Jim Denison: Three Steps to Courage Today

Lori Gilbert-Kaye was worshipping in the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in suburban San Diego last Saturday when a gunman entered the sanctuary. A man identified by authorities as nineteen-year-old John T. Earnest began shooting.

Gilbert-Kaye stepped in front of bullets aimed at her longtime friend and rabbi as he gave his sermon. She was killed, leaving behind a husband and an adult daughter.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot in the hand and lost a finger. Nonetheless, he continued his sermon “telling everyone to stay strong,” according to a synagogue member.

As the rabbi was wheeled into the operating room after the shooting, he told a friend to “let everyone know that Lori stepped in and saved my life.”


Lori Gilbert-Kaye was not the only hero last Saturday.

Army veteran Oscar Stewart was in the synagogue when the shooting began. He started running out of the sanctuary along with his fellow worshipers. Then he turned around.

Something—he later said it might have been the “hand of God”—propelled him into the lobby.

There he saw the assailant in a military-style vest wielding a semiautomatic rifle. “Get down!” he yelled at the man. The gunman fired two rounds in response. “I’m going to kill you,” Stewart yelled back. This seemed to rattle the gunman, who began to flee.

Stewart chased him into the parking lot, where the shooter got into a Honda sedan. When the man reached for his weapon, Stewart punched the side of the car. The man started the car and sped away. He later surrendered to police.

Stewart told reporters, “I’m not a hero or anything. I just reacted. I thank God he gave me the courage to do what I did.”


From attacks against Jews in California to assaults on Christians in Sri Lanka and Muslims in New Zealand, religious people are facing hate crimes and prejudice daily. As CNN notes, “The violence is a grim reminder that prejudice knows no borders and threatens people of different skin colors and religions.”

However, research indicates that attacks on houses of worship and religious leaders are rarer than we might think. From 1970 to 2017, such assaults comprised only 2.44 percent of all terrorist attacks worldwide.

Even a single act of violence is too many, of course. But the need for courage in our fallen world is not confined to religious persecution.

Courage in a crisis can be our greatest witness.

You are statistically unlikely to face terrorism when you go to your next worship service. But you are very likely to be facing problems today for which you need courage. An elderly professor once advised me to “be kind to everyone, because everyone’s having a hard time.”

Oscar Stewart and Lori Gilbert-Kaye had no idea when they woke up last Saturday that their bravery would make global headlines. Their stories remind us that courage in a crisis can be our greatest witness.

How can we prepare this morning to be courageous today?

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Source: Christian Headlines