Faith, and my Smith & Wesson

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Faith alone will not protect you in a house of God. Dylan Roof, who fatally shot nine congregants in a Bible Study in a Charleston South Carolina church, didn’t start shooting until the parishioners closed their eyes to pray. So keep your eyes open when you pray. Closing your eyes makes you a target. If you do not have an armed presence in your church, you are simply not ready. Here are some tips for keeping your churches safe: Lock the doors (presumably after everyone is inside); study every person who enters; watch the parking lot; have Sunday school and day care teachers carry pepper spray; and teach people to throw projectiles at attackers. Oh, yes, and don’t close your eyes when you pray.

Such were some of the messages delivered to a roomful of mostly men at a seminar on church security in a prominent evangelical church in southern California recently by a pastor and retired police officer and members of the California Rifle and Pistol Association. The overall message was: should we come under attack in a worship service by a deranged shooter, WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY!

It’s hard to imagine how such a thing could go on in a strong, Bible-believing congregation without someone at least raising the question as to what Jesus might think about all this. I’m thinking about the Jesus who told us to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, if someone takes your shirt, give them your coat, too, and love your enemies, return good for evil, and pray for those who persecute you. It’s things like this that convince me that not many Christians, leadership included, are paying much attention to the red letters in their Bibles. 

Certainly these mass shootings are horrific events that seem to be occurring with greater frequency in our churches and places of worship, but is this the response we want? Am I going to keep my eyes open during worship and prayer for fear that someone will shoot me if I close them? Are we going to pat down all strangers and suspicious-looking people who want to come to our churches? (The more suspicious they look, the more they probably need the love and the hope we offer.)

“One of the faultiest beliefs among Christian people is this:” said the main speaker at this particular church security seminar, “‘Faith is enough to protect us from harm.’ That’s not true… Read your Bible. It doesn’t say that.” I beg to differ. I do read my Bible and it does say that. Jesus prayed in John 17:15, “I’m not asking you to take them [His followers] out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one.”

But what about those 26 people who lost their lives last November in a Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas? Did God fail to protect them? No. The evil one did not get them; they are safe, like they always were, in the hands of God.

And what about the shooter? Does anybody care about him? God does. In this case he died, but what if he lives, and is so overwhelmed by the mercy and forgiveness given him by the families and friends of the people he killed, that he ends up giving his life to Christ? Then the people he killed, who were going to heaven anyway, got there a little sooner, so that one more could join them forever. Was that worth the sacrifice of their lives? On this side of eternity you might say no, but on the other side, you might have a different answer.

The big question here is: as followers of Christ, what is the message we want to give to the world? Is it the fact that if you come into our church thinking you’re going to fire on us, an army of people are going to rise up and fire back? Is that what we want to tell the world? That we don’t trust God alone; we trust God and guns? Faith alone is not going to protect us, but faith and my Smith & Wesson will?

And when I’m unloading my bullets from the third pew into some deranged shooter, I’m telling the world which one of those two things I’m trusting when it really matters. “Go ahead; make my day!” Is that our message? There’s already so much of that message to go around, and we should know by now that it doesn’t solve anything.

Don’t you think that when you walk into the church of Jesus Christ, whether you intend to worship or blow everyone away, you should get a different answer from the one you would get anywhere else?

If we should lose our lives in the act of worship, it will not be because we weren’t prepared to fight back; it will be because we refused to be ruled by the fear, and we refused to trust anything or anyone, but God alone.

Thank God for those red letters.

Last night’s BlogTalkRadio with Doug Stevens
deals with some of these same issues.
You really should hear it if you haven’t yet.
This entry was posted in Red Letter Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

31 Responses to Faith, and my Smith & Wesson

  1. drewdsnider says:

    Thank God, indeed, for the red letters. One must wonder if someone who is of that faith-if-necessary-but-not-necessarily-faith mindset has ever tried to place his or her trust in God; or if at the first sign of a crisis they grab the wheel and try to drive the bus themselves. It’s the same with pretty much anything where we seem overwhelmed by the world and want to respond with worldly solutions: try being still, and knowing that He is God; try forgiving someone; try dropping the lawsuit — watch what happens. SPOILER ALERT: I’ve been there, done that, and it works — and I have to keep reminding myself daily as more crises emerge. On a lighter note, remember Tom Lehrer’s satiric songs from the 60s? He wrote one about nuclear weapons proliferation: “Israel’s getting tense/Wants one in self-defense/’The Lord’s our Shepherd,’ says the Psalm/But just in case – we’re gonna get a bomb!”

    • Good word Drew, thank you!

