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By Andrew V. Ste. Marie

 

“What if someone broke into your house with a gun?”

 

Those who are convinced to obey Jesus’ teachings on nonresistance and love of enemies are routinely faced with questions like these. In some such occasions, we must suffer for the cause of Christ.  Yet God is real and powerful, and can save His people without the aid of men killing each other.

 

This was dramatically demonstrated in a New Year’s Eve nighttime prayer service in North Carolina. Larry Wright, the pastor, a retired Army sergeant and city councilman,[1] was preaching at 11:40 PM when the church door swung open.

 

In walked a young man carrying a semi-automatic assault rifle in one hand, and a clip of ammunition in the other. He began walking up the church’s center aisle.  Not knowing whether the gun was loaded, Wright left the pulpit and began walking towards the man, intending to tackle him if he was belligerent.

 

“Can I help you?” Wright asked the young man. The young man said, “Can you pray for me?”  Wright took the rifle, handed it to a deacon, and patted the young man down to make sure he did not have other weapons.  He found none.  Four husky deacons came up and embraced the young man to help him feel welcome.  Wright began to pray for him, and the young man fell to his knees, weeping.

 

His prayer finished, Wright invited the young man to sit in the front row and listen to the remainder of the sermon. Wright reported, “I finished the message, I did the altar call and he stood right up, came up to the altar, and gave his life to Christ.  I came down and prayed with him and we embraced.  It was like a father embracing a son.”

 

Police had come to the scene to detain the young man, but before meeting them, the young man stood before the congregation and apologized to them. He said he had intended to do something terrible, but the Lord had spoken to him.

 

The young man – himself a veteran, who had just gotten out of prison – was given a mental examination in a hospital. According to one report, however, he returned to the church the next Sunday, asking to be baptized and received as a church member.

 

Now just imagine how different things could have been if this pastor had responded as so many do – by pulling out a gun and ending this young man’s life. By responding in the peace of Jesus, this pastor spared his congregation the sight of a bloody shooting, kept his own conscience clear from the blood of someone who may not have killed anyhow, and, most importantly, the young man was spared and given an opportunity to repent.

 

Will we trust God?

 

Sources

Andrew Barksdale, “Fayetteville pastor persuades church gunman to give up rifle,” http://www.fayobserver.com/news/local/fayetteville-pastor-convinces-church-gunman-to-give-up-rifle/article_16efd180-7644-56b0-93e6-d7ec10e87f3c.html (Accessed February 24, 2016)

 

Tim Stelloh, “North Carolina Pastor Disarms Vet During New Year’s Service,” http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/north-carolina-pastor-disarms-vet-during-new-year-s-service-n489456 (Accessed February 24, 2016)

 

Carma Hassan & Steve Almasy, “During sermon on violence, N.C. pastor confronts man with rifle,” www.cnn.com/2016/01/02/us/north-carolina-pastor-man-with-gun (Accessed February 24, 2016)

 

[1] As far as I know, not a nonresistant or pacifist.

 

Originally published in The Witness 14(3) (March 2016).

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