On a quiet Sunday in a quiet town in a quiet church in Texas a disturbed man stood up from a pew and with a single shotgun blast killed a man waiting to take communion.
That young man killed one more person before he himself was killed by a single shot from a handgun. The man that fired the shot that ended both the man’s killing and life has been called a hero. The entire exchange lasted 6 seconds.
That troubled man did not come to church to worship God but rather to scream out through his actions “I have been lied to by this world and I believe what I’ve been told.” A voice in his head created an illusion that killing others would bring him peace or satisfaction or fame. There was no truth in his mind or heart, only a lonely emptiness.
I must admit that I barely reacted when I read the news account. It’s not that I don’t care or that my heart doesn’t break for all involved, it’s just that I’m surprised that it doesn’t happen more often. Michah 7:2 says: “The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net.” Believers know they are targets of Satan just as Jesus was approached by Satan at the beginning of his ministry. Matthew 4:8-11 tell us “ Again the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory And he said to Him “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me.” This is the lie that that man heard through television, magazines and social media: “You cannot be whole or happy without me.” But because he had no foundation, no anchor, no relationship with his Heavenly Father he had nowhere to turn to hear the truth.
Situations like this always cause me to reflect upon Christ’s words; “You have heard it said, ‘an eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek to him also.”
A parishioner, believer and trained marksman did what he was trained to do; provide security to the occupants of the building. With one perfectly aimed shot he sent a bullet into the body of the attacker, dropping him to the floor and ending the crises. But should he have stopped the attack? Shouldn’t every believer in that building, in accordance with Christ’s command, have sat calmly and accept the evil to come?
Could I sit by and bless an intruder who violates my wife, who murders my family? Is that what Jesus meant? What should be the Christian response to violence they are unprepared for?
I carry a gun. Years ago a man that entered my family’s life as a handyman came at me with a knife. He relented but continued to make threats for months after and I have carried a weapon ever since. If I should find myself in a moment where I needed to use that weapon to injure or kill another human, would I be violating God’s will? I don’t believe so.
In Luke 22:35 Jesus tells his disciples, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals you did not lack anything, did you? They said “No, nothing.”
Then in verse 36 Jesus says, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one.”
There is no mention of what the swords were for so I can only assume they were brought for protection of the disciples and perhaps others. Christ walked willingly to His death because that is what His Father asked of Him. He made the sacrifice for us all. Christ, by sending out his followers armed, asked his disciples to take care of themselves with deadly force if necessary. He knew they were going to face a hatred seldom witnessed simply for following the Son of God and His directions.
Leo Tolstoy in “My Religion” wrote: Do not resist the evil-doer and take no part in doing so, either in the violent deeds of the administration, in the law courts, the collection of taxes, or above all in soldiering, and no one in the world will be able to enslave you. He saw resisting violence as something that would eventually enslave people in terms of military conscription or even service on a police force or as a judge or juror. I can see his point but I believe the evil we are to resist is revenge, not self defense. Revenge voids forgiveness, acting in a moment of terror to preserve life honors our Creator.
I think the saddest part of this situation is if the murderer had turned to the man he killed and rather than shoot his gun had asked for help I know he would have found it. He would have met a Christian who would listen and pray and introduce him to his Savior.
Sitting comfortably on a nice chair in a warm house with my belly full of dinner, my family safe and secure around me I could easily write that it is wrong to defend one’s self, but on a dark night when the front door makes an odd sound or glass breaks and I’m shook from my sleep with a freezing fear that someone unknown is walking down my hallway I don’t know that my first reaction will be to pray for the intruder. I wish it were otherwise.