There’s no doubt we live in a fallen world.
Do you ever feel like a sitting duck in such a world?
Sometimes I do.
In a movie theater. In a sports stadium. In a concert arena.
And lately, in a church.
It’s been two weeks since a black church in Charleston was targeted for massacre.
Nine Christ-following men and women were shot in cold blood.
Just because they were black.
And maybe because they were Christians.
Gathered together. Like they were called to be. (Hebrews 10:25)
Embracing strangers. Like they were called to do. (Hebrews 13:1)
Sitting ducks. Like Jesus said it would be. (Matthew 10:22)
What’s a group of Christ-followers to do following such an event?
Because I don’t know about you, but sometimes I just want to huddle up at home with my husband and my babies and never leave.
Sometimes I want to build walls around us – thick, impenetrable ones that no one can breach.
I think about suggesting a “Members Only” sign for the church doors.
And maybe armed guards.
I want to protect us at all costs.
Even if it means I wield a gun myself.
One of my kids actually suggested this recently.
“Why don’t you carry a gun, Mom?”
Yeah. Good question.
And I hesitated, because sometimes carrying a gun seems awfully appealing. But after a brief moment of contemplation, I spoke the simple truth I keep coming back to, even knowing it might one day cost my life.
“I don’t carry a gun because I couldn’t shoot someone else.”
It’s true. I support the rights of those who choose differently.
But in spite of the fear I sometimes face…
in spite of the evil that seems to be lurking in every corner and even invading my safe spaces…
when it comes right down to it, I couldn’t pull a trigger and permanently eliminate someone’s last chance at finding redemption.
Loving in Spite of the Risks
So what’s a Christ-follower to do?
We follow Christ.
Matthew 26 tells us that when it was evening, Jesus reclined at table with the twelve disciples. And as they were eating, He said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.”
What does the Scripture say next? “They knew immediately that it was Judas, because Jesus had never included him as fully as He had the other eleven.”
No. It doesn’t say this.
The Bible tells us that the twelve were very sorrowful and began to say to Him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?”
I can imagine their shock. I can imagine how it traumatized them. To hear that one of their own was a traitor planning to betray their beloved Master…they must have been horrified at the thought.
What’s most astonishing to me is that Jesus knew his betrayer from the very beginning.
But His disciples never had a clue.
Which means my Jesus, as omniscient God knowing the betrayal that would come from the hand of this “friend”…
Befriended him anyway.
Embraced him anyway.
Loved him anyway.
With no reservations.
No holding back.
No walls around His heart.
No guards surrounding His body.
A body He knew would certainly be killed.
He made Himself a sitting duck.
For love’s sake.
It brings to mind another group of sitting ducks.
In January of 1956, five American missionaries were speared to death while trying to make contact with the Huaorani tribe of Ecuador. Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, and Peter Fleming chose not to use their guns against people who did not know Jesus as their Savior.
And there’s a thriving church in that tribe today because of it.
And what of Charleston?
Dylann Roof has received a lavish grace from the families of the victims – people who have themselves been recipients of lavish grace.
He has been granted an exquisite and rare gift – one offered to an exceedingly rare few: forgiveness following the commission of a heinous crime. And in so doing, he has been offered another chance at finding the redemption his victims were blessed to know.
He has seen up close and personally and in the most powerful way I can fathom the power of the gospel.
The gospel that acknowledges sin and forgives anyway.