The horrific shooting at Umpqua Community College this week included the terrible twist of anti-Christian religious rage, as the gunman singled out Christians.
Nine people died, plus the shooter, and at least ten others were admitted for treatment. There are some indications that the Oregon shooter had many other issues beyond religious rage driving his deadly rampage. We don’t yet know all the facts. But eyewitnesses Kortney Moore and Anastasia Boylan, the family of victim Jason Johnson, along with Sheriff John Hanlin, and the editor of the Roseburg Beacon News, Davis Jacques have all stated the shooter lined people up and asked if they were Christian.
A local talk radio host asked his listeners if this were merely madness, what should you do? Is loyalty required in the face of psychosis? What of senseless violence? Does paying with your life become a senseless act as well?
Many show callers directly quoted Jesus in the Scriptures saying, “Everyone [emphasis mine] who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” The Message translation of Matthew 10:33 says, “If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?”
When I was a fairly new believer these verses changed my priorities in my personal and professional life in profound and lasting ways. Columbine had just happened and the story of young martyr Cassie Bernall had captured world attention with her bravery in the face of senseless violence (subsequent reports corrected the story as being about Val Schnurr who survived the shootings). Back then, I knew my everyday words and thoughts were not honoring Jesus Christ, and I feared I would fail if put to the ultimate test. I also knew that if I exhibited the needed changes some people were going to think I had gone off the deep end.
As I took my faith to heart, some did think that, and I’m sure some still do. My convictions cost me at least one professional postion. My very best friend, a fellow Christian, called me extremist for my prolife convictions. My family whispered that maybe I was depressed and just needed to get over it. And some just wrote me off. I survived. And it would be absurd to compare such challenges with the terror the victims in Oregon faced this week. I hope you and I are never put to such a terrible test.
But I also hope we will take seriously the moment-by-moment opportunities we have to either defend or betray the One who gave His all for us. If we are ever challenged for any reason to profess our faith, we must always say, “Yes, I am a Christian!” Not for the benefit of a madman or evil person with a gun, but to honor Jesus Christ.
It is a uniquely powerful witness to a watching world to demonstrate how faith in the One who made me extends to Him to also save me.
Persecution happens in degrees. Some pay with their lives, others with their livelihood. Whether you’re a baker who just lost your business, or a county clerk thrown in jail for conscientious objection, or a protestor resisting being taxed to pay for abortion. There are endless ways for us to indicate day by day that we are, in fact, all in.
So, where are you? I pray we will find Him and be found in Him today.