After Omar Mateen, a 29 year old Muslim from Fort Pierce, Florida, murdered at least 50, and wounded another 53 at “Pulse,” an LGBT nightclub in Downtown Orlando, many don’t know what to do (Another article on what to say is sure to follow). As Christians, what are we to do in times of terror?
There are helpful things you can do for your “community,” such as providing food, shelter, donating blood, etc. But, the most important things the Christian can do is to cling to God’s Word in times of terror, and speak this Word to those who mourn. Here are three helpful things that pastors can direct their sheep to do in times of terror, and how Christian fathers should instruct their families to respond.
1. Go to Church.
Don’t just go to any church; go to your church. Go to your pastor. Ask him questions. Speak with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Take your wife and children to church. Tell your pastor to show you what God says from Holy Scripture. This will get you away from listening to your feelings, the opinions of the world, and false teachers. Rather, listen to what God’s Word says.
Also, avoid going to unionistic/syncretistic services and vigils where various denominations and religions are all represented and have their “part” in the service. There is a tendency to “put all differences aside,” and to “join together in worship and prayer” in times of tragedy and disaster. However, whenever this happens, the only thing that is compromised is the actual Word of God, and the true comfort of the Gospel. This puts the One true God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—on equal footing with idols and the false gods of Islam, Judaism, and Hinduism, etc. In these services, various gods are prayed to, worshipped, and glorified. Yet, we as Christians know that these things belong to the One true God alone (1st, 2nd, 3rd Commandments, and 1st Petition of the Lord’s Prayer). Sadly, even in a unionistic service with other Christian denominations, the Word of God is compromised as well! Here are a few examples of how God’s Word is compromised by other denominations: The ELCA does not condemn the sin of homosexuality (Romans 1); The Roman Catholic Church does not teach salvation by grace through faith alone (Ephesians 2); The Baptist church does not believe that Baptism saves (1 Peter 3). As Lutherans, it is our deepest and most earnest desire to see a church without divisions or denominations. We strive for this at all costs, but never at the expense of God’s Word. To join in these prayer services, it gives the impression of unity when there is no true unity; they say “peace,” when there is no peace (Jeremiah 6). Scripture exhorts us to flee from false teachers (Romans 16).
If you really desire a Prayer Vigil with your community, the best practice is for the pastor alone to lead the Vigil in his own church and invite the community to hear the Word of God purely preached. This is the time to invite people of all denominations, religions, and all affected by these terrors to sit in the pews, follow the liturgy, and hear the preaching of God’s Word without compromise. This is evangelism. However, don’t be surprised when the world persecutes, and slanders the pastor and church when God’s Word is purely preached. This is the cross that God has given the faithful to carry. Therefore, we don’t compromise His Word in order to be “liked” by the world. Don’t conform the Word to the world. Transform the world with the Word. Preach the Law in its full sternness, the Gospel in its full sweetness, and exhort the hearers to live godly lives. Condemn the false gods of other religions, culture, feminism, etc. Call them to repent of their sins of homosexuality, murder, idolatry, adultery, etc. Preach the comfort of Christ as the only way to the Father (John 14). Do this knowing that you will be persecuted for it. However, rejoice, for great is your reward in heaven (Matthew 5). Fathers, teach your wives and children to expect this persecution because the world hates God and His Word. Yet, remind them that God gives a crown of glory to those who remain faithful until the end (Revelation 2). Rejoice that you would be counted worthy to suffer disgrace for His name (Acts 5).
2. Read the Bible.
The most precious thing in the world is God’s Word. It is worth more than all the silver and gold on this earth. The Word of God gives something that money cannot buy: the forgiveness of every sin through the death and resurrection of Christ. This is the one and only thing that can set us free. So, this is why this is the chief thing the devil attacks. Without God’s Word, faith dies. The devil knows this. Therefore, the only true attack the devil has against the Church is his lies. The lies of satan bind you to your sin, this world, and your own condemnation. But, the Word of God sets you free. God sanctifies us in the truth; His Word is truth.
To be defended from the lies of the devil, read Holy Scripture. Tell your pastor to read the words of Holy Scripture to you. Read God’s Word to your wife and children. Be careful with the “memes,” and “Pinterest” theology that you find online or popular books. Rather, read Holy Scripture. The Word of God is clear. Meditate on what God has caused to be written down for you. Direct those who mourn to Christ, who has destroyed the works of the devil by His own suffering and death on the cross.
