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By Jim Stockstill
“Preparation, or being “wise,” is not a contradiction of my faith in God or His power to protect, it is practical and shows the value we place on the lives of those around us.”
January 4, 2020
In 1 Corinthians 11:25, we are told by the Apostle Paul that as followers of Christ we should take the sacraments in remembrance of the sacrifice Yeshua HaMashiach made on our behalf. Yet sadly, with broken hearts, we once again witnessed the senseless taking of innocent lives among churchgoers during the sacred time of “serving communion.”
Traditionally the local assembly (Church, Cathedral, Synagogue, etc.) is intended to be a safe sanctuary for believer and non-believer alike. At times, especially during the holidays, the hurting soul often looks for a refuge of peace, comfort or perhaps a rare moment of joy. Others simply seek a private solitude for thought or prayer.
Today, we are besieged by evil (2 Timothy 3:13) on many fronts. And at the same time, there are those that suffer from genuine mental disorders and/or traumatic stress disorders from a multiplicity of sources. These are topics that few want to talk about but must be clinically and transparently addressed. This article is not the platform to discuss evil and/or the psychological challenges that impact many of our citizenry.
Paradoxically, my assertion is between ignorance or “faith” in sensibly facing and/or preparing for the possibility of another violent act carried out against the innocent, or in this case – churchgoers. It is clear from scripture, Yeshua warns us in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” that ravenous wolves are among our population. As Yeshua commanded His disciples to be “wise as serpents,” we may ask what is “wise” or the wisdom he states we should possess? The word “wise” is the Greek word pronimos which means being prudent, careful, cunning, discerning, thoughtful, intelligent or sensible. This word perfectly depicts the behavior and actions of snakes. They are very careful, discerning, intelligent, and prudent in how they act. The Greek word for “serpent” is the word ophis, which is the normal Greek word that refers to a snake. It is a fact that Yeshua told us that we need to be “wise as serpents”! The Greek literally means we need to be as prudent, discerning, intelligent, thoughtful, and careful as snakes!1
And what of ignorance? Webster’s definition is simple; (1) “(n.) The condition of being ignorant; the want of knowledge in general, or in relation to a particular subject; the state of being uneducated or uninformed and (2) (n.) a willful neglect or refusal to acquire knowledge which one may acquire and it is his duty to have.”2 With a clear definition, ignorance contrasts starkly to being “wise” or possessing wisdom. And finally, faith; “…in Greek, the root word from which we get ‘faith, the noun is PISTIS, and ‘believe’, the verb is PISTUEO. FAITH means- belief, firm persuasion, assurance, firm conviction, faithfulness. Faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance that the lord is working, even though we cannot see it. Faith knows that no matter what the situation, in our lives or someone else’s that the lord is working in it.”3
Was it ignorant to teach and participate in “duck and cover” air raid drills in the 1950s and 60s? The talk of fallout shelters and “…images of elementary school children huddled under their desks with their hands over their heads are burned into American cultural history. However, these measures stopped being used in most schools in the 60s, and fallout shelters began being repurposed in the 70’s. Why would that be the case? Would these drills have saved thousands of lives in the event of a nuclear attack, or did they merely serve to terrify young children?”4 Looking back it seems naïve but at the time it seemed to be prudent preparation for the possibilities of nuclear war.
In thinking what is prudent or “wise,” relative to “living by faith,” it would seem common sense would be a more appropriate definition. As a follower of Christ, we must exercise our “faith” to trust and put our life in the providence of an “unseen” God. Preparation, or being “wise,” is not a contradiction of my faith in God or His power to protect, it is practical and shows the value we place on the lives of those around us. Following a similar tragedy, I asked one of our security personnel what precautions the staff took to ensure the safety of more than a thousand weekly attendees. The response was rather shocking, “we have it covered; besides, we are different.” My response was simple and not meanspirited, “I am sure the other ‘church’ thought the same.” Having devoted the last decade of my career to safety and security at the national level, I am sure a knife, bullet or any other weapon does not know the differentiate between ecumenical beliefs or ethnicity for that matter. Evil is evil and sadly mentally challenged individuals are unpredictable and not easy to identify. Afterward does not help the victims and countless survivors.
As with academia, and the precautionary safety drills that many have set in place and rehearse, I believe every Church, Cathedral, Synagogue, etc. should have an appropriate security plan that focuses on potential threats from those seeking destruction and taking of innocent lives. This is “wise” (as a serpent) and prudent considering the increasing number of criminal acts that we have witnessed over the last decade.
One large non-denominational church in Dallas, with several thousand members, has a very detailed security plan. The staff has seventy-five trained and certified (to carry a concealed weapon) volunteers along with two individuals discretely watching from the rafters with scoped rifles. Members of the security team must practice shooting skills quarterly at one of the local gun ranges as well as participate in two mock drills a year. Yes, the plan is very elaborate and over-the-top for most churches but does show the concern the staff has for potential threats and their congregates. (background checks are performed by the state for anyone applying for a license to carry a concealed weapon)
Finally, let’s not confuse “wisdom” and “prudence” with trusting God in faith. They are not exclusive of each other. While we trust and believe the Lord will watch over and protect us when we gather, it is also the responsibility of the shepherd to watch over the flock.
God bless each of you and God bless the U.S.A.
Joseph “Jim” Stockstill
The Unknown Prophet in Texas
1 Renner, “Learn to Think Like a Snake,” Renner, September 7, 2016. https://renner.org/learn-to-think-like-a-snake/
2 Bible Hub, “Ignorance,” Bible Hub, https://biblehub.com/topical/i/ignorance.htm
3 Wikibooks, “Hebrew Roots/The original foundation/Faith,” Wikibooks, August 10, 2009. https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Hebrew_Roots/The_original_foundation/Faith
4 Billy Moncure, “’Duck and Cover’ – Futile Measures, or a Life-Saving Plan?,” War History Online, September 29, 2018. https://www.warhistoryonline.com/instant-articles/duck-cover-nuclear-war-plan.html