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.