Whether you regularly attend a church service or not, this tragic event brings to light a very real reality: something like this can happen to anyone at any time. There are so few safety measures in many places where people congregate that it would be relatively easy to kill lots of people.
Consider the Oklahoma City bombing, the Columbine high school shooting, 9-11, the Paris attacks a few years ago, and the more recent Las Vegas shooting. In all of these situations, the killers targeted places where large groups of people congregated.
Now, I recognize that these events have led to an increased level of security in certain places around the world. Some schools now have metal detectors and additional levels of building monitoring which didn’t exist previously. The TSA was formed shortly after the 9-11 attacks. Many sports arenas now require you to pass through metal detectors upon entry. And some of the larger churches have hired security guards to monitor who walks through the doors during the church services.
But the majority of places where people congregate still remain unprotected. What’s going to stop a gunman from shooting up most church services? What’s going to stop a gunman from shooting up a Wal-Mart? What’s going to stop a gunman from shooting up a lot of our schools? Not much, if anything.
This begs the question: How safe are we really? Are we actually safe or do we just feel safe?
How Safe Are We?
When we step back and evaluate our situations, we’re really not as safe as we think we are. All it takes is a split second–one shot…one wrong turn…one bomb–and we’re dead. It can happen to any of us at any time.
Lest we think all the measures of security we’ve put in place at airports, schools, and sports arenas are going to stop mass attacks, we need to think again. These measures are helpful, but they are far from being completely bullet-proof. If someone really wants to hijack an airplane, he’ll find a way to do it. If someone really wants to blow up a sports arena, he’ll find a way to do it. If someone really wants to get a gun into a school, he’ll find a way to do it.
How Do We Respond to This Realization?
Personally, it’s tempting for me to recoil in fear in response to this realization. Unless someone is trying to target me specifically, then my best bet for self-preservation is to avoid being in public places. Living in a fairly safe neighborhood, staying home all day would be the safest bet for me. If I never step foot in a Wal-Mart, school, sports arena, or church building again, I will have a better chance of preserving my life.
To live this way is to live out of fear; not just any fear, but fear of someone killing me. Is this the way I want to live? Do I want to live in constant fear of another person killing me? Or do I want to live in constant fear of someone or something else?
As those of you who regularly read my blog posts know by this point, I view the Bible as the authoritative source for truth. In the Bible, Jesus once said, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” How does this statement impact the way I live?
When Jesus referred to people who can kill the body but not the soul, he was talking about the Oklahoma City bombers, the Columbine shooters, the 9-11 plane hijackers, the Paris bombers, and the First Baptist Church shooter. These people destroyed a lot of peoples’ bodies, but they couldn’t do anything to destroy their victims’ souls.
When Jesus referred to someone who could destroy both the body and soul in hell, he was referring to God. God has the power to destroy both our body and soul.
When we fear someone or something, we live in submission to it. If I fear gunmen, for example, I’m going to live in such a way that I avoid being in places where someone may shoot me.
What if God calls me to move into the heart of a large, dangerous city to minister to the people there? Would my fear of gunmen be greater than my fear of God? In other words, would I refuse to go because I’m afraid of being killed by a gunman or would I go because I live in submission to God?
If I fear gunmen more than I fear God, then I’m a full-time disciple of gunmen and only a nominal disciple of Jesus. This is not at all acceptable to God. He hasn’t called me to be partially submitted to him; he’s called me to be 100 percent submitted to him.
What’s In It for Me?
If I were to end my article here, I would fail to adequately communicate why fearing God is so much better for me (and you) than fearing gunmen.
As I briefly mentioned previously, God can destroy my soul but gunmen can’t. My soul is something which, according to the Bible, is going to survive for the rest of eternity. In the grand scheme of things, this life we’re living now is only a tiny little part of eternity. I’d much rather have my body destroyed by a gunman in this life than have my soul destroyed by God in the life to come.
Furthermore, if you’re a Christian, consider this question: If right now you were given the option to continue living in this world or to be with God, which one would you choose? If God gave me this choice right now, I wouldn’t even have to think about my answer; I’d choose to be with him!
If you aren’t killed today, then you have at least one more day to participate with Jesus in his mission to make disciples. But if you are killed today by a gunman, bomber, or any other person who has decided to kill people, then you get to be with him today. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.
 Matthew 10:28.
 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” – Philippians 1:21-26