When the news broke that the Oregon shooter may have been asking people if they were Christians before choosing his victims, I could practically feel the ripples of fear, of indignation, of introspection sweep across the internet. We all began asking ourselves how we would have answered the question. We reacted. We felt we ought to. The conversations began around kitchen tables and office break rooms, and they spilled over, as all opinions do, onto social media.
Before long a new hashtag was born: #IWouldSayYes.
We were awed by the courage of the nine who died at the hand of this deranged gunman. We still are. They did what they felt they had to do in the moment, and God was honored. We wondered if we would ever have the courage to stare down the barrel of a gun and claim Jesus in this way. But, as our conversations about hypothetical situations continued, we began to grow in our confidence. All our pride got stirred up, and we became convinced that, yes, those nine were brave, but we would be, too.
I fell into this pride trap. This hubris that is a hallmark of humanity. I had the thought that if I were ever in that situation, I would be the most Christian-y Christian ever. I would quote scripture and stand up and say true things (that would almost certainly would get me shot). I would spur my fellow hostages on to be brave. I would be the ultimate in modern martyrs. This thought process lasted for all of about two minutes before I remembered that if I were truly in a terrible situation like the one in Oregon, I have no earthly clue what I would do. I would probably cry a lot. Maybe I would beg. Maybe I would forget about any of my noble plans to die in a blaze of glory. Maybe I would just really, really want to come home to my three babies and the man who loves me.
It’s amazing to me that we can look at what those nine souls did in that Oregon classroom and think, Oh, yeah, I would totally do that, too. Really?
I pray that none of us is ever faced with a situation like that one. But, if we are, chances are nothing about it will go according to our daydreamed plans. And, that’s okay. Because I sense that when we are theoretically determining that we will be the ultimate martyrs, we are thinking much more about what other people will write and say and think about us than we are thinking about what God wills, what He desires, what He sees.
Very few Christians in the history of the world have been called to be martyrs. Chances are, we aren’t. I think we would be better off praying for the Christians who are facing brutal persecution in our world today than fantasizing about how wonderfully we would handle the situation if we were in it. It’s only by God’s grace and mercy and His Holy Spirit’s workings that we ever do what is noble, right, pure, lovely, so now is certainly not the time for me or you to get all proud of ourselves. In some way we are dishonoring the Oregon victims by jumping on the I’d-say-yes bandwagon.
Let’s pray for their families. Let’s pray for ourselves. Let’s beg God to show us the best way to react to every situation, and let’s be humble enough to admit that we really shouldn’t have any confidence in ourselves at all. We aren’t brave. We aren’t noble. We aren’t good. But, He who lives in us can do immeasurably more than we ask or even imagine. He alone is worthy of our vote of confidence. I have decided instead of striving to be the most Christian-y Christian ever, I should just rest in His presence and trust in His ways. Then, no matter what happens, no matter what I face, He will do what is best, and He will help me react in a way that brings Him glory. At least, that’s my humble prayer. Instead of claiming #IWouldSayYes, let’s just say yes, every day, to the Lord of Hosts, our Redeemer, our Rescuer. This is the way. Walk in it.