrs he sought to destroy, instead falling before them in holy sorrow and recompense, honoring them as the instruments of his own redemption.

The ultimate story about the Charleston martyrs is not about the sins of a particular culture or nation but about the far wider and exponentially more powerful demonstration that God’s love is undefeatable, even in a hail of bullets. Whatever happens to their defeated killer, the Charleston martyrs will reign forever with Christ, in Whose sufferings they shared, and in Whose glory they now partake.

8 Responses to The Eternal Victory of the Charleston Martyrs

  1. Arbuthnaught says:

    One of the best commentaries on the tragedy that I have seen

  2. Jesus came to get rid of these Rabbis in Dog-Collars and you have got them in one form or the other to fulfil Matt. 12v43-45, what do you expect? They are greater hypocrites than before the arrival of Jesus. Jesus threw Judas Iscariot out at the Last Supper for he was a Thief stealing money from the Purse. People donate money at Churches; this Dog-Collared Priest dips his hand into the donations as his salary. No wonder a retired Vicar when addressed as a Vicar by the BBC presenter Nicky Campbell objected strongly and told him that he is no more a Vicar like a Policeman in uniform. All the life he was serving Mammon with a Dog-Collar making fools of the people that he is a man of God. In God, we have Royal Priests and they enjoy Fellowships.

    If you study the present organisations of the Churches, they are based upon the Synagogues; some are Pharisees and the others more than Sadducees. At, the times of Jesus, these Blind Rabbis had two or three divisions and today in Jesus, more than 300 Cults when Jesus proclaimed One Fold, Church of God, headed by One Shepherd Christ Jesus, our Bridegroom.

    These Churches are like blind men defining an elephant and their Dog-Collared hireling Priests are the most happy job satisfaction people fleecing the devotees of Jesus called turning stones, simple-minded people, into Bread and Butter.


  3. Russ Dewey says:

    Yes. It’s a left-handed compliment, as they say, but how refreshing to read a post from Mr. Tooley not poisoned by the culture war animus. Just affirming love and courage.

  4. Ch Hoffman says:

    you’re a martyr only if you have a choice
    convert or die – if you chose death, you’re a martyr
    but if your just murdered without any choice – you’re a victim, but not a martyr

    there’s nothing glorious in being killed for going to church; it’s as bad as getting killed for going to a movie theater in Colorado or a pizza store in Jerusalem

  5. connie-morris gibbs says:

    Thank you for this heart-warming commentary. Defining whom is or is not a martyr is not, (in this matter) an academic exercise. This commentary pays respect to God-fearing people who, in their thought-to-be protected gathering, paid the ultimate price at the hands of someone whom they trusted but was one who lived in his own dark world of hatred and misguided thoughts. None of us knows when our lives on this earth will end. But we do have the assurance, as believers in Christ, that the end of life on earth means that we are beginning our new life in Him!

  6. connie-morris gibbs says:


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