Where honor is due

For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. (Psalm 84:10)

Last month, a man opened fire in a church. Three people died, and others were wounded. This is not an isolated event. Yesterday was the one-year anniversary of the shooting spree in Colorado that was ended by a church security guard shooting the attacker.

A church security guard? Yep. It’s becoming a common thing. Once upon a time, churches were inviolate sanctuaries, sacred ground that were respected even by those who did not believe.

We do not live in those days.

At our church, a couple of young men have taken this situation seriously and have volunteered as doorwardens. They take turns standing by the doors, holding them open for worshipers coming and going and assisting those who are old or with child. But they are also watching for incursions.

I greatly appreciate their service. I know that it can sometimes be a thankless job, but I believe that it is a vital one.

So, Colton and Emil, I tip my hat to you. (Yeah, the funny-looking one with the weird loop on it.) Your service is not in vain, and it will be rewarded by the Lord of the house that you guard.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11)

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16 responses to “Where honor is due

  • Adiel

    It’s always encouraging to me to see young men acting like men. Well done. You are both blessings to your parents and church.

  • Comrade Andrew

    My wife and I visited America earlier this year and made a special point of getting along to a church while there. She had a lifelong dream of going to an American church with a large gospel choir, so we went together.

    When the offering was taken up, and the burly men in suits blocked the doors to prevent anyone from coming or going, I was amazed and saddened. It showed me something about urban America that I’d previously only read about. It also made me wonder about accessing what the Church has. Do we really need guards at the door to grant people access to the gospel, or even to our material resources? Are we at risk of denying the Church to the needy?

    I don’t have any answers to this. I have only questions about how congregations have become protective about the treasures we need to share. And I’m also selfishly glad that I don’t live in a country that is so violent as to make this necessary – and this makes me sad for the people who do.

    I travel a lot with my current employer, and I always ask myself whether I could live in the countries I visit. The jury is still out about living in America.

  • Jessica McDonald

    I have to agree with you!
    Thank you Colton and Emil for keeping watch so faithfully each and every week! And as I don’t have such a neat hat as Mr. Ben Ezra *grin* I will instead curtsy to y’all. 🙂

  • Carl Klutzke

    Is that… is that a Klein bottle hat?

  • dlr

    Comrade, the only treasures being guarded in our church are sisters, and brothers in the Lord. (as required by the sixth commandment)

  • Seth Ben-Ezra

    Carl,

    Yep, that’s a Klein bottle hat. My friend Raquel made it for me a couple of years ago to go with the Mobius strip scarf that she made me the year before.

  • Comrade Andrew

    dlr – I see that we read “you shall not kill” in different ways. How do you make the move to interpret this as “you shall not permit others to kill” ?

    Of course, if that is your interpretation, then you and your congregation must be quite active campaigners against the various killing that takes place around the world.

  • Brett Mooberry

    Andrew: You and I must have different Bibles, because mine doesn’t say “you shall not kill”. Mine says “You shall not murder”. Mine also contains this section in Proverbs 24:

    10 If you falter in times of trouble,
    how small is your strength!

    11 Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

    12 If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
    Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?

    One of the points in 11 and 12 is that if you don’t guard the lives of others, He who guards your life will repay you accordingly…

  • dlr

    Comrade, this is not my own personal interpretation. This is Classic Christian Theology 101. (refer to the Westminster Confession of Faith’s Larger Catechism questions 134-136)

  • Comrade Andrew

    So therefore you post guards at the door to decide who may enter the church.

    On what basis do they decide? Which physical characteristics must a person have in order that they are deemed deserving? Big noses? Green eyes? A wedding ring? A suit and tie? A mole on the left cheek and not the right?

  • Raquel

    I’ve been meaning to comment on the original post to add my own ‘amen’, but now it seems I’m going to have to jump into the discussion…

    Andrew, I get the impression that your mental image of our doorwardens is completely different from what I’ve seen them do. I’ve seen them cheerfully hold the door for every person who goes through (cold work lately, too). I’ve seen them prevent small children from escaping into the parking lot. I’d imagine that most people assume this is the whole reason they’re there.

    I’ve also seen them politely guide to the restroom four punk teenagers who just happened to be passing by. ‘Suspicious’ looking people aren’t likely to be turned away from our church, unless, perhaps they’re waving guns and shouting threats in the parking lot. But as long as it is our job to share Jesus with all, even the most disreputable, I will feel safer knowing that one of my brothers is always watchful and alert to who is in the building and ready to protect if trouble starts.

