USA (MNN) — More information is coming out about the tragic elementary school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee on Monday that killed three children and three staff members.
The Covenant School where the shooting occurred is a Christian elementary school. The shooter, a former student of the school, was a 28-year-old biological female who identified as a transgender man.
The killer’s manifesto has not been released by investigating police. We don’t yet know the full motive behind why she lashed out on a suicide mission to attack a Christian school.
However, Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief John Drake confirmed this was a “targeted” attack possibly born out of “resentment” the transgender former student held against the Christian school. He says the shooter was also under a doctor’s care for an emotional disorder.
Greg Yoder, Executive Director of Keys for Kids Ministries says, “There’s a heart problem. And when there’s a heart problem — when we don’t know who God is and we don’t understand who Jesus is — that’s when we become our own gods and take matters into our own hands and take action. In this case, it was evil action.”
Not a war cry, a missions cry
The secular world expects martyrs to be used as a war cry, a call to retaliation.
Yet, that’s not how the Bible sees it.
It’s true that anti-Christian sentiment is on the rise in the United States. But how should Christians respond to tragedy and targeting like this?
One has to look no further than the words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:43-45a:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
This is a reality already lived out by the persecuted Church around the world — responding to pressure and opposition with love. Extending friendship and grace.
It’s not the victim-blaming of the political left. It’s not the defensive posture of the political right.
It’s leaning in with the Gospel.
Yoder says, “There are hurting people. There are people suffering with mental illness like this person who need help. They need Jesus…. He’s all healing. He can heal the mental illnesses. He can heal the physical diseases. And He can heal, of course, the spiritual sickness that we all have.”
This is the paradox of the Gospel message. We also were enemies of Jesus. Yet He died to save us from our own sin.
“For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life.” Romans 5:10
Because we were loved by God while we were dead in our sins, we can extend love to others, no matter how they view us, the Bible, or Jesus Christ.
It’s not a war cry. It’s a missions cry.
A cry of grief for those who don’t know Jesus. Tears of sorrow for those who lost their lives to unspeakable violence. And a heart for the world to sense its need for a Savior.
In contrast to what society expects, Yoder says Christians can be “praying for those that are looking at this situation and who may not know Christ.
“Maybe this can be the entry point for them asking the question, ‘Why are they (Christians) so calm? Why are they taking this so well?’ and maybe being able to speak the truth of the Gospel into those that are watching.”
Keys for Kids — an invaluable resource
In post-Christian America, Yoder says, “We really need to get the heart issue. What are Christians really doing to disciple people? I don’t mean helping people grow in their faith. I mean the whole process of leading them to faith in Christ [and] helping them understand why they need a Savior.”
This is where ministries like Keys for Kids are an invaluable resource to Christian parents and adults.
Yoder says, “By really discipling kids, we want to ignite a passion for Christ in kids and teens and families worldwide.”
Keys for Kids equips Christian families to saturate their children with the Gospel through tools like the Keys for Kids radio station, devotionals, app, and podcast.
“We want to provide resources for moms and dads that have a heart to disciple their kids where they can form this beginning piece, where they’re having and spending time with their kids every single day in the Word. So we’re the starting point,” says Yoder.
Also, “We’re in the process of creating some materials that will be especially for unchurched families…so when Christians go into a scenario where there’s a lot of unchurched kids, they can provide them a resource to help them know why they need Jesus.
“Then once they grow in their faith, we want to provide them a resource that takes them from Genesis to Revelation, just providing the tenets of the faith, the starting point; and then provide resources to moms and dads and even adults who want to disciple kids and help train them in that process.”
Keys for Kids also has devotionals for teens called Unlocked, “which really helps dive into teenagers and all the things they’re dealing with in society. We talk about transgender. We talk about those issues that this person was obviously having to deal with and was probably frustrated with because searching for truth is difficult, especially when you don’t have that guidance.”
Ultimately, there is freedom, grace, and hope in following Jesus and the promise of eternity with Him.
Gospel hope in grief
Chad Scruggs’s 9-year-old daughter, Hallie Scruggs, was one of the children killed in The Covenant School shooting. Scruggs is also the lead pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church.
Just a few weeks prior to the shooting, Scruggs preached a sermon on Christ’s resurrection of Lazarus in John 11:28-54. His words perfectly lay out of the poignant message of the Gospel in grief:
“Jesus knew how the whole thing would go down and yet one of the most remarkable things about this story that always gets me is that, knowing exactly what He’s about to do, Jesus sits down and does what? He weeps.
“You see that a strong confidence in the end of the story does not undo or justify the absence of grief in the middle. A mature faith adds its tears to the sadness in our world. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who mourn,’ all the while, not losing confidence in how that sadness will eventually be overcome in Him.”
Easter is coming.
Header photo courtesy of Aaron Burden via Unsplash.