"I heard a popping noise, almost like a balloon popping"
On the evening of October 1, 2015, a gunman stepped foot into multiple classrooms on the campus of Oregon's Umpqua Community College, killing at least 13 and wounding many more. This malicious attack marks the 4th shooting at a United States college campus since August, joining an even longer list of lost lives at institutions of higher learning. The alleged shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, was heavily armored and prepared for a prolonged gunfight as he moved between classrooms, prompting law enforcement to move quickly in an effort to prevent a growing death toll.
The shooter was not a student at the small school in Roseburg, OR, prompting many to wonder what motives he would’ve had to take innocent lives. News sources such as CNN and Relevant Magazine reported testimonies, however, stating that the gunman ordered all students who were Christian to standup. He then proceeded to tell them they would see God soon before pulling the trigger, killing each Christian student and wounding all non-Christians by shooting them in the leg.
My deepest sympathy, prayer, love and support go out to those whom lost their lives as well as those who lost their loved ones. Such a heinous act leaves a deep void that leaves a community such as Roseburg, OR, reeling in pain while grasping for any explanation. As a human being, my heart hurts knowing that brothers and sisters; moms and dads; sons and daughters won’t be going home to loved ones today. In a pursuit to educate themselves, they had a trust that the classroom that they diligently studied would be a place of tranquility and trust. Not one of such hate and vitriol, such violence and sorrow.
As a Christian, my heart pains me even deeper. Someone was killed because they believed that Jesus Christ died for our sins. Someone died because they believed God sent his one and only begotten son to save a broken world. It leaves me a bit angry but even more so confused as to the “What if?”
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you...” (1 Peter 4:12-14)
We are all called for persecution. Jesus knew the day would come where we’d be persecuted for our belief. He stated “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” (John 15:18) He also states “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Powerful statements that have stood the test of over 1000 years, but what happens when you have a gun or weapon pointed at you knowing your life is about to end?
Christians are being persecuted worldwide, whether it’s in the Middle East in the clutches of ISIS or in Asia with over-bearing governments arresting all who proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It’s now in our own backyard and the threat of persecution is real.
That’s the reality of what happened as Mercer lined up students at Oregon Umpqua Community College who proclaimed to be followers of Christ. Their lives were taken because they wouldn’t deny God’s son. The fact is Jesus set an impeccable standard for us. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
“But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled...” (1 Peter 3:14)
Just as Jesus, our suffering will be rewarded. In the instance of sorrow it seems that all is lost and that’s rightfully so, losing someone tragically leaves a gaping hole, but God has laid out immeasurable blessings for those who die for righteousness’ sake. Matthew 5:10 states “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
It is all for naught, because suffering will always bring about good for those who entrust in God. As 2 Corinthians 12:10 states, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Those are the moments when God is glorified tremendously and our spiritual growth is shown. Suffering will endure but a moment; our eternity is aligned with a seat at our Father’s throne and heavenly riches with Christ. I truly believe God has engulfed them at the gates of heaven with his arms stretched wide and his kingdom at their foot.
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44)
Love thy enemy. The school shooter lost his life as well on Thursday and the sad fact is he may not have accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. In Luke 15, Jesus tells a parable of going after one lost sheep while leaving the other 99 behind. In this situation, we too need to remember that there was one lost sheep who needed saving. No matter the heinous act, Mercer was still a child of God and though he persecuted God’s children, he still deserved to be “found.” His family will mourn his death and question so many things they will never have answers too.
This pushes the concept that we, as a generation of young believers must constantly, fervently, and unceasingly pursue to spread the word of God and shine that light to the corners that are the darkest. Yes, he took so many lives and forever displaced many more. But no matter the yes, Jesus would have loved and prayed for his lost soul. No matter the thought, this is truly a sad situation and my prayers and sympathy go out to all parties involved.
I love you family, reach out and tell someone you love them as well.
Image: Rich Pedroncelli