  • Gabrielle

    Andrew, something you need to understand is that when you popped up here and said what you said you weren’t entering into an argument with Seth. You were disrespecting two young men you know nothing about who regularly put themselves forward to care for other people. If you want to have this argument go start it somewhere else. These comments were suppose to be an opportunity for those who appreciate what Colton and Emil do to say so. If you aren’t going to do that I suggest you go elsewhere.

    Colton and Emil, thank you. Someday we’ll get you the funny hat and vest you’ve earned.

  • Comrade Andrew

    Gabrielle,

    On the surface, the original post indicated that in response to violence against various congregations, some people volunteered to be “church security guards.”

    Being an outsider to your country, I questioned it. I wondered whether this had other implications, whether your security guards (or door wardens, if you prefer) were there to regulate entry to your congregational meetings. Was this the beginning of a slippery slope in which access to other parts of your congregation would be regulated?

    In response, I’ve met dismissal (“as required by the sixth commandment”) without explanation.

    I’ve met condescension (“this is Christian Theology 101”). I’m sure that a few hundred years of earlier theological writings might lay claim to that title instead.

    I’ve met some explanation of your interpretation (thank you, Brett).

    I still haven’t resolved from this whether the presence of security guards at the doors of a congregation is a good thing. Conversely, I’ve been “politely guided to the restroom” by people who are “ready to protect if trouble starts.” The topic of security guards in church was raised here, in a blog I’ve read for months, in a blog which has enticed more than one set of comments from me. This seemed like the place to engage with the topic, to ask questions of the people who think that security guards are a good idea for a congregation.

    Very well. To the restroom I shall go. May you and yours continue to be happy in your building, feeling safe that someone is always watchful, feeling care from those who open and close your doors on cold days, sharing Jesus with those disreputable ones who are so bold as to approach your doors. I, sadly, will still be in the restroom, with the rest of your skubala, one step further away from agreeing that security guards are a good thing at the doors of a congregation.

    Seth: Thank you for allowing anyone to post comments – agreeable or dissenting – on your blog. Adieu.

  • James Lansberryj

    Andrew:

    What kind of negative spin are you working for that causes you to think that they were guided to the restroom for a purpose other than that they needed to use the facilities?

    You say you want to engage in conversation and discussion about whether it’s OK to post security guards (not in uniform or with any weapons drawn!) outside of a place where people gather peacefully to worship, and where Seth has given two examples of evil men wandering into such gatherings and opening fire. Yet you put the worst possible interpretation on everything that has been said.

    guided to the restroom must mean “kept away from the clean people”
    opened the door for people in cold weather must mean “we shut the doors in the faces of people we don’t know”
    and preaching the gospel of peace must mean “we hate those who don’t look like us.”

    What do you know about our church that would cause you to jump to the *most uncharitable* interpretation of every phrase? Nothing? Yep, that’s what I thought.

    Ours is a church that is unusual in that there are many different ethnic groups, many socio-economic backgrounds, all worshipping together in the common Savior.

    And yes, we believe that preventing murder in that context, should that threat ever arise (Lord willing it will not!) to be perfectly appropriate.

    Colton and Emil: Thank you for your service!

  • Seth Ben-Ezra

    Andrew,

    You are laboring under a misconception. In your previous comment, you said:

    The topic of security guards in church was raised here….

    See, actually, it wasn’t. I didn’t write a blog post discussing the ramifications of church security on the free offer of the gospel. Had that been the case, I would have welcomed discussion. Rather, I wrote a blog post honoring two men in my church. They do a valuable service, and I wanted to thank them in public.

    And then, you come onto the post and…how shall we put this…threadcrap.

    It’s as if, in the middle of a high school graduation, someone stood up and began arguing the merits of homeschooling versus public schooling. Would you be surprised if people were angry at that man? It’s simply not the time or place to be having that discussion. To do so demonstrates either a significant misunderstanding of social dynamics or a deliberate desire to offend.

    I mean, go back and read what you wrote:

    It showed me something about urban America that I’d previously only read about….I travel a lot with my current employer, and I always ask myself whether I could live in the countries I visit. The jury is still out about living in America.

