How to Respond to Mass Shootings

How to Respond to Mass Shootings  Hero Image How to Respond to Mass Shootings  Hero Image

Dear Watermark Family,

Another mass shooting occurred recently, although this time it happened only a few miles north of our Dallas campus. The headlines —as heartbreaking as ever — feel all too familiar. Whether at a concert hall, shopping mall, or school, we have grown accustomed to hearing about more innocent lives taken by another senseless act of evil.

Outrage and sorrow quickly follow, and then calls for change and political debate predictably ensue across party lines (e.g., “more gun control laws” versus “guns don’t kill people”). Then, if we are not careful, fatigue, cynicism, and even a sense of resignation might overcome us.

Church family, may we never grow calloused or indifferent toward the painful realities of this world! Instead, may we allow God’s Spirit to grant us the strength to respond appropriately as those who have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of His beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).

How might you faithfully respond the next time you hear of another tragedy?


First, respond in prayer. This might sound clichéd or trite to you, but nothing could be further from the truth. Ephesians 6:10-20 reminds us that our battle is not “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). As such, Paul commands us to pray “at all times in the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:18).

As Christians, we don’t simply respond with “a moment of silence” or “offer our thoughts” to the grieving. No. We pray to the God of all creation, the sovereign One who laid the foundations of the earth, determined its measurements, and commands the rising and setting of the sun (Job 38:4-15).

We don’t “just pray” any more than a fireman “just adds water” to a blazing building. We pray with a confident and bold assurance that the Lord hears our prayers and providentially responds with our best interests in mind (Matthew 7:7-11). Martin Luther once stated: “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes, and the business of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.”


Not only are we called to pray, but we are also called to “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Upon hearing of Lazarus’ death, we read a short but profound verse: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Knowing full well that He would soon raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus first empathized with those in mourning and grieved the loss of His friend. The all-sufficient, all-knowing, and all-powerful King of kings wept. What an amazing moment that so beautifully captures the love and compassion of God. Not one of our tears is lost. He captures each one in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).


Despite what you may hear on television or what political pundits espouse, the ultimate root of the problems facing our society is sin. Every one of us has rebelled against God and is guilty of sin. Without exception, each of us desperately needs the grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (Romans 3:9-18).

Like Old Testament author Nehemiah, we must confess our sin to the Lord and grieve the sins of our community: “And I said, ‘O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. We have acted very corruptly against you and have not kept the commandments, the statutes, and the rules that you commanded your servant Moses.’” (Nehemiah 1:5-7)

Improved gun laws, better background checks, criminal reform, and mental health care, although helpful in part, all fail to change the human heart. Only the grace of God by the power of His Spirit can regenerate the heart (Titus 3:5). Confession and genuine repentance always precede revival and societal change.


If you want to make a meaningful difference, then proclaim the gospel to a world imprisoned in the darkness of sin. Engage your non-believing neighbor, coworker, or friend. Share the love of Jesus so that others may experience the abundant life (John 10:10) and walk in the hope only our Savior provides. He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5).


Feelings of anger and outrage are normal responses whenever we hear of another mass shooting. We should hate evil and rightfully speak against it. However, we must do more than simply curse the darkness. Eleanor Roosevelt famously stated, “It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”

As believers, we are called to “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). It is not enough simply to speak against society’s evils. Like the prophet Jeremiah, we must seek the welfare of our city. “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7)

Depending on your background, passions, and expertise, this will look different for every individual in our body. Some may be called to serve in law enforcement; others to professions in mental health, education, or social work. Others are called to positions of leadership within the government. Everyone can volunteer to serve in meaningful ways.

We must all work toward solutions. Until we move beyond the exhaustive, predictable rhetoric and engage in meaningful dialogue toward reasonable solutions, we will fail to see real and substantive changes. Regardless of your political affiliation, simply repeating the party line without an openness to other perspectives will only result in the inevitable stalemate.


Finally, as believers who have trusted in the grace of God made available to us through Jesus Christ, we must remember that this world is not our home. Regardless of the tragic circumstance we face or the horrific story we read in the news, we know that “[w]eeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Although we may grieve, we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13).

Because of Jesus, we always have reason to rejoice! “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

See you on Sunday,


Blake Holmes 2021

Blake serves as Elder and Lead Pastor at Watermark Community Church.