A church congregation’s morning worship was forever changed on Sunday, September 24, when a masked gunman shot and killed one woman and injured six other people.
Just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Anthoch experienced terror at the hands of Sudanese immigrant Emanuel Kidega Samson. Samson legally came to the United States two decades ago. Melanie Smith, 39, was shot and killed by Samson as she headed into the parking lot. The six other victims were shot inside the church.
There were reports that church members remembered Samson visiting the church previously, but had not seen him in awhile. He was, in fact, a familiar face. This was not a random act of violence — but an intentional attack. And as often happens in times of grief, people are left to wonder why such a tragic event ever happened.
Was it an act of terror? Motivated by race or religion? The FBI stated there will be a civil rights investigation into the shooting. But what was the catalyst that drove this man to commit such a heinous crime? The truth is, regardless of the specific reason, that it is simply a result of living in a Genesis 3 world.
God created the world and saw that it was good. He created man and woman and saw that they were good. He gave them a perfect place to be, and the experience of walking with their God. Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 paint a picture of the life all people yearn for — a utopia of peace.
Yet, in Genesis 3, both Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator and allowed sin to change everything. They lost their home, their blissful care-free existence, and their fellowship with God. The world was changed forever. Sin corrupts everything.
Christians live under the grace of God through Jesus Christ. But the world remains a Genesis 3 world where sin is prevalent and death is a reality. And yet, in dark moments when fear edges in and doubt whispers desperate thoughts, God remains in control. He is not caught by surprise. God’s existence, grace, compassion, and offer of salvation do not change in spite of tragedy.
It is easy to trust God when everything seems to be going well. But when something like a senseless murder happens so suddenly, our human nature is to doubt and question. Faith does not grow when it is not tested. Trusting God in His eternal plan, not just the current emotion of an experience, is an exercise in faith. Christians should respond with the confident assurance that God is sovereign.
Christians do not need to respond with trepidation and timidity now or in the future. There is no place for doubt that God’s purpose prevails despite sin.
Jesus tells His followers in Matthew 10:28-29, “Do not be afraid of them who kill the body. They are not able to kill the soul. But fear Him Who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two small birds sold for a very small piece of money? And yet not one of the birds falls to the earth without your Father knowing it.”
God does not take life lightly. If birds are known by God, then every human life is that much more known and cared about by the Lord. Life does not end without God’s knowledge, even His allowance.
Eternity exists beyond this life.
In speaking to His people, God says in Isaiah 43:1-3, “Do not be afraid. For I have bought you and made you free. I have called you by name. You are Mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. When you pass through the rivers, they will not flow over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. The fire will not destroy you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, Who saves you.”
Life on earth is fleeting. The human body is in a continual countdown to death. But eternity exists beyond this life. There is a way to restoration with the God who created the heavens and the earth. And even now He tells His people to remain unafraid.