    So, you don’t live here, and you might not want to live here. Okay, that’s all well and good. But, you know what? I live in urban America. And this reads like you have your nose in the air, looking down at me and mine as we grapple with immediate issues that affect our lives. (More on this in a bit.)

    Or what about this:

    Of course, if that is your interpretation, then you and your congregation must be quite active campaigners against the various killing that takes place around the world.

    Was this an honest statement? It certainly reads like a snide comment aimed at dlr.

    Or what about this:

    Are we at risk of denying the Church to the needy?

    with this:

    So therefore you post guards at the door to decide who may enter the church.

    On what basis do they decide? Which physical characteristics must a person have in order that they are deemed deserving? Big noses? Green eyes? A wedding ring? A suit and tie? A mole on the left cheek and not the right?

    What about using “Is this person waving a firearm?” as a basis. This would seems fairly clear from what I wrote.

    Therefore, how can I interpret this as anything but an attack? “You don’t want the poor/black/Hispanic/smelly/undesirables/people different from you in your church.” That’s what I read when you wrote this. Should I have seen it another way?

    Andrew, I’ll tell you this straight out. You spend too much time in your books and not enough time trying to understand people.

    Consider this: Gabrielle lives in my house, and Raquel lives down the street. We live in earshot of gunfire. In fact, a couple of years ago, there was a gun fight across the street from where Raquel lives. For that matter, a gun battle erupted once right next to where my wife and I were driving. We were in the line of fire, and Crystal saw the muzzle flash. It’s only by God’s grace that neither we nor our 15-passenger van were hit.

    There is a bullet-hole in one of the windows of the house across the street.

    I sleep with a loaded shotgun by my bed, in case I need to protect my family at night.

    Two summers ago, someone was shot nearby. He fled his assailants for several blocks, leaving a trail of blood down the street. Eventually, he collapsed and died on someone’s front porch. That front porch is only a few blocks from where I live. Every morning, I open the blinds, wondering if there will be a body lying there.

    I carry a knife out into the alley at night, because I know that bad things happen in alleys.

    We live in the presence of violence. And while, by God’s grace, we have been kept from it, we feel the shape of it and have conformed our lives to address this very real possibility.

    But why have we done this? Why would sensible people live in such a place, when they could live in calmer, safer neighborhoods?

    Because we could live elsewhere, you know. What I’m describing is not the uniform experience of most Americans. No, but we have chosen this.

    Why?

    Because we are committed to reaching out to the needy, to living with the poor and the poor in heart. Because we believe that the message of reconciliation needs to be extended to all, even the disreputable and dangerous. Because, in order that the gospel of Christ might spread, we have sacrificed our safety and security.

    Crackheads need Jesus. Potheads need Jesus. Robbers need Jesus. Whores need Jesus.

    That’s why we are here. And if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you should know this.

    And so, can you see how your pointed statements and snide comments are both a dishonoring of our brethren and an assault upon the sacrifices that we have made?

    You say that you were interested in dialogue. Perhaps. I can’t read your intentions or your heart. Though, if you had wanted to ask questions, you should have asked questions. Something like this, perhaps:

    “Hey, guys. I appreciate where you’re coming from on this church security thing. But, isn’t it possible that would scare people away from the church? Has that become a problem?”

    Or something like that. Questions, phrased with humility, expressed with a desire to understand.

    Instead, you pissed on men that I honor, looking down on them and us with arrogant pride while making baseless accusations. You were not asking questions; you were going to put us in our place. And then, oddly, you are surprised when others take offense.

    Finally, this:

    Seth: Thank you for allowing anyone to post comments – agreeable or dissenting – on your blog. Adieu.

    That has indeed been my practice. Though, to be straight with you, the reason that I’ve not replied to you until now is because I’ve been so angry that I didn’t trust myself to respond. Indeed, my first reaction was simply to ban you and be done with it.

    That’s how angry I was.

    You’ll notice that I haven’t done so. And, perhaps this is a big misunderstanding. The Internet is well-known for losing the minutiae of conversation. So, consider this an invitation to reconsider your words. Now that you know what the rest of the folk on this thread (including myself!) have been reading, you can now correct our misconception, if it was a misconception. Or, for that matter, if I am correct, there is still time to make amends.

    But, if you will not, I will not be sorry to see you go.

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