Attending church a risky business?
Who would have ever dreamed that attending a house of worship would mean potentially putting yourself in harm’s way, as it is today? 2019 has seen attacks on churches, mosques, and synagogues around the world increase at an alarming rate. Arsonists and gunmen are making an historic sanctuary their target.
Religious hatred and intolerance are not new to our world. Those of the Jewish faith know all too well the depths to which such hostility can lead. In the New Testament, followers of Jesus were also persecuted simply for practicing and proclaiming their faith, despite their harmlessness and contributions to their community.
How should we respond to this latest form of an ancient evil? If we either cower in fear or burn with hatred, the perpetrators have succeeded: they have disrupted our lives and changed us for the worse. In the Bible, two responses are spelled out clearly: that of government and of those who are followers of Jesus.
A God-given function of government is to “punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.” (1 Peter 2:14) Justice should be vigorously pursued and renewed efforts made to protect houses of worship, and any public place, from such malevolence. We have no idea the number of attacks that have been foiled by the vigilance of law enforcement. We are so thankful for the dedication of our local sheriff’s department to keep our community safe and prevent such madness from occurring here.
Individually, we should continue to worship publicly, without harboring fear or hatred in our hearts. Jesus told His followers to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven”. (Matthew 5:44-45) Only Jesus Himself can produce in us such a gracious response.
Jesus always showed compassion for the soul behind the evil deed: He died to save sinners (which includes each one of us). To this day many who seem hopelessly hardened are changed completely from the inside out by faith in Him.
As Americans, we practice three of our most cherished freedoms every time we attend a house of worship: of course, we enjoy the freedom of religion, along with the freedoms to speak publicly and to peacefully assemble. Let’s not let the madness of a few deter us from exercising those liberties; with God’s help, let’s not allow fear or hatred to win the battle in our heart. The apostle Paul summarized a God-directed response to ill treatment that’s so timely for us: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
Pastor Don Baumann of Hilltop Community Church is a member of the Carson Valley Minister’s Association.