We were in Paris when we heard about the Vegas shooting last month. We’d just stopped in at a cafe for a coffee, and I checked Twitter. The hashtag “Vegas shooting” was trending. So I clicked.
What followed was shock, outrage, and heartbreak over the details of the event.
I couldn’t believe someone had shot people…at a concert…in Vegas. We’d just been there a month ago celebrating my brother’s birthday. We knew people who attended the concert. And this man had openly fired into a crowd of people, like shooting fish in a barrel.
As we traipsed around Paris the rest of the day, a number of Parisians spoke words of comfort and solace to us, simply because we were American.
They said they cried when they heard about the Vegas shooting, and that their hearts were with us.
Last Sunday, another horrific shooting happened, but this time it was in a church. People gathered together in an incredibly vulnerable place, defenseless–kind of like attending a concert–and they are struck down.
For the families and friends affected by this, as people, as citizens of the world, we mourn together. This senseless violence sickens us. But we should also be furious.
Inexplicable terror has always existed in the world. But this doesn’t make it any less painful or urgent to deal with. Two men decided to end life. And it shouldn’t be that easy for them to do so.
We hate it when tragedy strikes and it becomes politicized, but this may be one of those issues that needs to be.
Now, I don’t have a problem per say with guns. They weren’t really around for me growing up, but I had friends who owned guns.
I saw guns in people’s homes. I went to the shooting range. It was never a big deal. I assumed they had guns because they liked hunting. And, of course, it was their right.
But when does it cross the line from being a right, to something we should restrict?
Should someone be able to acquire umpteen amounts of guns because they can legally do it?
Should we care?
Yes, I know. The arguments abound on both sides and people can get guns whether or not we have harsher restrictions and more intense background checks.
But should we really complain about making it more difficult to attain weapons that can kill people?
I don’t have answers. I’m a pastor, not a politician or advisor or expert on policy.
I just know that there are the words of Jesus and the words of Scripture that talk about love, non-violence, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek.
And I wonder what words matter more to us?
In the book of Isaiah, the prophet says there will come a day when people will beat their weapons into plowshares because they will train for war no more (Isaiah 2:4).
Jesus stressed the importance of forgiveness and non-violence. As he told his followers in the gospel of Matthew, “Those of us who use the sword, we will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
The way of the sword has always existed, but there is a new world that is coming into existence now, a world that doesn’t need weapons.
So how does this connect with guns and firearms and the recent mass shootings?
Maybe it means we support, in whatever way we can, the diminishing of weapons, especially the large distribution of them. Because little actions that restrict the mass killings of others is about peace and creating no more war.
There is coming a day, Jesus said, that we won’t need them anymore. I think we’d be hard pressed to find a gun range in Heaven.
And if we’re living here, like we’ll live there, maybe it’s time that we do our part of making that reality true.
Stricter gun laws help keep us safe. They don’t end violence or malcontent or killings because these exist in the human heart.
But if they make it more difficult to do so, should we really complain?
Jesus shared several counter cultural ideas in His famous Sermon On The Mount in Matthew 5-7. One of these was His call to non-violence. He called it “turning the other cheek.”
Turning the other cheek was about humanizing the victim. If someone slaps you and you turn back to face them, they have to look you in the eye before they can strike again.
You aren’t an object, but a human. They have to see your humanity before they hit you again.
Couldn’t we say the same thing about the guns we allow people to own? If you’re going to kill me, I’d rather have you face me, close range, then kill a bunch of us at once with an automatic weapon.
Stricter gun laws make it so you can’t kill a bunch of us with a pull of a trigger, just like you can’t slap us once and look away. No, we turn back to you so you have to slap us again by seeing our humanity.
Assault weapons and heavy-fitted guns have only one purpose. I don’t know about you, but I want to make it more difficult for those with hate in their hearts to commit their crimes.
Could the man in Vegas have been stopped with stricter gun laws? Or the shooter in Texas?
Who knows. But we can all agree that making it more difficult to obtain guns and that amount of weapons is a good place to start.
Hate in the human heart will continue to come out and kill and injure others. But we can fight against it by humanizing our weapon issue.
Now, this argument always seems to get people amped on both sides of the issue. Second amendment rights and the constitution and upholding the values of our country versus twenty-first century thinking.
As a follower of Jesus, though, it really comes down to this: What would Jesus have us do?
If Jesus asked us to destroy our guns and get rid of tools that allow us to harm and maim and destroy one another, would we do it?
Or would we haw and complain and defend our “rights”? Would we hold the founding fathers above our Heavenly Father? Or elevate the constitution over the words of Jesus?
At this point, we’d have to consider what matters more to us. When you come into the Kingdom of God, you lay down your rights–those of your personal life and well-being and also the country you live in.
I don’t know what the answer is to the gun debate. All I know is that Jesus is about non-violence and grace and creating a new humanity, a humanity that doesn’t aim to kill one another, but to love and serve and redeem each other.
This is the path forward, my friends, and one we are called to stand for today.
I’m praying for wisdom and change. Because we can’t keep moving forward like this.
There is another world coming into this one.
Let’s seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.