More than two-dozen people died Sunday during worship at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man killed them. Hundreds weep. Millions wonder why.
As a follower of Jesus and a pastor, I am feeling a deep mix of emotions and thoughts related to this shooting. What a senseless loss of life. What a tragic theft of liberty. What a disorienting blow to the people of the church, the pastor, and everyone who has found themselves swept up in the aftermath of this horror.
Allow me to process with these seven responses to the Sutherland Springs shooting:
- This shooting is nothing more or less than murder. Murder is wrong. It is an offense to our laws. It is an offense to laws of the Creator God who makes every human being unique and infinitely valuable.
- My heart goes out to the grieving family, congregation, and friends of the victims in Sutherland Springs. I can’t stop seeing their pain-twisted faces illuminated by candlelight. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
- Don’t send thoughts or prayers to the victims. They are ok. They are in the eternal embrace of their Savior. Their deaths are tragic, but they are at rest and in peace. Pray, instead, for those left behind. Pray for the families, friends, and the community. Pray for those who live among us in such darkness and pain that their minds are susceptible to the notion that ending the lives of others can give meaning to theirs.
- The day of the shooting was also the International Day for the Persecuted Church. Millions of Christians around the world suffer violence for no other reason than that they worship and serve Jesus. The kind of carnage we see on our screens, newspapers, and news feeds today happens every hour of every day but is unreported and invisible to us. Usually, persecution is distant. Today, it is all too near.
- God allows believers to go through hardships and persecution so that others can see Christ displayed through them. Every follower of Jesus has been entrusted with the life-giving message that the only hope for our broken world is for individuals to be made new at the heart-level by the power of Jesus. We believers carry this message through life in our fragile bodies. Why? As Paul explains, “This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.” How could this be the way to share the message? As if sensing our doubt, Paul continues: “Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you” (2 Corinthians 4:7,11–12 NLT). Our persistent hope in the face of hopeless situations, violence and injustices underscores the brevity of this life, the brokenness of this world, and the beauty of the eternal life that awaits all who trust in Jesus.
- Fear and bitterness are not a long-term option for followers of Jesus. My emotions, right now, are a churning mix of anger, worry, and confusion. It’s only human to react this way. But, the work of God in my heart captures those thoughts and calms them.In the face of fear, I know that God is in control. In the face of anger, I remember the true nature of this conflict is spiritual. We have an enemy who seeks to steal, kill, and destroy. If he can twist and torment the souls of human beings to pull the trigger, he will. However, no matter how murderous, people are not our enemy. “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).Our implements of war don’t fire bullets. We do battle for the sake of our families and neighbors with truth, justice, the good news of peace, faith, a mind that knows Jesus is our only rescue, and a heart saturated in the promises of God in his Word.
- I am praying non-stop for every believer connected to this tragic event at every level of community leadership that their words and actions will represent the God the shooting victims loved and worshiped.