Worship Shootings – A Hard Conversation that is More than Thoughts and Prayers

Followers of Jesus Christ should be having some hard conversations with God and within their congregations in the wake of the New Zealand Mosque shooting.

We live in times when worshipers have been gunned down in mosques, synagogues, and churches. How, then, shall the followers of Christ respond?

First, let us confirm on every level and at every opportunity that there is no Scriptural support for hate. Those who follow Jesus Christ are called to love God, love our neighbors, love the brotherhood of believers, love our enemies, love those who persecute us, and, indeed, love the world. That leaves no room for exceptions or doubt. Far from the aisles of politics and regardless of what our governments choose to do, we – Jesus-followers- are commanded to offer hospitality to the stranger in our midst and to love at all time – even under fire.

 

Our God loves with a love that lays down its life – not one that takes them in hate. We must lose our distaste of distinguishing for the world that not every person who identifies as a Christian is following Jesus. It’s not our job to judge the world, but it is our job to discipline our own house.

To love others is not the same as telling them they are right. We can love people of other faiths while still holding forth the truth of ours. We can love those who pose as sheep but reveal themselves to be wolves while still setting boundaries around their behavior and distinguishing them for true models of Christ. In fact, it is often loves job to say the hardest thing and so, we, the church of these times, must rise to this task and speak now.

Second, let us ask ourselves (and then act on our answers) how we, as Jesus-followers, can show the love of Jesus to people of other faiths who have experienced this pain of murderers targeting their sanctuaries? May I suggest we grieve and mourn with them? May I suggest we offer to stand watch by the doors of their places of worship? May I suggest we pray for them, befriend them, ask how we can serve them, listen to their sorrow and pain, and speak up for them in the marketplace of ideas? May I suggest we demonstrate a fearlessness about continuing to love in times of hatred that stems from our deep trust that Jesus is our ultimate deliverer?

Third, let us consider what we are doing – both as individuals and as congregations – to outreach the angry young men and women of our times? What are we doing to reach those who feel hatred is the answer? Those who feel disenfranchised, powerless, isolated, overlooked, hopeless, full of rage, and lost – are we doing all we can to find them and demonstrate love to them?

Because I promise you this – the enemy of God is investing considerable time, energy, and resources to find them, to reach them, and to weaponize them. He and his forces are on every street corner, every dark website, every chat room and subversive YouTube channel and coffee shop. They are delivering deception with a zeal that proves they understand the battle for souls in a way we’d better start to grasp.

Let us act. Let us talk with the young people in our midst and ask them to help us find those who are at risk of becoming the next angry shooter. Let us use every ounce of creativity, every resource, every prayer, every pizza parlor and coffee shop at our command to tell them there is another way and there is a place where they can find identity, belonging, and a role in a greater story.

We have an opportunity to live without fear in fearful times. We have an opportunity to love freely in days when hate would rule. We have an opportunity to unleash our worship from within the walls of our churches and let it march in the streets to announce that yes, there are shooters in our midst, but our God is still on the throne.

He is coming again, and the tensions and disruptions will increase until that day, but we will not fear. Billy Graham is quotes as having said, “The will of God will not take us where the grace of God cannot sustain us.” The increasing danger of our times should not inspire us to fear, but to press in to Jesus as we never have be before and to live and love boldly in His name.

If not now, then when, loved ones? Let us learn to love under fire.

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8 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Nico van der Merwe says:

    Thank you Lori – brilliantly said.

  2. Kathy says:

    Lori, you bring up so many things I’ve been considering, especially lately: the difference between those who call themselves Christians and those who follow Jesus, that it is not our job to judge the world but it is our job to discipline our own house, and the need to reach out to angry (young) men and women. I made “young” parenthetical because reaching out isn’t limited to the young — there are so many angry people of all ages now. I sincerely pray these acts of violence will spur us to not “react” but rather to pray and act as the best representatives of Christ we can possibly be. Thank you for shining the spotlight on the hard things we must take very seriously in these days.

  3. Tammy Whitehurst says:

    My Grandmother was shot down and killed along with 4 others who died in the Daingerfield, Texas FBC church killings in 1980. Many were injured. The first of its kind that people had heard of. It was a hate crime and so many lives were forever changed that day. This article was written well, my friend.

  4. Sally Barker says:

    Challenging and convicting. Thank you.

  5. Jessica White says:

    This is my heart as well. I have friends of different faiths and in my prayer times with God, I know He is seeking after them through the example of my genuine concern and love for them. We definitely can grieve together, look out for one another. As for reaching out to those who are angry and feel disenfranchised, I definitely feel this is an area the church as a whole could work on. So often we cast them out of our congregations instead of surrounding them and listening and loving on them.

  6. Sherry Carter says:

    So well said, Lori! Several weeks ago, I heard a report that Russia, in 2017, outlawed the Jehovah’s Witness faith and labeled them as an extremist cult. People of this faith have been imprisoned and tortured.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/06/world/europe/russia-jehovah-witnesses.html

    When I expressed my outrage and fear at this, I got blank looks. Yes, I know they are not Christ-followers but, anytime a faith is persecuted, every faith is persecuted. Anytime a faith is outlawed, all other faiths are on the brink of being outlawed. Only when I mentioned that this could lead to the outlaw of our faith as well did I get any response.

    This breaks my heart. We expect the world to be outraged when Christians are persecuted and executed but we turn our backs when other faiths are treated the same way.

    Those of us old enough to remember the USSR and the outlawing of all faiths should feel a cold shiver in our hearts.

  7. Lyn says:

    The best. Love your blog. Grateful for your voice.

  8. Jim Klock says:

    Well said, Lori. Thanks for your keen perspective. We need to be salt and light, in this very dark world.