3 Thoughts on the Church Shooting in Texas and Christian Persecution
It happened again today. Another church shooting in the US. This time in Texas, at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs.
The news is still coming in, but so far it’s reported that 26 people have lost their lives and 20 were injured in this church shooting. One of the victims was the 14-year-old daughter of Frank Pomeroy, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. This is already the largest mass shooting in a church in the US.
Sunday, on the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, thousands of churches all over the world prayed with—and for—our persecuted brothers and sisters who live in regions hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Our church had a special time of prayer for the persecuted this morning as well—and when I heard the news about the church shooting in Texas, I couldn’t help but link these two events in my mind.
And I asked God, what now?
Here are three things God brought to mind that I know are true today—and always.
1. Darkness Is Real
We have an enemy. He’s not a fairy tale with horns and a tail. He’s a real being who seeks to steal, kill and destroy everything that represents the image of Christ. Every image bearer. Every Body that gathers. Every expression of His truth and love. The Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion, roaming the earth to see who he can devour. As Christians, we can’t ignore this truth. We can’t pretend like the darkness isn’t there. We can’t pretend like we’re not being hunted. Because we are. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s theologically true. No matter where you live. As Christians, we all have the same enemy.
2. We Are One Church
There are countless expressions of the Church throughout the world. House churches. Megachurches. Traditional churches. Orthodox churches. Organic churches. Churches made up of Muslim Background Believers. Churches comprised of Hindu Background Believers. Churches in North Korea that meet in outhouses and whisper their worship. But we are ONE Church in Jesus Christ. Because we are one church, we’re called to suffer and rejoice together. We can only do this if we know each other well. The more we lift our heads up to see the expanse of the Church throughout the world, the deeper and more accurate our worship will be. On days like this, when the suffering comes close to home, it’s so important to remember that these victims—and those who suffer all around the world every day because of their faith—are our brothers and sisters. Not some nameless victims, but our family. And we need to stand together in unity.
3. Jesus Is Still—And Forever Will Be—King
The darkness will never overshadow the resurrection work of Jesus. On days like today, when we remember our persecuted family—and suffer a loss of our own—we need to remind ourselves about the all-encompassing power of Jesus and His promise for the future. First, Jesus, our King, is present in this very moment. He is working in and through this tragedy to accomplish His will for the good of those who love Him and for His glory. Second, we know that anyone who is in Christ will never truly die because Jesus has claimed victory over sin and death. And one day, we know this…every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That includes every active shooter, every persecutor, every cruel dictator and warlord. Every single person throughout the entirety of history. No one is exempt.
With these truths in mind, I ask you to join me in prayer for our persecuted family—both those in Sutherland Springs Texas and those in the depths of the Middle East, Asia, North Korea and anywhere in the world where Christians face persecution for the name of Jesus.
Father, we come to you in brokenness today and ask you to comfort the victim’s families in Sutherland Springs. Please wrap your arms around this church family—our family—with the grace, mercy and power of the Holy Spirit. In the days ahead, we ask you to continue to walk with our brothers and sisters and guide them into your peace. Father, on this day—the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church—we also remember our brothers and sisters all around the world who have counted the cost and decided to follow you in the face of great suffering and loss because you’re worth it. We ask that you would give our persecuted family the hope and courage they need to stay strong, to remain powerful witnesses and to persevere to the end.
We pray all of this in your Holy Name, Amen.