      Speaking of the 60’s, here’s Bob Dylan’s “With God on Our Side”:

      My name it is nothing, my age it means less
      The country I come from is a part of the Free West
      I was taught and brought up there, its laws to abide
      And that the land that I live in has God on its side

      Oh the history books tell it, they tell it so well
      The cavalries charged, the Indians fell
      The cavalries charged, the Indians died
      For the country was young with God on its side

      Oh, the first World War, it came and it went
      The reason for fighting, I never could get
      But I learned to accept it, accept it with pride
      For you don’t count the dead when God’s on your side

      And then the second World War, it came to an end
      We forgave the Germans and now we are friends
      Though they murdered six million, in the ovens they fried
      The Germans now, too, have God on their side

      But now we have weapons of chemical dust
      And if fire them we’re forced to, why then fire them we must
      One push of the button and a shot the worldwide
      And you never ask questions when God’s on your side

      Though many a long hour I’ve thought on this
      That Jesus Christ was betrayed by a kiss
      But I can’t think for you, you will have to decide
      Whether Judas Iscariot had God on his side

      And now as I leave you, I’m weary as hell
      The confusion I’m feelin’, there ain’t no tongue can tell
      The words fill my head and drop to the floor
      That if God’s on our side, He’ll stop the next war.

      (Or massacre. Or shooter. Or…)

  2. “God and Guns” by Lynyrd Skynyrd:

    I’m here in my neck of the woods
    Where God is great and guns are good
    You really can’t know that much about ’em
    If you think we’re better off without ’em

    Well there was a time we ain’t forgot
    You could rest all night with your doors unlocked
    But there ain’t nobody safe no more
    So you say your prayers and you thank the Lord

    For that peace maker in the dresser drawer

    God and guns, God and guns keep us strong
    That’s what this country, Lord, was founded on
    Well we might as well give up and run
    If we let ’em take our God and guns
    Yeah we might as well give up and run
    If we let ’em take our God and guns!

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      Amen! I couldn’t read all of today’s Catch! Because I think/believe this is a GREAT example of pulling scriptures out of context! Jesus NEVER met this red letter verse to be used when talking about defending yourself, friends & family!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • jwfisch says:

        Dear Mark: Please give me the courtesy of reading the whole Catch and then search the scriptures I aM speaking about to see whether the things I am saying are true.

  3. Sue says:

    Yes. Thank you. We have been given the right to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We responsibly carry which includes proper training and security.

  4. Gary says:

    I struggled for so long about the subject you have brought up in today’s catch. I’m resolved to dismiss the argument that Christians must follow the Pacifist way of dealing with the Evil Ones use of physical harm to anyone, another believer or non believer. I served over 20 years in the military. It was easy to see my stance in take up arms to help protect those standing beside me in the fight, I wore a uniform. The church I attend have a voluntary security Team. If you were to try, it would be a challenge to pick those individuals out in our worship service. They are willing to take the action it takes to stop the person or people who are intent on taking out any or all believers or seekers their gun is pointed at. I believe Jesus said for me to be willing to lose my life for a friend. Am I to lose my salvation if I were to stop someone from harming anyone? Yes, there are the Red Letter scriptures. Yes, you said that they can be hard to figure out what Jesus is saying to us. That is why He sent to us the Holy Spirit, to guide.

    • Mark D Seguin says:

      Amen, this is a great example of Pastor John lefties & pacifist beliefs – NOTHING MORE!!!!!! I often wonder how fast they would change if the guns were pointed @ his wife & children – it’s to damn easily to preach & tel others how to act!!! Put yourself in others shoes!!!!!!

      • jwfisch says:

        Mark: If the guns were pointed at my wife and children I would try and put myself between them and the guns and if I failed, I would mourn their loss, forgive, and pray for the shooter and seek to win him to Christ and His kingdom. By the way, I am not a pacifist. I support our troops. I am grateful for those who died for our freedom. I did not fight but I would have had been called. But we are talking about the church here — the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God operates on a whole different level than the country we happen to occupy.

      • Suzan says:

        I know this Catch struck a nerve for you Mark, and that’s OK; it did me too, but probably for different reasons. Please know that there are a lot of us “lefties” in this community, and we get caught up in labeling too. It’s clear we ALL need the red letters: left, right or anywhere in between. I pray this Catch community continues to look through the lens of love over fear.

    • jwfisch says:

      Gary: Of course you wouldn’t lose your salvation for doing what you think was right. I am asking that we think through where we put our trust, and what makes us different from the world. Our weapons are not of the world. They are weapons of the Spirit.

      • Mark D Seguin says:

        Pastor John I owe u an apology. Sorry 4 referring to you as a pacifist and please forgive me for that error. I think / believe I did the similar mistake as you did. In putting down a few of the points “… by church security in a prominent evangelical church in southern California recently by a pastor and retired police officer..” Now I don’t agree with every point he was making, but love to ask were u there?

