Two weeks ago Chattanooga, TN made the national news as four Marines and one Navy sailor were shot and killed by Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez who opened fire on a military recruiting center and then a naval reserve center. As a Chattanoogan and an American, it was tragic, it was sad, and it was called an act of terrorism. We didn’t expect this kind of thing in OUR town…. It seems so wrong, so brutal, and such an attack on our identity and freedom.
Yet in the midst of it all, what’s been interesting to me is how the community has responded in the aftermath of this tragedy. The hashtags #chattanoogastrong and #noogastrong have been appearing not just on social media but now on billboards, signs, and posters all over the city. It’s become about a community standing together. It’s our rallying cry. Every evening there have been groups out on the freeway overpass waving flags and showing support. Churches have held prayer vigils. Great numbers attended the funerals. And just today I stood at one of the memorials looking over the sea of flags, notes, signs, flowers, and more. The men killed are revered as nothing short of fallen heroes. And Chattanooga stands boldly in display of our outrage against these attacks on our defenders.
But all this has made me think. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” He is the ultimate terrorist. He hates God’s government and is especially out to wreak havoc on the soldiers of God’s army – His church (Revelation 12:17).
And I can’t help but wonder: What if the church responded to the terrorist attacks of Satan like our community responded to the attack on these US soldiers?
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When one of our fellow “soldiers” in the church gets shot at or dies spiritually, do we unitedly raise our flags against our enemy the devil in support of our fallen comrade? Or do we simply accept their defeat? Do we treat them as fallen heroes? Or do we write them off as weak defectors? “Poor Bob, I guess he’s fallen into sin…” “Did you hear what John’s been doing? I don’t know how he can expect to be a church leader like that.” “Well, it looks like Mary’s apostatizing into her old ways. We better bring this up at the next church board meeting.”
What if the church responded to the terrorist attacks of Satan like our community responded to the attack of these US soldiers?
Oh, I’m not trying to excuse or condone sin. But I do wonder: Do we realize that when someone falls they are a literal victim of a terrorist attack? Do we see that those who “leave the faith” are our fellow soldiers being shot at by the enemy? Do we believe that those captive to sin are war hostages just as surely as any POW in Vietnam or elsewhere? And if we really d0 believe these things, how differently might we treat the fallen?
Imagine if whenever someone in our church fell from the shots of the enemy and disappeared from our doors we followed “no man left behind” and no one moved on till we got that person back. Imagine if when a fellow soldier of the Lord was wounded, we all waived our prayer banners and gathered in vigils pleading for their restoration and healing. Imagine if people knew that the church was the one place that, no matter how they’d been hit, would stand for them, remember them, and fight for them. Imagine if Satan’s hostages comprehended that God’s church was continually working for their release and waiting with open arms to welcome them home. Imagine if the devil discovered that the more he tried to divide us the more united and determined God’s church would become instead. Imagine if when one of us went down, the devil knew he had all of us to contend with…
Yes, I’ve learned a few things from watching my city respond to attack and become #noogastrong. And I can only dream (and pray) that I’ll see my church do the same. Because when it does, I have a funny feeling things will never be the same.
“…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” – Matthew 16:18[/box_holder]