By Steve Horn
One month ago, on the Monday morning after the massacre in Las Vegas and the shooting of a police officer in my city, I wrote these words with the title, “No Words.”
I try to write a short piece of devotion, message, and reflection daily. As I often remark, “It’s only hard if I don’t have anything to say.” Words are hard to find this morning. The latest information on the Las Vegas massacre is over 50 dead and over 400 injured. Those numbers are staggering. No words. In my own beloved city of Lafayette, we woke to the news that a Lafayette Policeman was killed last night responding to a robbery. There was another murder last night. Friday night a couple was killed in the parking lot of IHOP. No words. Senseless. Evil. Those words, though true, fall short.
And, here we are one month later with a horrific mass murder in a church. A First Baptist Church—just like the name of our church. No Words!
I just heard a news anchor say, “Thank you for joining us tonight. We are here to tell you everything you need to know regarding the church shooting in Texas.”
Really? Everything I need to know? Not hardly. The news anchor might be able to tell me all he knows. He might be telling me the statistics of how many, where it happened, then names of the victims, and the names of the perpetrator, but he will hardly give me everything I need to know.
I need to know more. Why? Why these people? Why this town? Why this church? The news anchor wanted to supply me with information, not answers.
For these questions, there are few answers, and we make a grave mistake when we try to answer. Ask Job and his friends.
Read Job 38-42. I will give you the first seven verses of chapter 38.
Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind. He said:
2 Who is this who obscures My counsel
with ignorant words?
3 Get ready to answer Me like a man;
when I question you, you will inform Me.
4 Where were you when I established the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who fixed its dimensions? Certainly you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 What supports its foundations?
Or who laid its cornerstone
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the sons of God shouted for joy?
Job got the message. We see his brief response at the beginning of chapter 40.
3 Then Job answered the LORD:
4 I am so insignificant. How can I answer You?
I place my hand over my mouth.
5 I have spoken once, and I will not reply;
twice, but now I can add nothing.
And so, we learn from Job. Sometimes it is best to say nothing at all. We let God speak. We let God speak when we let His Word speak.
In times of crisis, one of my “go to” places of Scripture is Hebrews. Hebrews was written to a people in crisis. The book gives us a constant theme of encouragement to endure. The closing chapters give us an exhortation of how to respond.
Keep Looking to Jesus!
Hebrews 12:2 calls him the author and finisher of our faith. I don’t know what people do in these times without Jesus. We will look to Him! We will look to Him in prayer. We will look to Him for hope.
Keep Praising Jesus!
Hebrews 12:28 says that we must serve God with reverence and awe. I need to worship today more than ever. I find that when I worship, I worry less. It’s impossible to worry and worship at the same time.
But worship is more than what is obvious. In addition to praising God in formal and informal times of worship, chapter 13 reveals that worship is revealed in our public actions like loving fellow Christians, strangers, and sufferers. Worship doesn’t stop there. We also reveal our worship in our personal actions as in our marriages and with our money (Hebrews 13:4-5)
Keep Pouring over the Scriptures!
Hebrews 13:7-9 indicates a third response. We need to let the word of God come in to our lives. We can do this by paying attention to our spiritual leaders (13:7), to the changeless words of Jesus (13:8), and to the basic doctrines. (13:9)
Many will appear with deceptive words in these last days, so we must know well the Word of God.
Keep preaching about Jesus!
Finally, we respond to crisis by letting our witness go out.
Jesus was led out of Jerusalem. He was rejected by the establishment. Jesus now calls us to go outside the camp. The unshaken kingdom has its future not inside, but outside the camp.
A world in crisis can ill afford a church that remains in camp. Instead, we must go outside the camp.
We, like Jesus, must be willing to bear the burden and bear the reproach. Our world desperately needs Jesus.
The answers to Sutherland Springs are not so much in what we say in the next days, but in what we do.
Steve Horn is pastor of First Baptist Church in Lafayette and a former Louisiana Baptist Convention president. This editorial first appeared in Horn’s blog.