Our hearts grieve over the loss of life in the shooting at the First Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. While the congregation was being served Communion, a shooter took lives and injured many more. It is so horrifying, that we are compelled to find a quiet place for reflection. Why would this happen at all, much less in the sanctuary of prayer? In deep sorrow, we hold tightly to Psalm 116:15 NIV, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.”
But we must begin with prayer for those who have lost their loved ones. May the love and grace of our sweet Jesus comfort the grieving families. Somehow in the chaos of carnage, may they sense the comfort of the Holy Spirit. May they know that when words fail and the bottom of life falls out, they can rest in knowing that “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:27 NIV)
Dealing with the violent loss of a loved one never really ends. Just when you think you can get past it, another senseless tragedy yanks you back to the losses you have suffered. Those who have lost much, cry much with the grieving, and sorrow much with the heartbroken. Until you have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, you cannot fully comprehend the pain of losing a loved one.
It was Jeremiah who captured our trauma in Jeremiah 9:1 LB, “Oh, that my eyes were a fountain of tears; I would weep forever; I would sob day and night for the slain of my people!” Yes, even the patriarchs of the Bible suffered when the bottom fell out of their life. But God is there to catch us, and to hold us, and to gently rock us in His big arms as we grapple with the sorrow and anger of violent loss.
As a pastor, I have often considered how to react to an active shooter in the church. We formed committees, and made contingency plans. In some churches we hired off-duty police. In other churches, we formed teams of armed laypeople with permits to carry concealed weapons. There are no easy answers, but a demon-inspired society is forcing the local church to take steps to protect the vulnerable.
What happened to the church in Sutherland Springs is a wake-up call to all churches. No matter the size of the church, or the town, evil stalks good. In our hearts of compassion for the delusional, we must find room for protecting the little lambs entrusted into our care. Now is the time.
There are those who wish to remove the cross of Jesus from society. You may be surprised to know that Sunday, November 5, was the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Rev. Patrick Mahoney, Director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C., states: "Every six minutes a Christian dies for their faith around the world making Christianity the most persecuted religion on the planet.”
While what happened in Sutherland Springs appears to be a family argument, the gunman did carry enough rounds of ammunition to wipe out the entire congregation. That sounds like annihilation to me, and seems to fit under the category of persecution.
The Church has suffered martyrdom as far back as the times of Christ. Since Christ Himself, many Christians have been killed for their faith. The motives may have been different, but the results identical. Jesus said in John 15:18 NIV, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”
The blood of the martyrs in Sutherland Springs cry out to Believers around the world. Will we now hide our testimony in fear of attack? Will we lock our doors and become a secret society? Or will we become even more bold and outspoken for the Faith? The choice is ours.
It was Tertullian, one of our Christian Church fathers in the second century, who wrote in his Apology (Apologeticus), “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” And may it be so in Sutherland Springs.