It doesn’t take much for me to find myself identifying with the horrific situation at First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas.
In some ways I identify with this situation because I am very familiar with Texas. While I have lived in the New York City area for the last eleven years, I spent the first 33 years of my life in Texas. I am familiar with some small Texas towns and I am familiar with this area near San Antonio.
I can also identify with this situation because of the fact this involves a Southern Baptist Church. I have been a member of a Southern Baptist Church all of my life. I grew up with my Dad pastoring Southern Baptist Churches and I have been a pastor at a Southern Baptist Church for about 20 years. Some of the churches where I have served were not so different than First Baptist Church of Southerland Springs, Texas.
Finally, I can identify with this situation because I have a 14 year-old daughter. I cannot imagine the immense pain that Pastor Frank and Sherri Pomeroy are facing this morning. This couple has demonstrated tremendous faith and hope in who Jesus is and the confident Hope that we have in Him. Still, I know that their hearts are aching with the devastating loss of their daughter and the 25 other congregants who gathered to worship together this past Sunday.
Because many of us can identify with certain aspects of gathering as a church on a weekly basis, several people have pointed out that this tragic event could happen anywhere and at anytime. Yet, it has also been noted, that because we are a part of the greater Church, the Body of Christ, we are to identify and grieve with these dear brothers and sisters in Christ.
We are to mourn with them and we are to grieve with them.
But, there is one more aspect of this tragic and horrific event where I can identify. I don’t really want to identify in this way. There is a part of me that resists thinking in this way.
But, in the silence of this early morning, God has prompted me and convicted me to see that the same evil that was shown and demonstrated in the unfathomable events of Southerland Springs lives inside of me as well.
I could never imagine under any circumstances, in any scenario, under the worst of conditions, that I would be someone capable of committing the horrors and the atrocities that occurred two days ago. So, it may sound like an exaggeration to say that I can identify with evil living inside of me.
But, the truth is, I have done things that I did not think that I was capable of doing.
I have done things that I knew were wrong.
I have ignored what was right,
I have ignored the warnings,
I have ignored the Voice in my head,
I have ignored the conviction of my heart,
I have ignored the consequences,
I have ignored the people who loved me,
I have ignored the teachings of the Bible,
And ignored God Himself.
I have done things that I said I would never do, and not done things that I know that I should do.
I know that my actions and the sins that I have committed do not have the implications or consequences of those committed in Southerland Springs.
But, I also know that we have to be careful not to label or quantify degrees of evil.
The Book of James in the New Testament tells us that sin begins with a thought, and that sinful thoughts leads to action, and these sinful actions lead to death.
All sin leads to death. Every sin leads to death. My sin leads to death.
I hate and abhor the sinful and senseless murders that took place in Southerland Springs, Texas.
I hate the sinful and senseless murders that took place in Las Vegas last month and New York City last week.
But, I have no righteousness on my own. I am not better than any other person on this planet.
This is why Jesus matters so much to me.
Jesus has rescued me.
Jesus has redeemed me.
Jesus has reconciled me.
Jesus has restored me.
But, Jesus has also declared me as righteous. (Romans 4:5)
I am no longer left to my own devices, my own thoughts, and my own desires.
I am no longer a slave to sin and I am no longer condemned.
I am rescued. I am redeemed. I am reconciled. I am restored.
Yet, I can take no credit. I have no righteousness.
We should pray for First Baptist Church of Southerland Springs, Texas and their entire community.
We should pray for our country to adopt measures and laws to protect each and every citizen.
But, let’s also pray that each and every person will turn from the way that seems right to us and trust in the righteousness of God Himself.
As we are praying, let’s pray that people, that all 7 billion people alive on this planet right now, would experience the freedom that comes from being rescued, redeemed, reconciled, and restored.
Jesus is the only hope for Southerland Springs, Texas.
Jesus is the only hope for New York City.
Jesus is the only hope for the United States of America.
Jesus is the only hope for our world.
Jesus is the only hope for me.