UPDATE: This article was written after the shootings in Texas on November 5th, 2017. This article can also be applied to the recent school shootings in Florida, though it’s focus is how people have reacted on social media. This article, in no way, wants to negate the horrible reality that victims have to face in light of these tragic events. Christians should also be moved to compassion and acts of generosity towards those that are hurting. Again, this article is confronting one, of the many, reactions that happen when tragedy strikes our lives.
Twenty-six people were killed while worshiping in Texas. This reality is unchangeable. The internal question that seems to pop up in everyone’s mind is, “What if that happened to me?” That question, though not bad, hasn’t been answered properly at times. That question begs for prevention protocol, for social media debate, and a thousand needed answers. Why? Because nobody wants to die, and nobody is prepared to die! So, many of the answers are: “Get your gun and get ready to fight back!” “Have police guard the church service!” “Have all the deacons conceal carry!” No one with a good understanding of Scripture would stop anyone from trying to protect their fellow man. Moving to the aid of those in need is definitely a biblical mindset (Pr. 24:11; Ps. 82:4; Jer. 22:3; etc.). It could even be seen in the sixth commandment that the Lord is against murder and so should we. Therefore governments have put laws in place to punish those who murder and we should actively stop someone who is trying to murder if we have the ability. This is not the argument.
The real issue I have seen is people taking to social media actively daring someone to walk into their church and start a fight. Churches have run to the police to pay them to stand at the doors and guard the service. Leaders have moved to have all the deacons conceal carry in order to fight back if attacked. This knee-jerk reaction is not what God would have us to move to first. When others are in pain, the Christian response is not, “how do I avoid the same pain?” These initial reactions are seen as acting out of fear or even, sadly, a possible desire for violence or vengeance. The love of the gun and the idol of “rights” has infested the mind of many a Christians. Even to the point that holding the gun is more precious than holding the Scripture. This is not everyone, but a lot of people who claim the name of Christ.
First, how should we think about these knee-jerk reactions? Simply, God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Tim. 1:7). If one’s reaction is to immediately run to find protection in every way that is usually a sign of fear and maybe even a love of comfort that someone doesn’t want to be disturbed. After nine years in the military and a long extended time in war, most people confronted with violence are not bold and ready to protect. There are far more people who will buckle or run when confronted with that form of evil. We need something more than tools of the flesh to make us fearless.
As far as the possible love of violence or a pull to vengeance, the Lord has two overall answers. The Lord has made it clear that “His soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence” (Ps. 11:5). This should be a shock to our system! God “hates” the one that loves violence. This also means that God will move to actively judge that person because God’s hatred is not stagnant or just forgotten through the passing of time. And as far as vengeance goes, Paul has rightly quoted that vengeance is the Lords (Rm. 12:19). If our hearts are acting out of vengeance, we are actively trying to usurp God’s sole right. We, as believers, should never try to take over what God has claimed as His.
Now, with these things in mind, what should be our reaction when tragedy strikes? I’m sure we have heard this a lot, but it is amazing how easily we can forget and not realize its relevance. When tragedy was brought before Jesus, His reaction can almost be seen as out of left field or even lacking compassion; but it is not. Galilean’s had their blood mingled with sacrifices and a tower fell on eighteen people killing them. The Galilean scenario almost matches what happened in Texas. Those killed were killed by someone evil and seemingly unjustly. But Christ’s answer doesn’t change dependent on the scenario – “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish (Lk. 13:3, 5). Christ looks at what we consider tragedy as an opportunity to repent. He keeps in mind, what may seldom be in our mind – “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23) and “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). Death is something we will all face. How it comes is completely out of our hands.
We are called to repent of our sin and turn to Christ. Christ didn’t give them insight on how to better protect themselves if another angry man storms into their place of worship and decide to wreak havoc. He didn’t give them a building plan to make sure a tower doesn’t randomly fall from possible faulty construction. He calls those who are alive to repent. This should be where we all start when we are faced with tragic news. We are not promised tomorrow, even as believers. God holds the right to end our stay here through any means that He sees fit. Jesus knows that life is too short and far from our control that we should worry about what we do to protect ourselves in order to prolong our lives. Our days are already numbered (Job 14:5). Friends, the lesson here: you are vulnerable now, so repent now!
In conclusion, we cannot change what evil has taken place in Texas. We cannot change what may or may not happen to us. We must use these situations as an opportunity to repent of our sins and turn to the saving power of Christ. We can definitely protect one another and move to save those who are going to the slaughter. But we must never be motivated by the fear of man or the loss of our lives. We are sojourners in this land. Here today, gone tomorrow. Are we ready to see God face to face and give an account of our lives? Or are we worried about whether we are protected enough to fight any incoming attack? Jesus was called the Lamb, consider yourself a little lamb in this world, ready for slaughter! Let’s, together, find the balance in these things and not allow the wild pendulum swing to take over. Read how we are to arm ourselves as believers in Ephesians 6:12-20. This is where we should be informed first and the Lord will guide us in the other areas as we look to Christ.