As last Sunday began, details were just beginning to emerge on the horrific mass shooting in downtown’s Oregon District. If the news weren’t bad enough already, as I left for home from worship and turned on the local news I was completely shocked to learn the shooter was from Bellbrook and lived a few streets over from our old house. I remember seeing him when he worked at the Valero station, and he probably made me a few burritos at Chipotle. Our daughter knew him from high school. How could this type of evil originate from my hometown? A town that epitomizes the essence of small-town, Midwestern values? Then, a few hours later, the news revealed that his sister was one of the 9 victims. How could a person do that? How could a brother kill his sister? Every day over the past week, I’ve thought about the victims and their families. I’ve thought about the brevity of life. And, I’ve pondered much about the Bellbrook family who lost not one, but both of their children. They’re only at the beginning of the pain and grief of loss … and simultaneously grapple with the greatest of international embarrassment and shame. There are not many larger burdens to carry.
As news leaked early last week people began to post their condolences on social media. Politicians spoke via news media. Many said that their thoughts and prayers were with the victim’s families, the first responders, and the injured. I appreciate people taking the time to say these things. During times like this, people want to do something and sometimes thoughts and prayers are all a person can do. But as people expressed their compassion, many of them were immediately mocked by those on the cultural left … who are quick to blame the Christian God for allowing evil and then slam those on the cultural right for doing nothing, as if prayer is an empty waste of time.
Don’t be intimidated by those who obnoxiously proclaim their anti-God agenda. During times of personal or national tragedy, prayer is an absolute essential. It’s time we stood up and loudly proclaimed without apology that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working, James 5.16b. At Kettering, we believe God’s promise. I so appreciated our shepherds leading our family in prayer for the victims and first responders as last week’s service concluded. We trust God. We don’t understand how or why things happen, but God does. Ultimately, we rest in the assurance that He has the power to bring comfort to those who are the victim of the work of Satan, who lives to steal, kill and destroy, John 10.10. God isn’t to be blamed for the evil which lies at Satan’s feet. Times of tragedy also serve as a perfect opportunity to share an invitation about His rock solid assurances of salvation and the promises of peace that only God can provide. Every day we need to be testifying to the power of faith and to the power of prayer. Your political agenda isn’t what matters. God’s agenda of salvation is what is most important and may we never forget our need to set the example of class, dignity, and respect for life by our care, seasoned words, love, and compassion for others.
— Matthew Allen