Yesterday, after dropping my wife off for pre-service choir practice I went to my usual spot to write my morning devotional for Sunday. I nearly always go to a nearby McDonald's, grab a biscuit or two, a cup of coffee, and write while exchanging hellos with the workers and others.
The McDonald's is off of an exit that is not far from downtown. There is a truck stop across the exit. There are some seedy motels mixed in with some decent ones. There is a contingent of homeless and drifters who wander in and out of the establishment. There are people dressed for church and others who are likely gang-bangers. So... an interesting mix with conversations and mental states that are all over the map.
One of the customers yesterday was apparently having trouble with the manager, or vice-versa. He wanted a refund on a biscuit. The manager wanted to see a receipt. The young man didn't have it. He became belligerent. and walked away from the counter cursing and storming out the door. He came back in upset and engaged the manager with the same conversation adding that he had ID on him. The manager didn't want ID. He wanted a receipt. After another short exchange the man stormed out again, louder and with more fire in his eyes.
I could see this was escalating and imagined this guy going to his car, or backpack and grabbing a gun to make things even according to his mad perspective. He came back in again even louder than the previous times yelling about not wanting the manager's money, but his job. His cursing was even stronger. I wondered what was going to happen, and I prayed.
This was happening the weekend after a shooter had gone onto a college campus in Oregon and killed 9 people before turning the gun on himself. I'll be honest... I don't go anywhere without thinking that the same thing could happen where I am. We live in a violent world with enraged people who are not good at controlling their emotions.
I remember sitting there yesterday thinking, if he comes in with a gun, there may be others with a gun. There may not be. I don't have one. I don't carry one. So I wouldn't be able to return fire. But I prayed the prayer I always pray in those situations. "God help me to do what I should do to stop any horrible act." Someone may ask what I could do unarmed against an armed person. Well, I could do whatever God wanted me to do. I've been in situations where an armed person threatened me, and God did what He wanted and enabled me to do what I was supposed to do. I've never needed a gun or knife when God empowered me. I knew the same would be true yesterday.
I know other people carry guns. I know police officers carry guns. I know security details carry guns. That's up to them. They may or may not need them. They may or may not use them. Plenty of officers meet people with weapons and never have to draw their own. I have no problem with a reasonable person of sound mind owning and responsibly using a weapon. But I don't on purpose. And this is part of my decision-making on the issue...
This is what the Lord says:
The man who trusts in mankind, who makes human flesh his strength and turns his heart from the Lord is cursed. He will be like a juniper in the Arabah; he cannot see when good comes but dwells in the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land where no one lives. The man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence indeed is the Lord, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit. (Jeremiah 17:5-8)
Another translation says, "The arm of flesh will fail you." If someone else wants to carry and use a gun, I'm not going to tell them that they are wrong. I can only say that I will not be able to do what God calls me to do if I am shooting another person. What would I do in an active shooter situation? I don't know, as you don't know what you would do. I wouldn't crawl into a corner. I would hope that I would be an active participant in stopping the situation. You may think that an unarmed person would not be able to stop an armed attack. I just think it would make a better story.
Which story would you open and read? The one titled, "Man shoots active shooter," or "Unarmed man intervenes in mass shooting"? I'm not saying God will help me stop a shooter. I am saying that God would have me do more than just shoot a shooter.
The man stormed out of McDonald's a third time. I don't know why he left and did not come back. I'd like to think it was because I was praying and not counting how many bullets I had in my clip. At the end of the day I do trust my prayers more than I trust anyone's gun. I suppose that is my starting point. Someone may say that prayers aren't enough and I need a gun. President Obama said prayers aren't enough and we need less guns. I disagree with both positions. I think prayers are more than enough whether there are guns present or not.
Today you may be in a difficult situation. Pray first. Pray often. Pray last. God will tell you what you need to do while you are in it. And know this... if your prayers are enough to send demons to flee, they are certainly powerful enough to get you out of a jam in the material world.
[Bible quotes are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, unless otherwise noted.]
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.