Reflecting on last Sunday’s shooting of a house of worship in Texas, it can become effortless for our hearts to become callous. When Jesus was prophesying the coming destruction of Jerusalem, He noted, “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). As in those days, so it can be with us today—that our love can grow cold because of evil’s successes. What we must ever be on guard against is our hearts hardening to such a point that we begin to view visitors as potential threats. We must exercise wise judgment, of course, but we can conduct ourselves in a way that guarantees our safety as well as remaining the loving congregation we have been.
When Christians lived in an era of unpleasant targeting and persecution, Paul still urged that they be given to hospitality (Romans 12:13). This implies being welcoming towards not only fellow brethren but also outsiders. The Hebrew writer urged the same in the midst of Christian persecution (Hebrews 13:2). What isn’t addressed in these situations was how best to defend one’s self or the brethren, though that does not mean that measures to such ends weren’t taken. The encouragement here is that in the face of bodily harm, remain Christian in actions and deeds. Don’t suspend hospitality because danger may lurk, but entrust yourself to God.
How is it that we can best balance security and Christianity? Any argument that the early Christians simply took their beatings and did not care for their personal well-being would be false. When persecution arose, they scattered (Acts 8:1; 11:19). Even on his missionary journey, when Paul was met with bodily harm, he would escape it if he could (Acts 18). This was for his and other Christian’s personal protection because this was what they could do then. The difference between them and us was that they endured an expected persecution because of their faith, while these shootings are sporadic.
Churches can make security preparations and institute programs that would best protect God’s flock. In the meantime, we as His children are to remain Christian and not live in fear, but rejoice in hope—the hope that was something to occur, we could be with our Lord. What worries me most isn’t myself, but those of you whom I dearly love. I’d not want any harm to befall you. Let’s remain vigilant, but also loving and inviting.