A few days ago, a man and woman, motivated by radical religious beliefs, entered a meeting room in San Bernardino, California, and opened fire with automatic weapons. When they were done, 14 people lay dead on the floor with another 17 injured and dozens more fleeing for their lives. Yesterday, federal officials declared the mass murder an “act of terrorism.” Although there is no evidence that this act was organized or directed by a foreign terrorist organization, it is now clear that it was inspired by the hateful rhetoric and call of “jihad” coming from foreign shores.
Across our nation, people are scared – and they’re angry. Someone asked Donald Trump yesterday what he would say to President Obama about this, and his response was “You’re fired!” While some are calling for better gun control in America, many others (including Trump) are claiming that more people with guns would solve the problem of mass shootings. Let’s all get guns, so we can shoot at anyone who seems like a threat – including everyone else in the room who pulled out their guns to address the same threat. Or why wait for anyone to start shooting? Let’s just round up all the suspicious characters and kick them out of the country before they can do any harm.
In the midst of the horror and the hysterical reaction to it, there have been a few moments of clear-headedness. There were heroes at the scene of the attack who kept their heads and helped others get out of the line of fire. There were capable, well-trained officers and emergency personnel who responded to the scene quickly, helping the wounded and bringing calm in the midst of chaos. The two shooters were tracked down within hours and died making a last stand for their radical beliefs. Their home was searched, and investigators continue to work on tracking down anyone else who might have been involved and who remains a threat to our security.
I am thankful today for the law enforcement officials who stood before the press yesterday and reminded everyone that they were doing everything within their power – and within the constraints of the United States Constitution – to uncover the truth and neutralize any remaining threat. I am thankful for the FBI agent who said, “We can’t gather any information we want on people. We have to follow the Constitution.” I am thankful that our government doesn’t keep a list of all people who have potentially radical religious beliefs – because I would be on that list.
Here are some of the radical beliefs I have pledged myself to:
There is one God – only one – and he will judge all people, separating the good from the evil.
There is one way to be “good” – only one – and that is to be forgiven by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
The one true God is sovereign and is in control of everything.
I may not understand what is happening in the world, but I need not fear anything, because God is using everything – yes, everything – for his glory.
Jesus calls his followers to be radical in their living as well as their thinking by loving their enemies, praying for those who persecute them, caring for the needy, forgiving others, living righteously, and being joyful in all circumstances. For me, that means not carrying a gun, not hating every foreigner who dares to enter my country, not instantly looking for someone to blame when bad things happen, and not throwing aside the Constitution and all moral constraints to battle evil.
It’s easy to talk about love and forgiveness when you are living in comfort and safety, with the bad guys far away on distant shores. It’s a lot harder when the gun fire is in your own backyard. That’s when it becomes radical – and isn’t that what Christianity was always supposed to be? So fellow Christians, let’s be radical today – not hysterical, not hateful, not fearful – but trusting in God, loving others, quick to help, quick to forgive, and letting the people around us know that there is still light in this world and it comes from the one true God.