(This started being written on the morning of Monday, November 6th.)
It is Monday morning, and all I can do right now is sit here and cry.
Cry over and about the shooting that happened in Sutherland Springs, Texas, at the First Baptist Church.
The 26 victims who passed away ranged in ages from 5-72 years old, according to CNN. Approximately 20 other people were wounded. There is practically no one who was not affected in some way, shape or form by the shooting, in such a small town as Sutherland Springs.
The regular pastor was away with his wife, and a visiting pastor came to preach at the church. He passed away in the shooting; as did the regular pastor’s 14-year-old daughter.
Among the dead were eight people, apart of the same family, spanning across three generations and including a pregnant woman and her three children (source).
No one in the church left unharmed.
I sit here crying, not just because of the sheer horror of all of this, but because these congregants came to this church on a Sunday morning, to worship Jesus and to fellowship with one another. Because it struck deep, and held some of the same similarities to my own church.
There was a visiting pastor at the church I visited, yesterday. There were about 50-70 congregants in the service. The regular pastor and his wife were in a different city, guest-pastoring there.
As we lifted up holy hands and sang together in worship, and as chuckled with each other through the funny parts of the service, the Pastor taught us one thing: God is Love; and Love is the highest form of warfare.
It is patient. It is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.
It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. It always trusts. It always hopes. It always perseveres. Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
The kind of Love Jesus has for us is Agape Love. This kind of Love is sacred, and selfless. Loving without ever expecting Love in return. This kind of Love is not a cuddly, warm, fuzzy feeling. Neither is it only an impulse. It is an action. It is a choice, to be made daily.
It wages war on the self, or as the Bible calls it, “the flesh,” which wants self-gratification at any cost to those around itself. It wages war on the enemy, satan, and on his schemes to steal, kill, and destroy others through sin, deceit and spiritual attacks. Without this type of love, knowing everything in the world, having the greatest amount of faith, and doing even the most extremely selfless things, amounts to… well… nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).
Jesus wins the war; Jesus, God, is Love, as 1 John 4:8 states (again, not the warm, fuzzy, super-tolerant ‘Love’; but the life-changing, transforming, in-your-face bold and beautiful kind of Love, that does not delight in evil or sin, but delights in the truth.). And, because Jesus is Love, Love will always win.
Over the apathy. Over the self-centeredness. Over the hurt, the pain, the anger and insult and tragedy. The horror. Love never fails.
Friends, Beloved, if we must get something right, let’s get Love right. Especially between our brothers and sisters in Christ. As Matthew 5, and 1 John 4, say:
“‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, “Raca,” is answerable to the court. And anyone who says,”You fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell.
‘Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
‘Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.'”
(Matthew 5:21-26, NIV)
“Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. … We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.”
(1 John 4:19-21, NIV)
That last passage, in 1 John 4, is super convicting, because the word “to hate” in the greek can also mean “love less,” or “esteem less.” In other words, if you do not care more for, and esteem your brothers and sisters in Christ as more than you do for yourself, you cannot truly Love God.
Harsh words, I know.
But in the wake of this horrific, horrific tragedy, I believe they must be said.
Because life is too short to not live a life of Real Love: for God and for others.
As 1 Peter 4 puts it, “The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:7-8, NIV).
There is a town in deep distress, right now. And many are right; people need to change. But please, let’s hold off on the politics and the scrutiny, if only for a day. Because wherever you stand on the political spectrum, if you are a true Believer in Jesus Christ, you know that politics cannot truly save people; only Jesus Christ truly can.
Instead of politicizing this tragedy, or making it about another gun law gone wrong, let us just sit. And cry, with them, and for them, as they face the most pressing loss they may have ever encountered. Let us love our hurting, reeling brothers and sisters in Sutherland Springs, Texas, right now, in the form of prayer, and of anything else we can give.
And let’s get Love right. Because truly, throughout all of our lives, He will win in the end.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
(Romans 12:15, NIV)
Do you know Jesus?
“Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!
Oh, it chases me down, fights ’til I’m found, leaves the ninety-nine (Matthew 18:12-13).
I couldn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
Still You give Yourself away;
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God!”
(Reckless Love, Bethel Music ft. Steffany Gretzinger)
Though this is just a song, it expresses the kind of Love Jesus has for us. 1 John 4:9-10 says, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Jesus, God the Son, gave His Life, and God the Father gave His Son, so that we might have a chance to be with God forever. Learn more about this reckless Love– and what Jesus has done for you, in His Reckless Love– here.
- For the members of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Please pray for the victims’ families, as they are laid low in deep grief, right now.
- For the churches all around the globe who have gone through the same thing, whether it would be because of ISIS, lone-gunmen, and/or the attacks of the enemy. Please pray that we would all stay united in Christ, and that we would pray for one another.
- For those who are feeling lost, alone, suicidal, homicidal, and are generally in a low point of their lives. This gunman was a violent man; please pray that men and women like him would come to know Christ before something like this can happen again.
- It has been reported that the gunmen spent a year in jail for domestic violence, by violently shaking his young son and abusing his wife on multiple occasions; but none of this information was relayed to police, which could have caused the ability for the shooter to obtain a gun.
Please pray for those who relay this information, and for any guilt that any person could have over not doing their job. Please pray that they would come to Christ, and would forgive themselves for any way they could have caused this.
- Pray for anyone in general who could have felt this way before, as well.
I love you, friends. Thank you for your prayers and support.