Dec 292019 6 Responses

Weep, Don’t Rejoice, at the Good Guy With a Gun

As a pastor, it’s one of my worst nightmares. During communion on the Sunday following Christmas, a gunman opened fire at the Church of Christ in White Settlement, TX. In a heroic act, church security neutralized the shooter within seconds. Gratefully, many lives were saved. Sadly, two worshippers were shot.

I don’t know if previous generations had to concern themselves with church security, but I know it is a common discussion and concern among modern church leadership. I regularly receive updates from our security team regarding who is present in worship services and what potential threats are present. I’m grateful for the women and men who are willing to risk their lives in order to provide a level of security on a weekly basis. I dread the thought that one day one of them might have to make a split-second decision to end someone’s life in order to protect others. I’m grateful to know they are willing to do so.

If that day comes, we will not celebrate their actions. We will thank them. We will honor their courage. But we will not celebrate. Instead, they, and we, will mournfully weep for the necessity of their action.

Lethal force is sometimes necessary in a world full of evil. It’s a tragic consequence of living in a fallen world. There are times in which some are called to take drastic actions to save lives. Law enforcement officers, members of the military, and even common citizens are occasionally required to take the ultimate action. It’s a part of life. The decision should never be taken lightly. And when it occurs, it should not be celebrated. (See: The Nobility of Police Restraint)

In Christian teaching, life is sacred. All life is sacred. Humanity was created in the image of God and that image is meant to be protected. While we honor life, there are times in which we have to take life in order to protect life. It’s one of the most difficult decisions we can make. When we make it, even when we rightfully make it, our response should be one of mourning.

What happened in Texas is a tragedy. Two innocent families have forever been changed because of the foolish actions of a criminal. That criminal’s family has also been forever altered. The choices of the security team will long stick with them in traumatic ways. And everyone in the room will likely suffer some negative consequences because of what took place.

It’s an event to be grieved. The heroes should be placed in the spotlight for their courage, but we must be careful to celebrate the people and not highlight the actual shooting.

The temptation is to do the latter. We are a people of vengeance. We want revenge. When a shooter gets what he deserves, we want to celebrate. But Christianity is not a faith of vengeance. The centerpiece of the Christian message is that we don’t get what we deserve. We murdered but we don’t get murdered. We killed, but rather than being killed Jesus died for us. (See: Your Unlimited Capacity for Evil)

We are a people of grace.

We also are a people of God.

One reason people are quick to celebrate the shooting of the shooter is that we often make force/power an idol. Rather than finding our trust and security in God’s grace, we find it in our power and ingenuity. When our safety system protects us (at least most of us), it makes us feel good. We feel as though we can protect ourselves. We worship power and when it protects us, we feel justified in our actions. So we worship more.

Anyone who celebrates a shooting in a church, even when it is the security team who shoots, reveals their god is not God. It is human power. But the problem with worshipping our ingenuity is that eventually, we fail. Many were protected by the good guy with a gun, but two were not. Next time, the bad guy might wreak more havoc. Jesus warned, “those who use the sword die by the sword.” (Matthew 26.52, NLT)

As I read the stories of what took place in Texas, my heart grieves for the victims. I’m grateful for the courage of those who ran toward the shooter. I also feel great gratitude for those at our church who take the time to train and prepare for events that we hope never happen at our church.

But we don’t celebrate. We mourn. The world is horrifically broken. We are in desperate need of God’s grace. This shooting is simply a reminder of how broken we are. To celebrate is to reveal our idols–guns, Texas, the 2nd Amendment, power, etc. To mourn is to mimic the heart of God.

6 Responses to Weep, Don’t Rejoice, at the Good Guy With a Gun

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