A gunman stormed into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday. He killed at least 26 people and wounded another 20. We all have questions of course. Perhaps, like me, you first asked if it was another terrorist attack? Then I realized this mass murder occurred in a church. It didn’t matter whether it was a terrorist-inspired mass murder, many people were killed and so many lives were changed horribly forever. Realizing the shooter chose to kill in church truly hurt. Innocent lives were targeted in a small rural Texas town as they worshiped our God; this threatens everything I’ve cherished as a parish pastor.
Here are some of my long list of questions. Like you I begin with “why” and go from there. Why did he do this? What evil motivates a killer to open fire with a semi-automatic rifle in a church? The investigators are saying that this is a “domestic” matter, a family dispute. But how can anyone have so much hate to kill men, women, and even an 18-month old child, who have no connection to his family? Some say he was an atheist, but why would an unbeliever strike out in a murderous rage at believers? Did the church or its pastor have any contact with the shooter? Did they miss something? What can we do to prevent similar attacks?
One of the residents spoke powerful words on Sunday. While in worship at another nearby church, word reached him and others that a crisis was happening down the road. A deputy and the witness’ wife, a nurse at the local hospital, “went into action,” he said. “We just did what we do. We prayed.”
“The Bible tells us that we overcome evil with good, and evil doesn’t overcome evil,” he encouraged.
Those words of Saint Paul from Romans 12:21 are powerful. That is the lesson we can take away today from this horrendous episode of American history. I can never allow evil, in any of its infinite forms, to ruin my day, my week or even my life. Evil will not keep me or you from gathering in our church to worship God and thank him for the countless blessings he provides every day. Join with me in a recommitment to doing so much good, evil will not get a foothold and take away our faith.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:21
See you in church as always,