        And if so why ask this: “It’s hard to imagine how such a thing could go on in a strong, Bible-believing congregation without someone at least raising the question as to what Jesus might think about all this. ” I’ll suggest he was trying to give points to help save others lives! And the others may have easily understood that!

        Also, although its brave of you to stand in front of your wife and children to try and protect them, if there was a shooter. I commend u 4 that… But it’s foolish! Because all that may accomplish is them loosing a husband & father. Much better to listen to the experts!!! Instead of attaching his points…

        PS and the best way to stop a mad mad with a gun, is a gun in a sharp shooter’s hand!!! Just like was done last week @ another High School…

        MARK: THIS IS JOHN. FOR SOME REASON I COULD NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE SO I EDITED MY REPLY INTO IT. JUST WANTED TO SAY I FORGIVE YOU!

  5. John A Fagliano says:

    Jesus said do not fear those who destroy the body, but cannot destroy the soul. I don’t think He ever promised to always protect us from such destroyers, He just said DO NOT FEAR them. They may get us or we may be protected from them. We need to trust God alone to know what is right and do what is best. Carrying a gun for protection is not black or white. It’s not something a Christian should or should not do. But even as you buckle your seat belt, lock your doors and purchase insurance, remember that faith must be put in God alone. Depending on God AND anything else is a compromise.

  6. Thomas Branscom says:

    I have to admit, I’ve never read the Sermon on the Mount as a collection of bumper sticker quotes to be pulled out on demand to self-righteously bash those bad Christians who aren’t like us. Rather, I’ve always seen it as instruction into how I should live. And it does seem to be counter to the prevailing culture.
    What if Jesus really was a great teacher, and the Sermon on the Mount was his logical, ordered presentation of what living in the Kingdom of God meant? Wouldn’t someone desiring to be his apprentice want to study that lesson, from beginning to end? Continuously?
    In yesterday’s Catch, “Love One Another”, you said “How many preachers do you know who preach from the Sermon on the Mount often? I bet not many. We avoid Matthew 5-7 like the plague. That’s because we don’t understand it.” I have to reject the idea that Jesus would have thousands of disciples ready to listen, and the greatest teacher spent the time telling them things they couldn’t understand, or do.
    With thousands of people in your church, hanging on your every word, perhaps it would be good to get real red-letter, and teach the Jesus lessons from all of Matthew 5-7.

  7. Carole Oglesbee says:

    Hmm – this is a hard one for a Southern gal like me raised with a better knowledge of how guns work than of how God works. Here’s a story for you. 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning. I’m having coffee at the counter of my tiny kitchen in my tiny courtyard apartment before getting ready to go to a Lamaze class to act as interpreter/birth coach for a deaf woman. Click, rattle, click. Someone is testing the lock on my door. A man calls my name and orders me to “Open the @#%$ door!” I recognize the voice as that of a man I had stopped dating about a year before. The door jamb begins to break. He’s getting IN! I grab the phone, frantically dial 911, knowing there is no way the police will get there in time. I run behind the kitchen counter and grab a knife (my gun is under my bed and I can’t get there now – this man is blocking the door to the bedroom AND the way to the front door – my only avenue of escape). I raise the knife; he raises a 9mm pistol. I duck, knowing that flimsy counter will NOT stop a bullet. Wait… there’s no shot. Instead, he comes around the counter and puts the barrel to my head. Well, I may go out, but I WON’T go out cowering. I stand up and look him square in the eyes. I hear myself say: “Satan can’t take my life unless God gives him permission. Do you have God’s permission?” These words did not come from MY head, and they were not directed to the human being standing in front of me. Every drop of blood seemed to drain from the man’s face. He shoved the gun into his pocket and bolted through the door. The police picked him up at a nearby bar about two hours later, with the gun still in his pocket and a round in the chamber. My God protected me using my voice to speak HIs words directly to the Enemy, not just to this man. BUT- had I been able to get to my gun, would I have used it? Probably. Would I have regretted it? I don’t know, but I doubt it. There is much more to this story and this man caused a great deal of pain to many people and to himself before he died a few years later. I imagine his death was more of a relief to many than a cause for mourning. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more anguished soul in my entire life.

    • Wow, Carole, your story gave me goosebumps!
      What a Spirit-led moment of mental clarity and personal courage.
      I’m glad you were spared to share it. Thank you!

