A Horrible Day
Last Sunday, as you’re aware, a horrible, horrible tragedy befell the little town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man possessed by demonic hatred, bent on murder, blasted his way into the small First Baptist Church and slaughtered nearly half the congregation, wounding most of the rest.
To be sure, it was not simply an act of rage against his mother-in-law, but an evil attack on the very institution she was supposed to be attending. The killer could have chosen any other place to commit murder, but he chose a church…during Sunday services…and came prepared to kill them all. He hated more than just his estranged relatives.
Last Sunday was a horrible day for Texas, but it was also a horrible day for the whole country; we all died a little that day; we changed.
The Aftermath of Debate
Immediately following the carnage – I dare say before the bodies of the slain were even cold – accusations began flying from every direction. One could even say that your’s truly got a little caught up in the accusatory stream. However, two main camps were, and still continue to be, the loudest: the gun control activists and those who are fighting to maintain gun owner’s rights. Now, I have my own thoughts regarding that debate, but even though it’s going to be the most reported, there are others worth noting, and one has to do with guns in churches.
Even before the murder of eight congregants, including the pastor, at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., I had been warning of larger-scale attacks on defenseless congregations. You see, it’s an under-reported fact that more people have been killed in churches throughout America since the 1990’s than all the school shootings combined.
Incredibly, even before last Sunday’s death toll, it was reported that over 690 people have died a violent death while on church or faith-based property since 1999.* And not counting the 27 at FBC Sutherton Springs, by “August 31 of THIS YEAR, we had already surpassed the number of VIOLENT DEATHS on Church and Faith-Based Property for ALL of last year (2016).”** Needless to say, getting killed at church is nothing new.
So, based on the statistics, increased hatred aimed at Christians (the most persecuted and martyred people in the world), and the typical soft-target demographic of churches, American congregations have thankfully now begun to prepare for the possibility of violence, and one of those ways is by facing the grim fact that stopping an armed killer may involve armed church members. What some view as sacrilegious, others are seeing as a God-given right and mandate to defend the innocent, as shepherds defend their sheep.
In my opinion, as the violence and threat of terrorism continue to rise, the debate over being armed for survival will narrow, and more churches will become harder targets, better prepared to defend themselves.
The Danger of Preparedness
But as we prepare our churches and faith organizations for the threat of violence; as we turn ushers and deacons into S.W.A.T.-like security teams; as we replace the “turn the other cheek” mentality with one of “go ahead, make my day,” there’s literally an even greater danger we may be bringing upon ourselves – PRIDE.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all for every church becoming a place where active shooters fear to dread. However, in all our preparing we must not go so far as to forget our Rock, our Fortress, our Shield, and our Deliverer. It is one thing to foolishly walk up to Goliath with nothing in hand, not even a sling and stone; but it’s a different thing altogether to assume, because of our training and marksmanship, our projectile will hit its mark without the grace of God.
In the 24th chapter of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles 21, King David sinned a great sin against God and did a seemingly innocuous thing – he numbered the people. In other words, he ordered a census of all the able-bodied fighting men so he could know how big of an army he had. But why was this so wrong? Why would that be a bad thing? Well, normally there would be nothing wrong with it, but David’s sin was that he thought power and protection could be calculated, even though Israel’s real Defender was God.
But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” – 2 Samuel 24:10 ESV
My fear is that in an attempt to protect ourselves, our churches may go from being fearful to faithless. When we get to that point, no amount of guns in our churches could replace the protective hand of God, and no amount of firepower could hold back His judgment.
Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.” – 2 Samuel 24:14 ESV
Better to “prepare to meet thy God,” than be so “prepared” we forget Him.