Voices: Are thoughts and prayers enough?

Santa Fe, Texas, May 21, 2018: Memorial crosses set up outside of Santa Fe High School after a student gunman shot 10 people on May 18, 2018. (Photo: Eric V Overton / Shutterstock.com)

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We are only 20 weeks into 2018, and there have already been 22 school shootings in America.

Twenty-two occasions of parents across the country breathing a sigh of relief that it wasn’t their kid’s school this time while others are forced to mourn the loss of their children.

In less than six months, there have been 22 opportunities for our elected officials to offer their thoughts and prayers.

I don’t know what the victims were doing the day before, but I do know they will never get to do it again. Next year, when my boys are on the soccer field running around with their friends again, these children will still be dead. Those who survived these shootings will never be the same.

I write this as a Christian, and while I hope everyone will read it, I admit I am writing specifically to those who throw themselves at the foot of the cross alongside me.

When will it be enough?

When will we demand more of our leadership beyond their thoughts and prayers? When will we demand they put their faith into action?

As Christians, we know we live in a broken world, and we know the power of prayer. But we also know the dangers of speaking with forked tongues; because of our faith, we should know the dangerous nature of hypocrisy. James warned us in his book that faith without works is dead.

Let our faith reveal itself in our good works.

Who can blame the world for their anger at our proclamation of thoughts and prayers? We feed the hopelessness the world feels when we respond with words but without actions. With 58 dead in Las Vegas, 26 in Sutherland Springs, four in Rancho Tehama, and two in Aztec, I pray that the next time this happens, and it will happen again, we put our faith into action.

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While it is unrealistic to take away people’s guns, something must be done. Let’s start by putting our faith, and words, into action.

When will we act?

Thoughts and prayers are easy; convictions and actions are difficult. I plead for the leadership of our country to stop weaponizing our faith through simple platitudes and, instead, put faith into action. I call on the church to ask itself what it will finally take for us to hold ourselves and our elected officials accountable.

Do we speak with apathy or with healing (Proverbs 12:18)?

Pastor Rick Warren notes, “What you say has a direct connection to your heart.” But he takes it one step further: “God’s warning for talkers is this: You also have to act.”

James warns us in chapter three about the power of the tongue and the dangerous temptation of speaking without thinking or out of turn. Evidence of spiritual maturity can be identified by one’s use of the tongue. Spiritual growth and maturity is not optional but can be ignored at our own peril (1 Peter 2:1–3).

Theologian Sinclair Ferguson states it plainly: “How easily the failure to master the tongue can destroy the effect of every grace that had taken years to build into our lives! Introduce poison here and we endanger everything.”

How many more children have to get shot before we refuse to allow this sort of godlessness to rule us no more? This goes beyond gun control or any single policy issue. My concern is with the witness of the church and its body.

Sin is failure to do what one knows he should do (James 4:17). Sinful actions and, more pertinent to our reflexive response of thoughts and prayers, non-actions are to be forsaken. Let us refuse to poison the grace of God no more.

Let us not love with just words or speech but also with actions and in truth.

Smith Getterman lives in Waco, Texas, with his wife and two sons. He holds a BA and MA from Baylor University and an MTS from Dallas Baptist University. You can find him on Twitter @getterman or by email at sgetterman@gmail.com.

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