I know you’re as saddened as I am about what just happened at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX. There are really no words to express the horror of this heartbreaking event that took the lives of a reported 4% of the town’s population. This tragedy is a continuation of shootings of recent months and years in places of worship … a September 2017 church shooting in Antioch, TN; a June 2015 shooting in an Charleston, SC church; a 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee. Of course, Birmingham itself has history of church violence with the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
What are we to do? How are we to think? Is there a correct response? Is there something we can do to insure something like this never happens here? These and other questions are above my pay-grade. Though I wish there was an easy answer to this I just don’t think there is. And while I wish there was a manual on how to prevent tragedy like this from ever impacting our own community, that manual doesn’t exist. We live in a broken world and while I’m certainly not even remotely trying to minimize this tragedy, things like this have happened, are happening, and will happen this side of glory.
So what should we do? I think the first thing is to pray … pray for the families, the church, the law enforcement, and the community affected by this shooting. Pray for God’s grace to be poured out in abundance.
Let’s also pray for ourselves during a time when we perhaps feel a bit more vulnerable, confused, and anxious. Let’s pray that our Father would comfort us and give us grace as we move forward. This should not cause us to live in fear. We shouldn’t count this as some sort of persecution against the church … that persecution may likely come in due time, but this isn’t a part of it. Nearly half of the offenders in shootings such as this know their victims; it’s often related to some other sort of dispute, perhaps a domestic issue. Places of worship tend to be rather easy venues to carry out these attacks. So let’s not fear coming to public worship, but rather let’s be watchful and use good sense. In fact, this may even be an opportunity for us as Christians in America to be even bolder in our attendance. We believe God is our refuge and fortress and that “He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven.” (Heidelberg Catechism)
And let us go forward in hope, knowing that evil doesn’t get the last word, not in this case or in any other. The cross and the resurrection demonstrate that sin, evil, and death has been defeated … and His imminent return will complete this victory!
Revelation 22:20-21 – “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”