The news coming out of Texas has been heartbreaking. Every shooting is, but one that takes place in an elementary school is especially painful. The story of what happened has continued to change as more information becomes available, but the reactions of people on both sides of the political spectrum hasn’t. We all know their arguments; they have been basically the same ones since the shooting at Columbine H.S. in 1999. We have sadly reached stalemate.
What is the solution? Should we tightly monitor and/or limit access to guns? Should we harden our public spaces into ones that quickly eliminate threats? Or is it because Christianity is a diminishing presence in our society, and our young folk need more religion in our public programs? I am sure that even in our small community that we would disagree about the source of the problem, and the solution. We can, however, all agree that it needs to end. As Christians, we can also agree that our faith should inform, if not dictate, our conversations and decisions.
What does the Bible say? Well that depends on how you read it. Many Americans like to picture our nation as a reincarnation of ancient Israel. They proactively encourage a state religion that will create and enforce laws that are based upon a version of the Torah, and take up arms to create and defend this new theocracy. (This is called Christian Nationalism.) Many who followed or feared Jesus thought that this was the Kingdom of Heaven that he was going to create.
Another way to read the Bible is to look at how Jesus reacts to these expectations. In Luke 22:35-38, Jesus tells his disciples to sell their belongings to buy swords. “Surely,” the disciples probably thought, “Now we are beginning our fight against the Romans and their collaborators.” Someone reports that they have two swords among the group (12-70+ people in total). Jesus responds, “That’s enough!” Two swords, of course, would be woefully inadequate.
Jesus is being subversive, not only to those who opposed him, but to those that were his closest followers. His Way would not win through violence, whether it is the sword of an uprising or of a ruler. Paul furthers teaching in 1 Corinthians 5:12, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” It is a call for Christians to not become obsessed with fixing the splinters in the eyes of non-Christians, but instead be careful that we are living Christ’s path. The Christian way is a rejection of violence and power.
So if Jesus wouldn’t be embracing either the Right or the Left’s approach, how would he react to the problem of gun-violence? Perhaps we need to set back and look at what we know about gun violence in the U.S. (Sourcing below)
Jesus always seeks to make broken people whole and he calls on us to do the same. Jesus lays out expectations for those who call themselves his followers. They must: feed the hungry, quench the thirsty, invite in the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. (Matt. 25:31-46) Or to write it in a slightly different way: care for those who lack the basic necessities for life, those who are suffering in body and heart, and those who are held at arms length by others. Imagine if every Christian in our land embraced this teaching fully!
I know this letter won’t end these violent outbreaks, but I urge you to embrace Jesus’s way. For every person who embraces Jesus’s teachings, we are another step closer to the Kingdom of Heaven. Your way of living may help another person live Jesus’s way too, or you may make one person hope again in a better life.
Brothers & Sisters, wash feet!