“You think you’re going to be safe in church,” said Mike McPherson, as he waited at Vanderbilt University Medical Center on Sunday for updates on his friend Joey Spann.
Spann is the minister at Burnette Chapel church of Christ, where a gunman, identified by police as 25-year-old Emanuel Kidega Samson, entered the building at the conclusion of worship last Sunday and began “indiscriminately shooting at people,” police said, wounding six people.
On the way into the building, he shot and killed 39-year-old Melanie Smith, who was walking to her car.
According to new reports a church usher, identified as 22-year-old Robert Engle, ran up and confronted Samson and was subsequently pistol-whipped by him, police said. During Engle’s struggle with the shooter, Samson suffered an injury when his gun discharged. At that point, Engle went to his car, where he got his weapon to confront the shooter again and stood guard over him until police arrived.
Police have called Engle a hero saying, “Mr. Engle saved countless lives here today,” said Don Aaron, a spokesman for the Metro Nashville Police Department. “He is, at the end of the day, the hero in this because we think this could’ve been much worse in terms of death.”
Engle, however, said he did not want to be labeled a hero.”The real heroes are the police, first responders and medical staff and doctors who have helped me and everyone affected.” Engle asked for prayers for all those injured as well as the shooter.
If you missed this story, it’s understandable. Since it has been basically ignored by the national news media, or buried on the back page. The protests of NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem has been in the spotlight lately.
This sad and tragic attack reminds us of some important lessons.
(1) Evil abounds in the world today. Everywhere. Everyday. Even on Sunday at a church service.
“Everybody’s looking for why, why, why,” said Melanie Smith’s daughter, Breanna. “There’s no understanding evil. There’s no understanding hate.”
Jesus said, “And an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things (Matt 12;35). An evil heart devises wicked plans (Prov. 6:18). The devil is called “the evil one” who spreads hate, inflicts hurt, and leaves heartache in its wake.
Sin began in the garden when Eve listened to Satan’s lies. And continued when Cain killed his brother Abel. Abraham’s lie, Saul’s rebellion, and David’s adultery are the result of the devil’s influence.
While we haven’t learned Emanuel Samson’s motive for the shooting, we do know that he allowed Satan to enter his heart and commit this horrific act.
(2) Bad things happen to good people. While it may sound like a cliche’, it’s so. Christians are not exempt from evil’s influence and effects. Even during a worship service.
It does not require a degree in Biblical studies to observe God’s people suffering through the ages. Even when they themselves have lived righteously. The Bible account of Job is a classic case in point.
(3) Persecution of Christians is nothing new. While Christians in America enjoyed relative peace and freedom from persecution for many years, that is not the case everywhere in the world. Nor has it been true through the ages.
Jesus offered a blessing and hope of future reward to those who would suffer persecution at the hands of evil people (Matt 5:10-12). Peter, Paul, and all the apostles were persecuted in the first century.
But Paul’s attitude toward suffering, assault, and attacks on his faith is worthy of our emulation. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2Cor. 4:8-9).
(4) We need courage to confront evil. Robert Engle literally and physically faced evil. Courage, however, comes in many forms. Standing up for Truth. Saying “no” to sinful temptations. Giving a defense for our faith. Living righteously in a wicked world. These actions require courage.
In a culture that scorns godliness, disregards God, and calls evil good, Christians must not be deterred from the path of righteousness. We may not receive much notice from the world or the praise of men, but God will reward the faithful. And that’s enough.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman