FAITH UNDER FIRE
October 5, 2015
On October 1, 2015, in Roseburg, Oregon, USA, a deranged gunman shot and killed nine individuals at a Community College. It was reported that the gunman requested the students to identify whether they were Christians. If they said yes, they were shot in the head. If they said no, or gave any other answer, they would be shot, but not in a non-life threatening manner. There are conflicting reports about whether Christians were targeted in this attack, but it is clear that some of the witnesses to the event believed they were. If so, then several brave individuals paid the ultimate price for their faith. We offer our condolences to all of the families who lost loved ones, whether they were Christian or not. One of our associate writers sends this message:
After having given considerable thought to this ordeal, it gave me time to pause and consider the emptiness of Christians who have allowed doctrinal divisions to separate them. Many among Jehovah’s Witnesses would not have considered these students as genuine Christians simply because they were not part of the Watchtower organization. Yet these brave individuals proved their loyalty to the Christ in a way that the majority of Christians in these times will never have to experience. This matter raises some serious questions all Christians should think deeply about.
The gunman did not ask which denomination of Christianity do you belong to. He did not ask whether one believed in the trinity or not. He did not ask if they believed in hell fire or not. He did not ask if you believed Jesus died on a cross or a stake. He did not ask their views on gay marriage or any of the hot topics which divide Christians today. His only question was: ‘Are you a Christian?’
Assuming that all of the students killed were of differing Christian religions, one can hardly imagine Christ Jesus as placing a greater value on the life of one of these faithful children over the other because of their doctrinal differences or the name of their religious association. In the final analysis the only real thing that matters is what the apostle Paul said:
“For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”
– Hebrews 6:10
And the apostle Peter’s words:
“At this Peter began to speak, and he said; “Now I truly understand that God is not partial, but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”
— Acts 10:34
Each one of these young Christians faithfully and courageously stood up and identified themselves as followers of Christ, and paid the ultimate price for doing so. And let us not forget the brave young man who was shot multiple times as he risked his life to prevent further carnage from taking place. Again Jesus words come to mind.
“No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his life in behalf of his friends.”
– John 15:13
While the young man survived this ordeal, he was ready to surrender his life to save other students or teachers from dying. There is no doubt in my mind that each of these martyred students will find an honorable place in the Kingdom of Heaven as Jesus promised.
This situation should force us all to examine how we view one another. Are we taking a Christ-like view toward our brothers and sisters of differing beliefs? It gives me great satisfaction to know there are many among Jehovah’s Witnesses who have abandoned the “chosen people” mentality fostered by the leadership and are performing an outreach ministry to break down the prejudicial boundaries that separate us. As I visit various churches in my community, I have talked to many of these brothers and sisters who also have abandoned this attitude of exclusiveness. They are making an effort to build bridges with brothers of differing beliefs. This enables us all to grieve as a family with the families who lost their children to this deranged gunman.
It will be interesting to see if some member of the Bethel family or member of the Governing Body will offer condolences on the JW Broadcasting forum to the families of these fellow Christians as they would if a similar incident happened to Jehovah’s Witnesses. If they fail to do so, let it be known that there are many among us whose thoughts and prayers go out to the victims’ families.
It is unfortunate that it takes tragedies like these for Christians to realize the stupidity of allowing doctrinal differences to divide the followers of Christ. We hope more and more people begin to open their eyes to their un-Christ-like religious prejudices and seek the good in their brothers from other fellowships.
There are 2.5 billion Christians in the world. Imagine the type of world we would have if all Christians around the world could unite under one cause, namely to teach and practice the things Jesus actually taught (Matthew 28:18-20), instead of manmade opinions, doctrines and interpretations of what he taught. A full third of the world would be pursuing peace, loving our neighbors, and making our world a better place to live in. It would cause a domino effect in our world, and in time, as Jesus promised, we will see the end to wars, persecution, and all types of suffering. (Matthew 24:14) Tragedies such as the one in Oregon will be non-existent.
That is the future of our planet. How quickly it happens depends on how quickly Jesus’ followers will do what he asked. Will you? We welcome your comments.
"Your Brothers in the Faith"