And that just happened. An 80 year-old man shot himself and his wife while the couple was engaged in a conversation about the recent church shooting in Texas. And the location of the shooting was First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains, Tennessee. The irony of the story cannot be missed. I suspect USA Today ran the story because the account fits nicely with the mantra that a guns do not prevent gun violence. While I have no wish to discuss the political nature of this news story, I think we should reflect on the story because it reveals a spiritual irony as well.
As the very weapon that signaled safety was accidentally discharge, Christians were reminded of the futility of trusting in weapons for safety. Yes the deaths of the 27 church members in Texas troubles our minds. Christians should recognize that they live in a fallen and broken world filled with broken people who are capable of doing horrific things. Christians who value wisdom and maintaining a good witness to the world should embrace security measures and take steps to keep their church community safe. Churches that allow children to leave their premises without supervision are foolishly opening the church up to crisis that could undermine their ability to preach the gospel.
Though our protocols, security measures, and security personal are needed, these measures cannot be the source of our security and hope. Rules and safety protocols cannot the guarantee that we will never get hurt. We lack the omniscience of God. We cannot prevent all tragedies regardless of how much time, strength, and money we devote to safety. The best systems can be beat. Insurance companies recognize this reality and only demand that churches and similar institutions make a reasonable effort to prevent crimes from occurring. No group of people, systems, or human foresight can protect us perfectly. This is not a problem for the Christian.
In Jeremiah 9:23-24, the prophet warns us saying,
Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his strength, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, the he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight.”
The hope of the Christians is Christ. Our boast is not the gun that can be misused to shoot us and our loved ones. Our boast is in the Lord of heaven and earth. Our surety of peace and joy comes from him. And our boast in not a boast of earthly prominence, wisdom and safety. Rather, we boast in the fact that nothing can separate us from the God we love.
We should not attend church because our church posted a sign declaring that the sanctuary is full of concealed weapons. Guns cannot stop all persecution. In fact Christ promises that his disciples will be persecuted. Rather, we go to church understanding the risk because we know who Jesus is. We go because we have experienced the forgiveness of sins that comes through the blood of Christ. We go because nothing can stop us from worshiping the God we trust with our very lives. In Psalm 20:7, the Psalmist tells us that God saves his anointed. Equipped with this knowledge, we can confidently say, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” We go to church because we trust God.
I encourage you, trust in the Lord who never errs. Do not place your faith in the gun of your fellow church member who might accidently shoot you.
What do you trust?