Enemies

Many people (not just Christians) are in shock today with the news of the shooting deaths of nine Christians during a Bible study in a South Carolina church Wednesday.  I hear surprise and shock, that somebody would do such a thing at a church.  We’ve grown accustomed to hearing about shootings at shopping malls and theaters, schools and on the freeway.  It seems so profane that someone would do something like this at a church.  After sitting in on a Bible study with the people for an hour.

It isn’t that there haven’t been killings in churches before, but somehow this seems to have struck a deeper nerve.  The randomness of it, perhaps.  I’ll admit that when a car sat out front in our parking lot for a few minutes this afternoon with a guy I’ve never seen just sitting in the front seat checking his phone, there was a twinge of nervousness as I passed by.  Does this guy have a gun?  Is he a copycat killer, ready to crash our afternoon Bible study?

Maybe.

If he doesn’t, someone else does.  Will they come to my church?  Maybe.  We get through the day by thinking that these sorts of things can’t happen here.  But they can and do.  I suspect it will become more common.  I hope I’m wrong.

And as usual, there will be the media circus attempting to answer the $64,000 dollar question of why.  Why this guy?  Why that church?  Why those people?  Psychologists will weigh in.  His childhood and family and education will be scrutinized.  If we can just label the why, then we can prevent it from happening again.  That’s the mindset.

Except we can’t.  Even if we think we know why, we can’t prevent it from happening again.  As much as we want a safe world with cushioned walls and no jagged edges, this isn’t the world we create each day.  It isn’t the world we’ve inherited, and no pie-in-the-sky mantras about imagining the reality you want and having the universe deliver it to your doorstep will change that.

Evil is real.  We may think we can link cause and effect, but there is a deeper and darker cause and effect at play that no amount of education or eugenics can breed out of us.  Evil is real and lurks in the hearts of all men and women.  Worse yet, evil is beyond us as well.  We have an enemy.  An enemy that hates us precisely because God loves us.  An enemy who can’t hurt God, so he busies himself with hurting what God loves.  You.  Me.  Nine people in a Bible study.

Of course it can happen in a church.  Of course it’s profane.  That’s the point.  To make us afraid.  To rattle the cages we build for ourselves, convinced that the bars protect us.  Except they don’t because the enemy is inside the cage with us as well as outside.  The world may not be willing to come to grips with this but as Christians we must.  We cannot afford to close our eyes and hum a happy tune and pretend that poor education or improper diet or inaccurate medication is to blame for these sorts of things.

Our enemy wants us dead.  Or better yet, cowered in a corner quivering in fear.  Or screaming at God for allowing us to continue hurting each other.  Followers of Jesus Christ need to maintain a clarity of vision that does not permit us to be bamboozled by terminology or the promises of campaigners or profiteers.  Our enemy has been defeated.  And this we must continue to proclaim calmly, day in and day out.  To ourselves.  To our children.  To our friends and neighbors.  The enemy is defeated.  Even if he happens to be pointing a gun at my head next week, my enemy is defeated.  I have the privilege and duty of living out this reality, which I imagine makes the enemy even madder than before.

Don’t ask why.  If you’re a Christian you know the reason why.  Evil.  Satan.  Lies.  You know the answer is not in our schools or our medicine cabinets.  The answer, the remedy, the cure is an empty tomb 2000 years ago and a formerly dead man who claimed He was the Son of God walking around again alive.  Don’t be surprised.  Don’t be afraid.  Our enemy has been defeated.  Don’t give him the satisfaction of your fear.  Turn off the news.  It’s good to know what’s going on in the world, but it’s sickening to bathe in it.

Pray for the families whose lives have been shattered so heinously.  Pray for the congregation that will never meet together without remembering what happened once before when they gathered.  Pray for the young man who apparently carried out this wickedness.  Pray for our Lord’s return and the final setting things to right.  Pray for faithfulness and strength and peace to wait until that day dawns, whether tomorrow or ten years from now or 2000 years from now.

Pray because the enemy hates it when God’s people turn to Him in praise and prayer and trust, when we don’t respond in fear and hatred and all the other emotions he would like us to.  Our enemy is defeated.  There’s no need to play by his rules.

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