Not long after leaving worship this past Sunday we began receiving reports of the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. We now know that twenty-six people died and ten others were wounded. Violence once again shocked us and our world.
My heart was broken as I heard the initial news and learned more in the ensuing hours. I have been praying for the victims and their families, First Baptist Church, the community of Sutherland Springs, and the myriad of law enforcement officials and medical personnel working diligently to restore broken lives and find answers.
I have also been reflecting, not only on this devastating event, but the spate of violent attacks our nation has experienced in recent weeks. Here are a few of my thoughts.
First, whatever the immediate cause or motive for this or other acts of mass violence may be, the underlying reality in all of them is evil and sin. A life not centered in God and God’s will is sin and always paves the way for evil to manifest itself. The shootings in Sutherland Springs represent an extreme expression of evil and sin. Consequently, the ultimate solution can never be merely social, psychological, legal or political — it must be spiritual. The unique role of Christians and the church in these moments is to offer Jesus Christ, the one through whom God offers redemption and restoration to our broken and wounded world.
Second, the alleged actions of Devin Patrick Kelley terrorize us. I don’t know if his alleged actions meet the legal definition of “domestic terrorism,” but the news of the shootings raise up fear in us. We imagine, “What if it were our church? What if it was our loved ones and friends? What would we do?” The simple thought messes with our emotions.
Terror and fear can bring out the worst in us: anger and rage well up within us; unchecked these drive us to irrational or destructive actions; fear bullies us into inaction; and we may be tempted to use the collective fears of our nation to promote one-sided political agendas which fail to address any facts except the ones which fit our own positions.
Third, the horror of last Sunday’s events in Sutherland Springs, compel us to re-connect with our own faith and to find there a place to stand in the security the Risen Lord. Fear is a natural human response to events like the one in Texas. No healthy person wishes to die prematurely. Yet, neither fear in life nor fear of death constitute the final word for those who trust in Jesus Christ.
Two Scriptures have come to my mind in these last hours. Paul when faced with the possibility of his own execution writes, “For me living is Christ and dying is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). “Live for Christ without fear” is the first word for us today. Resurrection and eternal life form the last word for believers. The second Scripture comes from I John 4:18: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear …” Mature love for God assures us we are secure and safe in the Lord in live and death. Mature love for God moves us to love our neighbor. Standing in the security of the Risen Lord changes our perspective. It enables us to move past fear to seek courageous responses and solutions.
Finally, we can act. Offering the redeeming Good News of Jesus Christ in a world of sin and evil is our unique and first call; it is not the only action Christian citizens in a free nation can take. We can:
- Pray for all whose lives are changed by tragic events.
- Pray for spiritual restoration for our nation and wisdom for our leaders.
- Support medical institutions and law enforcement officials.
- Encourage local, state and national leaders to step beyond mere political divide and, where possible enact common sense legislation that will move us toward greater security.
- Remain alert and develop contingency plans in our churches.
Understand our spiritual context.
Conquer fear and terror with trust in Christ and love for others.
Act where possible.
MOST OF ALL PRAY!