Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we’ll be safe
A natural question to ask in the aftermath of an unspeakable horror such as the massacre at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, is: Why did God allow this to happen to his own people? Christians carry in their hearts the hope that God will protect them from such evil.
“Deliver us from evil,” we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. The idea of angels watching as guardians over us is found in Scripture (e.g. 2 Kings 6:17; Psalm 91:11; Matthew 18:10). I’ll be with you always, Jesus promised.
Yet this. 26 worshippers dead, almost half of them children. And this is just the latest in an unsettling string of church shootings in recent years.
I have no doubts that God does protect his people as they navigate their way through the dangerous whitewater of life. If you’ve made it this far, and are reading this now, then you also can likely call to mind times when were it not for divine intervention, you would have been lost. (I suspect as well that there are times too numerous to count where the Lord brought us “through many dangers, toils and snares” without our even recognizing it and thanking him for it.)
But I also know this about life – and this truth is supported by Scripture and experience – that not one of us gets a pain-free, death-free pass through life. All of us – including the lovers of God – are intricately connected to the world and culture in which we live.
When Israel was taken into captivity to Babylon, they were urged to “seek the welfare” of whatever city they were taken to, “for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer.29:7). The idea being that if their city suffered in some fashion – economically, or environmentally, or culturally – then all of them would suffer.
The time has come for every pastor and church, in the name of stewardship, to launch discussions and develop policies that will “harden” their vulnerability to such attacks.
First-century Christians were taught to pray “for kings and all who are in high positions” so that they might “lead a peaceful and quiet life” (1 Tim.2:1-2), the idea being that if a king ruled poorly or harshly, then things wouldn’t be so peaceful and quiet. Hard times and suffering would come to all.
We are each subject to the world in which we live. If we live in the Caribbean, then we will be subject to hurricanes, and those 200mph winds will destroy the homes of believers and unbelievers alike. All the citizens of Flint Michigan are still boiling their water, regardless of whether they go to church or not.
And living in a time and place where random gun violence has become an epidemic will wreak havoc on all its citizens, whether they are singing at a Las Vegas concert or in a church.
Not one of us gets a pain-free, death-free pass through life. All of us – including the lovers of God – are intricately connected to the world and culture in which we live.
Imbedded in these verses is a concept called “stewardship”. While God certainly does intervene in miraculous and wonderful ways on occasion, his ordinary way of working is through us ruling and managing our families, cities and states with the wisdom he provides. A person of faith who shrugs his shoulders and cavalierly says, “Oh, God will just take care of me,” and fails to act with wisdom and responsibility will not likely find God jumping in to cover for their sloppiness.
(Read Deuteronomy 19:5. Notice two things: a man can accidentally kill his neighbor because he doesn’t maintain the integrity of his axe-head. And secondly, God doesn’t step in and stop the accident.)
While prayer should certainly be the first response of a Christian to tragedies such as Sutherland Springs (read David French’s beautiful piece on the necessity of prayer in such moments), we must not stop with prayer. Stewardship demands that in our praying, we ask God for the wisdom to know how best to respond to this outbreak of evil, then act accordingly.
This means several things:
- The meaningful debate of how to best manage the nation’s private arsenal of weaponry must continue, no matter how frustrating it becomes when each side runs instinctively to its corner. And would to God we could pass laws not just to satisfy our conscience or constituency, but to actually make a difference in preventing future tragedies.
- We recognize that for whatever reason, we live in a time when random outbreaks of violence (and terrorism) has dramatically increased. A stewardship approach would want to identify and address those reasons (unregulated gun access, breakdown of the family, mental illness, media coverage, etc.), at least in the hope of handing off to our children a more sane world.
- But for now, stewardship also demands that we recognize the world in which we live in our decision-making. Meaningful gun laws that matter are still a long ways off. The Left’s Pollyanish wish of a gun-free America is nowhere in sight. So what do we do in the meantime?
It’s one of the only redemptive aspects that comes out of Sutherland Springs. How do you stop an evil man with a gun? By bringing in a good man with a gun.
Ask yourself: Why are churches, schools, concerts and city-sidewalks the target of choice for an evil person with a weapon? Because these are “soft” targets. Even a mentally ill person is still “rational” enough to decide this. (No one ever attacks a police station.)
The time has come for every pastor and church, in the name of stewardship, to launch discussions and develop policies that will “harden” their vulnerability to such attacks. Maybe a few years ago, such practices might have been considered a deterrent to growth. But these days, I am quite confident in saying that new visitors will increasingly want to know what measures the church has taken to address safety concerns. And the answer they hear better be more than, “Well, we’re just trusting God to protect us…”