Here are some helpful lessons from Holy Scripture:
For heathens, and those who have left the faith: Psalm 53, 115, 119:41-48; Ezekiel 34; Luke 15; John 6:66-69; John 8, 10; Acts 4; 2 Corinthians 4; Colossians 2; 1 Timothy 6; 1 Peter 3; 2 Peter 1; 1 John 4; Jude;
Everyone keeps saying #PrayForOrlando. However, there’s no point in praying for something if you don’t know to whom you pray! Even more, in times of terror, many don’t know what to pray for! But, you, dear Christians, know to whom you pray—your Father in heaven—and you know what to pray for—His Will to be done. When there is nothing good in your heart, and when you do not know what to pray for, repent and pray the Lord’s Prayer. Pray the very words that God has taught you to pray to Him. Teach your family to pray. Pray this for yourself, and for all those who suffer. Thank God for His visitation upon you.
Study the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Small Catechism, and teach others what each petition means. Focus on the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 7th petitions of the Lord’s Prayer. Pray that God’s kingdom come. Pray that He graciously give you faith to believe His Word, and to lead a godly life here in time and there in eternity. Pray that God’s Will is done. How is God’s will done? “God’s will is done when he breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die. This is His good and gracious will” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer: The Third Petition). Pray also that God gives you the heart to forgive, and that He deliver you from evil. What does this mean? “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer: The Seventh Petition). Focus on the words, on their meanings, and teach them to your children and loved ones.
Pray the Litany in church, and at home. The Litany asks for God to be gracious and merciful to us. We ask for God to deliver us, according to His Will, from the very things that happened this past weekend. Listen to the words from this excerpt: “Be gracious to us. Help us, good Lord. From all sin, from all error, from all evil; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from sudden and evil death; from pestilence and famine; from war and bloodshed; from sedition and from rebellion; from lightning and tempest; from all calamity by fire and water; and from everlasting death: Good Lord, deliver us” (The Litany, LSB 288). Pray the Litany whenever tragedy and terror strikes in our nation, or at your home. Learn to ask for God’s mercy, and know that He listens to your pleas on account of Christ.
Finally, sing hymns. Hymns are a confession before God and man. Pray these hymns. If God has blessed you with children, start by teaching them, “I am Jesus Little Lamb” (LSB 740), and tell them to focus and memorize on the third stanza: “Who so happy as I am, Even now the Shepherd’s lamb? And when my short life is ended, By His angel host attended, He shall fold me to His breast, There within His arms to rest.” Teach them to also sing LSB 546, O Jesus So Sweet, O Jesus So Mild. Sit down with your family, friends, and loved ones and learn these hymns together:
· LSB 334, O Lord, How Shall I Meet You
· LSB 513, The Clouds of Judgement Gather
· LSB 514, The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us
· LSB 515, Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers
· LSB 516, Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying
· LSB 555, Salvation unto Us Has Come
· LSB 556, Dear Christians One and All Rejoice
· LSB 594, God’s Own Child, I Gladly Say It
· LSB 636, Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness
· LSB 666, O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe
· LSB 745, In God, My Faithful God
· LSB 750, If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee
· LSB 754, Entrust Your Days and Burdens
· LSB 755, In the Very Midst of Life
· LSB 756, Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me
· LSB 758, The Will of God is Always Best
· LSB 759, This Body in the Grave We Lay
· LSB 760, What God Ordains is Always Good
· LSB 766, Our Father, Who From Heaven Above
· LSB 768, To God the Holy Spirit Let Us Pray
· LSB 777, Grant Peace, We Pray, in Mercy, Lord
· LSB 897, O Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly
Go to church. Read God’s Word. Pray. You will be tempted to stop doing these things. Resist that temptation. Reach out to your neighbors and loved ones with the very Word of God. Memorize this Word. Keep it in your heart and mind, so that out of the abundance of God’s Word in your heart, your mouth with speak these words of God! Stand up for what is true, and speak God’s Word boldly. Face whatever persecution comes your way. Carry the cross that God has given you. Don’t find temporary and fleeting comfort in false hopes, the appearance of unity and solidarity, the compromising of God’s Word, or in work, TV, social media, or comfort dogs and other distractions. Although these things bring temporary happiness, true comfort and joy is found only in the wounds of Christ.
See, my soul, thy Savior chooses
Weakness here and poverty;
In such love He comes to thee.
Neither crib nor cross refuses;
All He suffers for thy good
To redeem thee by His blood.
Joy, O joy, beyond all gladness,
Christ has done away with sadness!
Hence, all sorrow and repining,
For the Sun of Grace is shining!
(LSB 897, O Rejoice, Ye Christians Loudly)