‘You let her die in church’: How obeying what we don’t understand leads to peace

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Cassie Griffin is laid to rest at Wedgwood Baptist Church on Sept. 20, 1999.

Cassie Griffin arrived at church on Wednesday night for a prayer rally and a concert. The fourteen-year-old was sitting on the second row with friends when a gunman entered the church and opened fire, killing her and six others and wounding seven before taking his own life.

The shooting occurred on September 15, 1999, at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, Texas. Sunday, the congregation marked the twentieth anniversary of the tragedy. Among those in attendance were Cassie’s parents, who had to identify their daughter that horrible night by the Halloween-themed socks she had been wearing. 

Four theological facts 

Cassie Griffin and the other victims were in a prayer meeting when they died. This grievous fact raises the question: Why pray? In our post-9/11 world, why pray for protection from terrorists? In this era of mass murders, why ask God to defend us and those we love from the next shooter? 

Let’s consider four theological facts. 

One: God honors the freedom he gives us. 

The most famous verse in Scripture tells us that “whoever believes” in Jesus will “have eternal life” (John 3:16). Joshua challenged his people to “choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Thus, we should not pray for the Lord to remove a person’s free will, even if they intend to misuse their freedom for evil. 

Two: God sometimes engineers circumstances to help draw people to himself. 

The Lord did not remove Saul’s freedom when he traveled to Damascus to persecute Christians. But he did visit him with a blinding light and the voice of Jesus to which Saul responded in faith (Acts 9:3–19). Thus, we can pray for God to draw to himself those planning evil before they commit their crimes. 

Three: God sometimes answers prayer by protecting victims of misused freedom. 

When King Herod imprisoned Peter with plans to execute him,…

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