Our response to the shooting yesterday in Roseburg, Oregon is outrage and shock. And rightly so. Such violence is unspeakable. It hits especially close to home when we learn the shooter specifically targeted Christians.
A young woman who was there told her father the horror of the moment. “The gunman, while reloading his handgun, ordered the students to stand up and asked if they were Christians, Boylan told her family.
"And they would stand up and he said, 'Good, because you're a Christian, you're going to see God in just about one second'…’And then he shot and killed them.’" (http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/02/us/oregon-umpqua-community-college-shooting)
Like you, I’m grieving for this entire community affected by this atrocious violence. Yet, this is nothing new. News reports on ISIS activities over the last year place the number of Christians and civilians killed for their beliefs at 24,000-170,000. Our brothers and sisters in the east daily face this kind of persecution and terror. The treatment of those not killed include rape, slavery, beatings, and actions too terrible to comprehend.
Even with all this, I discover I’m still surprised when someone doesn’t like me simply because I’m a Christian. I’m hurt and feel unfairly treated. But we’ve been forewarned.
Peter passed on the truth that Jesus taught His disciples, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name” (1 Pe. 4:12-16).
And Apostle John said the same, “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you” (1 Jo. 3:12-13).
We grieve, we comfort those who are mourning, and pray for the community so devastated by this loss. But we shouldn’t be surprised. Tighter gun control is not going to solve this problem, because the problem is hatred within the shooter, not with the weapons used. As long as darkness exists, it will hate the light. It will attempt to snuff it out. But the darkness will not prevail.
If we are truly disciples of Jesus Christ we can boldly say to the enemy, “Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us” (Isa. 8:10). And Jesus promises us a reward for whatever we face in this life:
“Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death” (Rev. 2:10-11).
May we all be ready for that moment when someone asks, “Are you a Christian?” Our answer will make a difference for eternity.