Church shootings are always tragic but they are not new. One case occurred in Dallas, Texas in 1899. William Lipscomb, Jr., the nephew of David Lipscomb, was the principal of Central High School. A man named John Carlisle was the head janitor of the school. The school board decided to relieve Carlisle of his job, and he blamed William Lipscomb. Ten days later Lipscomb was attending a revival with his wife and children. Drunken and enraged, Carlisle entered the church building with a pistol and shot Lipscomb while his wife and children watched with horror. He died two days later.
Only those who have been through such an atrocity can comprehend the pain it brings. David Lipscomb, grieving the loss of his brother’s son, wrote:
“Will was a good child, and good boy, and had grown into a good man. He had become a Christian in his boyhood, was conscientious, and faithful in his duties to God…He leaves a good wife and four interesting children to mourn their loss. He was decided and outspoken against wrong. He was not quite forty years of age, and he seemed to have before him a life of usefulness and happiness.”
If David Lipscomb had acted like some today, he would have used this tragedy as an opportunity to yell and scream for strict gun-control laws. He would have blamed the killing on gun manufacturers. But he did not. This is most interesting because Lipscomb was a staunch pacifist. He was strongly against Christians bearing arms as soldiers or policemen. He believed that government is from Satan, not God. He was wrong about this (Rom. 13:1-7), but he had enough integrity not to let his feelings on this matter lead him into a political and social campaign against owning guns.
Lipscomb was hurt deeply over the senseless murder of his nephew, but he never allowed his grief to make him bitter. A calamity like this is hard to bear, and there is a temptation to be so filled with rage that all feelings of joy and peace are lost. But Lipscomb kept his faith in God. He like others suffered great personal loss without losing hope. Alexander Campbell had lost a wife in his late thirties and had buried ten of his fourteen children by the time he was in his early sixties. These old-time preachers and their families were not strangers to heartaches and tears.
How Lipscomb trusted in God is revealed in his reflections on the injustice of his nephew’s death. This is one of the most penetrating observations on the problem of evil ever written by an uninspired man:
“It seems a strange providence that one of his character and usefulness should be slain by a drunken demon, yet things sometimes so happen in this world. We must learn submission, and trust the great Judge and Ruler of all things to adjust matters at the final judgment” (Gospel Advocate, July 20, 1899, p. 457).
Brilliant men throughout the centuries have written profound books about why bad things happen to good people. But the wisdom of their words cannot compare to the Bible, and in the end we must simply submit and trust like this old preacher said. In a world that has gone crazy, we need this simple, biblical reminder.