Last Sunday, the morning an international prayer movement for persecuted Christians began, a gunman dressed in black tactical gear opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. He killed at least 26 people and wounded almost everyone at the rural church.
As I’ve prayed this week for Christians who are victimized for their faith in Jesus Christ, I’ve remembered the people of Sutherland Springs. Growing up in South Texas, I drove by FBC Sutherland Springs on many occasions.
The shooting both horrified and grieved me.
This Sunday I plan to attend church, just as usual. You probably do, too.
Jesus taught us to live like people who cannot die.
Our Savior said:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).
Like it or not, God appointed you and me to live in this generation (Acts 17:26).
It’s time we remember why Jesus said the “gates of hell” will never prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18); the power of the cross is stronger than the power of fear.
Now is the time to pay less attention to our body and more attention to the condition of our souls.
Jesus taught us:
“Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
In this life, we may see horror, but we also may see miracles. God never promised us safety and security on earth. He did promise never to leave us (Hebrews 13:5-6).
On September 15, 2000, when Shawn Brown, my friend and classmate from Howard Payne University, was killed at Wedgewood Baptist Church, it was the first time I knew someone – a remarkable Christian – fatally shot while attending church.
I pray there will be no more church shootings, but the Bible warns us “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12) and difficult days will come (2 Timothy 3:1).
However, we know Jesus is coming back to earth soon (Hebrews 9:28; James 5:8; Revelation 22:7). Therefore, we must complete our mission (Matthew 28:20).
In doing so, we open wide the doors of our church and tell everyone there is a seat inside for them, too.
Everyone needs to hear:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Yes, I think churches should explore increased safety measures that could including paying for professional security.
Yes, I think Christians should support mental health programs and reasonable legislative action to help prevent future tragedies.
More than anything, I am convinced we need to shine God’s light into our dark world (Matthew 5:16).
So, let’s love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, just like Jesus taught us (Matthew 5:44).
The 2017 International Days of Prayer for the Persecuted Church continues through this Sunday.
May we all live like the Apostle Paul who said with peace just before he was beheaded:
“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and will bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever, amen” (2 Timothy 4:18).