I’m a Texan and a member of the Church of Christ like the congregation that was recently attacked. In fact, had my family been traveling through the area, we might have stopped and worshipped with the saints at White Settlement near Fort Worth.
The last Sunday morning worship service of the decade at this particular congregation ended in blood and fear. The gunshots interrupted something many churches of Christ do every week: take the Lord’s Supper. This memorial is a holy time of reflection, remembrance, and resolution.
Paul says it best in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26: “For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”
Who exactly were these Christians in Texas gathered together to remember communion? Whose death were they proclaiming?
Was it not God turned man who allowed himself to be betrayed, falsely convicted, and grotesquely murdered as a rebel?
Was it not a man who prayed from the heights of the Roman stake for the forgiveness of those who were torturing him?
Was it not the One who rose from the grave on the third day, effectively conquering death and our reasons for fearing it?
How do we reconcile the church members’ actions in response to the shooter with the teachings and actions of their Lord? Honestly, I’m not sure that we can. The 21st century, American, evangelical, religious landscape would be unrecognizable to the 1st-century Christ followers.
The news reports I’m reading are praising these individuals as heroes for saving lives, and no doubt they did. But is that what Jesus would have done?
Some might say, “It’s Texas for goodness sake. What did the shooter expect to happen?”
Who knows…No one will have the opportunity to ask him. Jesus’ golden rule, however, teaches us to do unto others what we would have them do unto us.
God forbid I ever find myself in the shooter’s shoes, but can I imagine for argument’s sake that I was the shooter? Whether in a drug, hate, or mental-illness induced firing frenzy, how would I want someone to treat me? As nearly impossible as it is to play this scenario out in my head, I would hope that someone would love me, their enemy, enough to stop me by any means necessary without taking my life. I would want a chance, however small it may be, for an opportunity in my prison cell to repent from my egregious act and find the forgiveness and mercy I would most desperately need. And who better to find it from than the people who follow the wonderful, merciful Savior.
“But what if you’d gotten shot and killed?!”
Isn’t that why we believe in the resurrection? Isn’t that why Jesus told us to “not fear those who can kill the body but not the soul?” If my faith is real, if I truly believe there is eternal life beyond the grave, shouldn’t my actions and my reactions reflect that belief?
Is there a point when an enemy is no longer lovable? What if they intended to harm me? I don’t think Jesus or the early Christians’ exemplary witness allows for that exception.
I don’t believe the Christians who fired their weapons loved this enemy. I don’t believe they followed Paul’s teaching in Romans 12 to “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God.” Did they act any differently than any other 2nd Amendment toting American would have? Did their faith in any way inform their decision to fire upon and kill the intruder?
When we as Christians find ourselves indistinguishable from the world around us in what we fear and how we act when threatened, our witness is tarnished and our message loses any value.
I’m not in any way judging their motives, but I do know that the decision to conceal, carry, and “carry out” was a decision made months, maybe years ago, and not something decided during the shooting. Was this decision made with Christian mercy in mind?
The mindset in which certain commandments of Jesus are set aside for the potential “greater good” that may come from “stopping the bad guy” finds its place not in Sacred Writ, but in Hollywood action scenes. Did we forget the recent season of Nativity, because we were too busy arguing whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie?
Yeah, maybe “good guys with guns” at a church kept more people from being shot, but none of the shooters, despite their intent when entering the building, looked anything like the One being worshipped in that special place.
What should the church members have done? I don’t know. I can’t imagine being in their shoes, but if I was, I wouldn’t have previously given myself the option or the means to shoot and kill an enemy. My faith doesn’t allow it.
What would Jesus do? I don’t know for certain in that situation…but not that.