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When evil comes to church

Christians understand that God commands decorum in worship. The assembling of ourselves together is to “be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Therefore, our assemblies consist of acts of reverence which are paid to our creator.

 

But what if decency and orderliness is disrupted? What if someone interrupts our worship verbalizing strong disagreement? What if they begin to curse and swear? What if they are armed with a weapon? How is a Christian to respond? What does the Bible teach?

 

The apostle Peter wrote, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

 

Peter tells us that Jesus is our example when it comes to suffering; that is, do what Jesus did. Peter went on to deal specifically with Christ’s response to personal mistreatment. Peter wrote, “who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Pet. 2:23).

 

Jesus, himself, had this to say about the treatment of our enemies; “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45).

 

Do what, Lord? Love and pray for those who seek to do me harm? Are we to understand that it is never right to resist evil with a physical response?

 

On December 29, 2019, at the West Freeway church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, two church members were fatally shot by a gunman during the worship act of communion. The gunman was shot and killed by a 71-year-old volunteer security team member.

 

Was killing the gunman the Christlike thing to do? Since 1999 there have been more than 600 violent deaths in church assemblies? Does the Bible teach that it is always wrong to be involved in a physical altercation?

 

Concerning the atmosphere of the Jewish temple worship; there were 212 gatekeepers (guards) chosen from among the Levites (1 Chron. 9:17-21). It was their responsibility to determine who was allowed inside the different sections of the temple (Jews/Gentiles). And they were to ensure that order and reverence was maintained in God’s house. How did they do this? Did they huddle together and pray for the disrupter? Certainly not! They were the protectors of the articles of the temple. They were the protectors of the reverence of the atmosphere. As a guard, if needed, they would escort a person out of the assembly forcefully.

 

Obviously, Jesus did not condemn all physical altercations. We can determine this by looking at the example he used concerning His return. He said, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into” (Luke 12:39).

 

Again, it is evident that the Lord is not condemning all physicality in way of defense. Concerning such defense of the family and home the Law of Moses instructed; “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies,       there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed” (Ex. 22:2). Under the Old Law, God permitted physical force for the protection of the family and home. Jesus justified this use as a proper response to the threat of family and home. Is the church house and family any different? 

 

But let us suppose the disrupter is not threatening harm. Maybe they are ignorant of worship decorum and do not understand they are out of order. Should we patiently sit/stand by and allow them to interrupt our worship and disrespect God? After all, we SEE no weapon. They are not doing any physical harm with their cursing and swearing. But what about the spiritual harm to all who have assembled to worship their creator. (I am pretty confident a disruption such as this would not have lasted very long in the temple.)

 

For those who believe we should just wait; how long should we wait before removing a physical threat? How long should we wait before we remove a spiritual (and potential physical) threat?

 

Not knowing the disrupter; will the incident escalate? Do they have other intentions? Do they have a hidden weapon? Is the Christian thing to do to simply sit idly by and wait to see what happens?

 

On one occasion Jesus entered the temple and found people disrupting the atmosphere of worship. Let us read how our Lord handled the situation.

 

John 2:13-16 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 And He found in the temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers doing business. 15 When He had made a whip of cords, He drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables. 16 And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” 

 

Worship to God was being disrupted and Jesus reacted physically. Understand, this was not in response to a personal attack (being reviled he did not revile), but rather, this was in defense of the proper atmosphere for worship. “Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” (Jn. 2:17; Psa. 69:9)

 

Does God permit us, the Christian, to have zeal for decency and orderliness in the worship to our almighty creator, but only if a disrupter has a weapon?

 

We might get sued! Probably so. But the atmosphere of reverence would have been quickly restored and lives possibly saved.

 

Concerning the legal ramifications, notice the court ruling in a similar situation.

 

A Louisiana court ruled that a church has a legal right to use reasonable force in removing a potentially disruptive individual from its premises. 

 

Example: A disruptive individual was asked to leave the church property. He refused to do so. In response, a few members took him by each arm and physically removed him from the church. The individual later sued the members who removed him claiming that they had committed battery. A state appeals court disagreed. The court defined a battery as “harmful or offensive contact to another without that person’s consent, done with an intent” to cause the contact. The court concluded that the church members did not intend any offensive or harmful contact with the person whom they removed from the building. It added: “They had a legal right to see that [he] left the church meeting so its business would not be impeded and disrupted by his presence. Their contact with him was a reasonable means of accomplishing that intention. When, with no intent to cause offensive or harmful contact, reasonable force is used by persons in authority against one who has provoked an incident, the resulting contact is not a battery.” Robinson v. Dunn, 683 So.2d 894 (La. App. 1996) (churchlawandtax.com).

 

No punches were thrown. No pushing and shoving took place. The disrupter was firmly taken by the arms and quickly escorted out. The verbal disruption was minimized time wise.

 

Certainly, Christian men will not sit by and allow their wives and children to be harmed physically and/or spiritually. Certainly, Christian men will not sit back and wait on a Christian sister to take the lead in handling a disruption.

 

We live in a time where disruption of our worship has occurred and is on the rise. There is a need for preparedness! There is a need for guards in the “temple.” There is a need for male leadership.

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