      • Carole Oglesbee says:

        It still gives me goosebumps too, Bob, and it happened more than 20 years ago. But I really had nothing to do with the outcome of this incident; I certainly did not feel courageous or mentally clear at the time, and I don’t think the perpetrator had all that much to do with the outcome, either; we were just the instruments for a pointed exchange between God and Satan that happened to take place in my apartment. The ONLY reason I am here today is that my Father protected me in the midst of spiritual warfare that otherwise would have ended with my life as collateral damage. There is so much happening all around us that we do not see…

  8. You’re probably right, John.

    It was an attempt to get people to think or reflect.

    Didn’t think it through too well myself, though…

    🙂

    Bob

    Robert and Paula Smith

    815 97th Drive SE

    Lake Stevens, WA. 98258

    (425) 397-8100

    _____

    “If …you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” – Catherine Aird

  9. Gary says:

    I certainly have a grasp of the Loving thy neighbor and your enemy. Our battle is with the spiritual realm for which a bullet is of no use. I would take one in the heart to prevent my loved ones from receiving any harm, not to mentioning for a stranger. The thing is what about the second round or fiftieth. This has nothing to do with a chance to being a witness to a cold blooded ravaging monster with the intention in most cases leaving the ground soaking with blood. I need to be better schooled on what a Pacifist is. I was told a story by a Army helicopter instructor pilot about training a middle east student. While performing a simulated engine out emergency landing. When it came time for the student to take a turn to perform the procedure, the I.P. rolled the throttle back to idle, the student quickly threw his hands up over his head and yelled out “Ahlla Acbar his will be done.” The I.P. slapped the S.P. on the side of the head and yelled for him to take control of the helicopter When the situation reach the limit of the I.P.s comfort Zone. He took back control of the helicopter. Tried the procedure two more times and three strikes your out. The student was washed out. There is a good amount of faith needed to fly helicopters. Did they put the right part back in? and much more such things. I believe the Lord has set me apart from this world, Sanctified to His will through His Son and my Savior Jesus the Christ. Do I need to let go of the controls, yes with every breath I take, in every moment of my life. It is nothing to do with what I think is right. I look to see what he wants me to do, even though He has the controls. His Spirit pricks at me for a reason. I don’t want to let it go unnoticed.

  10. David says:

    Kind of makes me wonder why Jesus lost it on the money changers in the Temple and through them all out…

  11. Sandie says:

    David – remember…through His life here with us He had all the emotions we would have as humans. The scene at The Temple was the culmination of what had become of a place meant to glorify God; meant to be a place to reflect and meet God. I think it was also a wake-up call; that soon things would not be’ business as usual’ any longer. God will toss us out of our comfortable ruts – sometimes violently.
    On another note – after reading the comments, I have nothing to add but this…THEY WILL KNOW WE ARE CHRISTIANS BY OUR LOVE. Please refer to my comments on the previous Catch.
    God bless you all

  12. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you. I choose not to live a life of fear.
    Now to get the message to those who are not in the choir

    • Sandie says:

      Elizabeth – with all due respect – all believers belong to the same choir. We all have our personal, individual parts to sing. The song is always the same, but it changes too, along with our hearts. God bless you.

  13. Oreopagus says:

    The President Sang Amazing Grace (Joan Baez)

    Live: Joan Baez performs The President Sang Amazing Grace

  14. thesonsarefree says:

    You don’t hear about gunmen shooting up home schools, house churches, small prayer and home Bible study groups. It’s always the large scheduled gatherings in centralized non-profit / corporate owned venues. Does anyone ever question those “red letters” where He said “wherever TWO or THREE are gathered … there am I in the midst of them”? How often in justifying our “bigger is better” attitude is that scripture misquoted as “wherever TWO or MORE …”? If we do pay attention to the red letters, do we take notice of the Savior’s implication there? Is He telling us to keep things small and personal / intimate? And where the Son had 12 disciples, and an even larger entourage of followers, He was always out moving in the world, never stopping to erect a dedicated building with His name on the side, advertising times and dates for His meetings.

    Faith and salvation have always been intimate and personal issues, the result of 1:1 relationship with the Son – who many times in John said He would come to us and would be our teacher. John reiterated that in 1 John 2:27 … “you have the Holy Spirit … the Holy Spirit will teach you … you do NOT need any one else to teach you …”

    Could it be the root problem is that we have created a thing – a venue – a non-profit entity – a corporation – that the Messiah never intended? Are we now paying the price for our “bigger is always better” attitude?

    Could it be we have made ourselves vulnerable to the ills of this world, by imitating the ways of this world?

    • Very excellent and poignant questions worth weighing and discussing, thank you! You bring up very valid thoughts which I hadn’t considered but will now cogitate upon. It will be interesting to see what other, if any, responses result.
      Thank you, again!

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