It is a perfectly Fall day here in Tennessee. Light mist, a bit foggy, the colors in the trees beginning to change. A good Sunday morning, part of the rhythm of the year taking part in the rhythm of the week as I prepare to go worship with others. Comfortable and routine.
And in the midst of this I keep thinking of a question.
Are you a Christian?
Many more questions were asked on my FaceBook feed this week, and in the news. Questions and battle about gun control, rights. Fear and pride. Clashing and yelling and debating. Lots of questions, but mostly noise.
The little stories sneaking past the noise, telling of what really happened. Of great courage of Chris Mintz.
Then the stories of the gunman asking people if they were Christian, and announcing they would meet God in seconds.
And that is where the noise ended for me.
Here is the staggering thing. After having shot the first person who stood when he asked if they were Christians, the next person stood up.
There, facing someone with completely evil intent, who now has made his motivation even clearer, the next person stood. How easy it would be to remain sitting? How easy would it be to not just be embarrassed of being a Christian…but to be deadly afraid of what the claim would mean?
The reality that believing in Jesus Christ was such a deep truth that they simply could not deny Him.
We have read stories through history of others who have done this, and it is always amazing. The reality, though, of this happening here in our comfort and in the setting of a college room in a rural, beautiful Oregon town…that brought me up short.
If Christianity is just myth, just nonsense, just some man-made religion used to punish and control, then why on earth would the next person stand? Because they are so conditioned to think that what they believe is true?
What about the next person? They had more time to think. Two people die before them. Wouldn’t fear being screaming louder than conditioning?
What if God is more? What if in that moment the truth of their belief settled so deeply in their soul that they had the courage to stand, knowing the outcome? I know some of my friends will say they were simply foolish and it is tragic and sad. Yet, I find something else.
I sit here staggered at the reality of my faith. The reality of my God. The routine and the rhythm of a perfectly Fall Sunday, preparing to go worship, is completely undone. Nuances are added to each preparation, and the frailty of everything seems more pronounced.
The reality of the Gospel, the reality of Jesus, sinks more deeply into my bones. The witness of these who continued to stand, knowing the outcome, stops me in my comfortable routine. The name I so flippantly toss about, Christian, has taken a deeper tone this week. My preparations as I head to church this morning are more somber, more aware of the reality of evil along with the reality of Gospel.