In the wake of the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon this week, there’s one question I’m struggling with over most others. It’s not about gun control, it’s not about mental health strategies, and it’s not about politics. It’s about my relationship with God.
Stories have come out from the survivors about how the shooter asked people about their religious beliefs. Some claim that Christians were targeted, others suggest that it was simply gauging each victim’s perception of where they were about to go. Whatever the truth, I find myself asking the question.
If someone pointed a gun at me, and asked if I’m a Christian, would I say yes knowing that it meant their next action would be to pull the trigger?
I asked the same question of myself when the horrific tales and videos surfaced of ISIS beheading Christians. Would I have the courage to confess my faith in that situation? Knowing that such a confession would bring the end of my life?
My gut reaction is to say yes, of course I would. My gut reaction, though, also has me standing strong, staring the assailant down, and in some versions, ducking out of the way and trying to wrestle the gun out of his hands, and perhaps turning out to be the hero of the piece by managing to diffuse the entire situation. When you’re raised on tales of heroes and legends, I think there’s always going to be a part of you that at least intends to be the hero in your own circumstances.
The truth is, though, I don’t know how I would react in a situation like that. Whilst I’m not a person to completely shy away from confrontation, I’m not one to directly go and seek it out, either. I can’t be certain that, if faced with such a horrible position, I would definitely be able to stand up and say, “Yes, I’m a Christian.”
I do know that I pray I never have to find out.
The thing is, it’s easy for us to sit behind a computer screen and jump on the latest hashtag that’s floating around social media. It’s easy to say that you’d be the heroic one, like Chris Mintz, who ran toward the danger and charged the attacker. It’s easy to say that from behind a keyboard, but when I stop and really start to imagine what something like that must be like, I just can’t be 100% sure. There were a lot of students in that school that day, and out of them, we only know of one who got in there and tried to disarm the attacker. He is certainly to be lauded as a hero. It was his son’s birthday, no one would have judged him for staying safe and just making sure that he got home alive himself. Instead, he placed other people’s lives above his own safety and went back. Chris Mintz was the one hero out of all of those students.
Please don’t think that by saying that, I’m discrediting anyone else who was at the school. I’m not, what I am trying to point out is that we don’t know how we’re going to react to a situation until we’re put into it. I’d almost guarantee that there were other people there who, like me, have thought about what it’s probably like in a situation like that, and have thought that they too would intend on trying to save people. When it’s actually happening, though, it’s all very different. Real life is always different to what we imagine it to be. If that situation ever arises, will we have the confidence and assurance in Jesus to declare Him before men?
Therefore, whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. ~ Matthew 10:32-33
This isn’t a thought that we should be taking lightly. The reality is that we do need to be ready to stand up and declare Christ before people. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to prepare yourself to stare down a gunman, but there are situations every day, where we have the choice to declare ourselves a follower of Christ, or remain silent.
It is getting harder to do that, too. As the world’s morality drifts further away from scripture, we begin to hear more and more stories of people being persecuted for staying firm to their Christian beliefs.
But we are blessed because of this.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~ Matthew 5:11-12
We can pray that we never have to face down a choice between speaking Christ’s name and death. I pray that you or I never have to do that, but one day, someone may. In the meantime, let us make sure that we are confessing Jesus in the every day situations that we find ourselves in. Jesus compared faith to a seed, and seeds grow, so by confessing Jesus now, our faith grows, and so does our assurance in Him.
When faced with that decision, will you stand up? Will you say, “Yes, I’m a Christian,” when someone asks? Will you stand in the face of persecution, whatever that might look like, and declare Him Lord?