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Finding hope in the Texas A&M shooting

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Friends and family of Constable Brian Bachmann, who was killed by a gunman while serving an eviction notice, gather at a church in College Station, Texas, August 12, 2012 (Credit: Houston Chronicle / Karen Warren)

When you heard about the shooting near Texas A&M University yesterday, what came to your mind?  Here was my first thought: I hope this wasn’t terrorism.  When we learned that the shooting was over an eviction notice, then I thought: What can I say about this tragedy that I haven’t already said?

Both reactions are signs of the times.  There’s much we don’t know this morning, but we do know that 35-year-old Thomas Caffall was served an eviction notice by Constable Brian Bachmann Monday around noon.  Bachmann was shot in front of Caffall’s house and pronounced dead at a hospital.  Bystander Chris Northcliff was also killed.  Caffall was killed when police returned fire; four other people were wounded.

Gun violence has dominated recent headlines.  Last Sunday, 10 people in Boston were shot in three separate incidents; four of them died.  Ten days ago, a gunman murdered six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, then killed himself.  Less than a month ago, 12 people were killed and 58 wounded by a gunman in a movie theater.  And the litany of tragedy goes on.

There was a day when churches, movie theaters, and college campuses were seen as retreats from the “real world.”  Now we know that violence can find us anywhere, at any time.  There’s no way to guarantee our safety.  Airport security may keep weapons off an airplane, but storms can cause it to crash.  If disaster doesn’t find us, disease will.  The mortality rate is still 100%.

But there are exceptions.  Genesis makes this cryptic statement about one of its early heroes: “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24).  In similar fashion, the prophet Elijah “went up to heaven in a whirlwind” (2 Kings 2:11).  Neither of them died.

Nor will you, if Jesus is your Lord.  Our King was explicit: “Whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:26).  What our world calls “death,” God calls “life.”  When we take our last breath on this fallen planet, we take our first breath in God’s perfect paradise.  We close our eyes here so we can open them there.

In a world filled with senseless violence and unpredictable tragedy, remember this: you are immortal.  You will outlive the sun and the stars.  The worst that can happen to you is your entrance to the best that can happen to you.  As Justin the Martyr said to the Roman emperor, “You can kill us, but you cannot hurt us.”

So don’t step into this day with fear but with hope.  Let your triumphant spirit be your witness to a frightened culture.  Thomas Jefferson claimed that one person with courage is a majority.  I would say it differently: one person submitted to God is a majority.  Have you trusted your fears to him yet today?