“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Pastor Pomeroy preached from this verse on Sunday, October 29th, the weekend before the shooting at his church in Sutherland Springs, TX. The shooting at the First Baptist Church last Sunday, November 5th was the worst church shooting in our nation’s history. Last Sunday a troubled atheist killed 26 Christians as they worshipped. How should we respond to this tragedy?
Last Sunday night I discovered that the church videos their worship services and watched most of their October 29th service. The opening of the video was their meet and greet time. I went into an ugly cry as I watched my brothers and sisters in Christ greet each other with hugs and chatted about how each other was doing. Having grown up Southern Baptist and preached in many rural Baptist churches I identified with those moments and these people. I love those times. These were and are real people. These were and are real Christians. No doubt they have their imperfections like myself and our church, but you could see their humility and authenticity and love. There is a decency about these folks that some might mock but I find beautiful. As a pastor of a Southern Baptist church I instantly loved them from afar.
But, we should respond to this tragedy with shock, outrage, and even anger. This should not happen. We all should instinctively feel that this type of tragedy is not as it should be. Innocent children should not be murdered, especially in such a sacred space as their own church! Where is the justice?
This questions gets to the shooter’s atheism. Last year I read of a Christian theologian who grew up under Communism in eastern Europe. His observation was that the atheism that grounded Communism actually made society less moral versus increasingly moral because it devalued human life on the grounds of no transcendent justice. His point was that when individuals believe they will answer to a holy God for how they live their lives, then they live their lives in a more moral loving way. I recognize I am not the sharpest dude around, but it makes sense to me! Atheism can run the danger of devaluing human life. Hear me, I am not saying every atheist is going to turn into a murderer or be as bad as they can possibly be. Further, I am also not saying that Christians are as good as they can be. However, what I am saying is that we ought to celebrate ideologies that value human life and criticize ideologies as inherently flawed and even dangerous that diminish human life.
After shock, outrage, and anger I believe we ought to be sorrowful. We should weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15). One of the families in our town is related to one of the families that lost a number of folks in their family last Sunday. Our friends are rightly heartbroken at this devastating loss. We should have compassion for them. I think this incident is also a reminder for us to have compassion on those who are losing fights with anger and depression. I don’t know much about the shooter except that he was an atheist and that he was a very troubled man. He had abused his wife and child, been discharged from the Air Force, and was suffering from mental illness. We all have friends who are fighting some tough inner battles. When I have been depressed I can’t overstate the value of empathetic friends. Eeyore is the depressed grumbling donkey in the “Winnie-the-Pooh” stories. Eeyores, like me, can be hard to love when we wallowing in our pain. You know an Eeyore. Reach out to them today and bless them with empathy. You might be an Eeyore, keep fighting the good fight believing it will get better.
Finally, I encourage you to pray and give. Pray for peace in this town in the lives of these families. Pray for the peace that only Jesus can give (John 14:27). I also encourage you to give. The Holcombe family lost 9 people last Sunday! I am directing people to give to the Holcombe family’s Go Fund Me fund (HERE). We also appreciate the ministry of Darrell Horn and the San Antonio Baptist Association. They have set up a fund and you can give by clicking HERE.
If you are not from Texas then you might not understand the heart we have for those rural Texas towns. Many of us are from those towns. Many more are rejuvenated by them and admire them. Texas has been hit hard the past few months. However, the culture of decency and common-sense that we celebrate has shown through in beautiful ways. I love Texas.
However, my love for Lord is even stronger. As Pastor Pomeroy preached, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We need that truth each and every day, but especially on the hard days. We can trust that nothing will stop Jesus’ church (Matthew 16:18). We can trust that there will be a day when Jesus makes all things right and new (Revelation 21:4). We can trust Jesus because the hope of heaven is real today (Romans 8:18).