I know what it is to be tormented by fear.
I may be what some term a “high functioning” anxious person, but there’s a reason I take medication every night and have done two rounds of therapy. My own brain is the enemy. If I did not choose to engage in battle with it each day, I could easily succumb to agoraphobia. (In no way am I belittling people who do suffer with this condition). There are days, more than I’d care to count or admit to, when I have to speak thusly to myself:
Okay, it’s time to get out of bed. You can do that.
Make the bed. You’ll feel better if the bedroom is tidy.
What kind of exercise can you handle today? A nice walk?
Make sure to drink your protein shake.
It would be so easy to stay hidden under a pile of blankets. But that’s no kind of life. Though I am a peace-loving person, I have learned that I am a fighter. I’m not going to let a broken brain and negative thinking destroy me. That’s not who God made me to be. By the power of His Spirit living within, I get up. I keep going.
Yesterday nearly half the congregation at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas was murdered. The youngest victim was just 18 months old. The people had gathered together, as they have every week, to worship and learn. It was an ordinary Sunday. I doubt that any of the imagined that their time on this earth had come to an end. The 20 wounded, 10 of whom remain in critical condition, are left to grapple with forever life-altering trauma.
Because an angry man with some guns decided to take vengeance.
There are no words for this, but people speak anyway. The loudest voices say that things like this wouldn’t happen if everyone knew that everyone was “packing heat.”
Bringing a gun to church is like hiding under a pile of blankets.
Fear is of the Devil. He delights when we are suspicious. He laughs when we shy away from strangers and cast them as “the other.” He gets a whole lot of mileage out of us believing that we have any control over the hour and manner of our death. He wants us to build walls of self-protection that keep us from engaging the wider world.
He wants us to be spiritually agoraphobic.
We mustn’t give in.
Men and women of God all around the world sit in jail cells, submitted to tortures we cannot even begin to dream up. Their families shun them. Merchants won’t sell to them. Still, they keep going. They preach the Gospel to their persecutors. They risk everything just to own one page of the Scriptures we dismiss as boring and irrelevant. They gather together in war-torn towns and sing praises to His Name. Some pay the ultimate price for their faith.
They must be our example.
Buildings where the church comes together don’t need to be surrounded by barbed wire and guarded by big men with rifles. Nor should members of the Body give way to fear and bring weapons into houses of worship. Our mission is not to counter violence with violence. It’s not to believe the lie that we’re safe only if certain conditions are met. Our mission is to share the Gospel. That means leaving the doors unlocked and opening our arms to whoever comes inside.
That means faith, not fear.
…the fruit of the Spirit is…peace…
…blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…
Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord…
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
– Galatians 5:22; Philippians 2:15; Hebrews 12:14; 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NKJV)