This Summer, I will have the opportunity to fire a gun for the first time. Our family is going to a “Dude Ranch” for my mom and dad’s 80th birthday party. I’m imagining myself putting a rifle to my shoulder – and possibly changing my mind! Oh the loud bang!
The idea of learning to target shoot is fun! Skeet shooting, hunting, target shooting, collecting antique guns… these reasons to own or use a gun seem completely acceptable and even important rights. Yet, we Americans are paying a tremendous price in lives lost because of the availability, abuse and right to use guns.
Guns + Bible = Sword
Since the gun did not exist during Biblical times, the best equivalent is the sword. Interestingly, the sword makes its appearance most often in three ways:
1. Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:11)
2. As a metaphor for faith in Jesus and its divisive power (Matthew 10:28-39, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17)
3. Literal use (Romans 8:35, Revelation 13:10)
I understand these scriptures to mean: weapons and acts of violence are always with us, but they are not a part of the Christian life. Jesus never condoned the taking of a life – not even for criminals (ie. woman caught in adultery). Read these texts and consider them for yourself.
Christians in the first three hundred years after Jesus, were persecuted in large part because they were pacifists. They refused to join the military, they refused to pick up a weapon even to defend themselves against an attacker. They died in large numbers in the Roman Coliseum because they wouldn’t fight the gladiators. Instead, they were fed to the lions instead. Their relinquishment and faith in the face of a violent death in front of literally thousands of witnesses did more to evangelize the Roman Empire than almost anything else. Hence, eventually, Emperor Constantine in 312 CE decided, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Christians only became militant as Christianity became a part of the empire. Scripture is replete with reminders that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. A country that lives by the gun, dies by it. Over and over. This is not a simple issue. People feel deeply about it. I, personally, do not. So, from my place, it looks obvious that gun control should take precedence over access. But you may feel differently.
I think we all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We all agree in theory that giving a depressed person a gun is a horrible idea. But what if that person is your brother? You know him, he’s complicated, and he wants a gun for his birthday. What if your friends is a hunter and has guns? When she starts getting paranoid and ranting about a government conspiracy to take her guns, what is your obligation? It all gets murky really fast.
As your pastor, I beg you, bring your passion and ideas about gun ownership and legislation to God. Ask your higher power, Jesus Christ, what God’s will is for you in this area? Prayerfully place your position about guns before God. Ask that trivial but incredibly deep question, “what would Jesus do?” and listen for the answer. Then, go and do likewise.
--- Pastor Rebecca
Our short life-span, limited bodies and brains, inevitably doom us to ignorance and some level of inaction. We simply don't KNOW everything, and we certainly can't DO everything. We have to make choices about what to focus on and learn about. So how do we avoid ignorance and apathy?
Short answer: Good luck with that. We can't.
My favorite prayer of Jesus is the one he gives from the cross. As the ignorance, apathy, hatred and violence of humans has caused his execution, Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Emphasis mine). Luke 23:34
What we know or don’t know, what we do or don’t do, carries unbelievable implications. In the face of climate change, a global refugee crisis and famines, the more we learn, the more overwhelming it can be. Which can lead to apathy!
This Sunday, the sermon speculates on what it meant to be an Egyptian during the time of the Exodus. What were the regular folks doing and thinking? How come it took them 10 plagues, boils, death and darkness to finally make an appearance? And how do we learn from their mistakes?
St. John Crysostom gives us words of hope:
Sin is followed by shame.
Repentance is followed by boldness.
We see that kind of boldness in the disciples. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, they showed courage, in even when persecuted by the powerful.
In a world of wars and wildfires, as tornadoes tear through and waters rise, we can’t allow ignorance and apathy. It’s our time for courage. There is no need for fear. There is only need for informed and purposeful action steeped and sustained by love.
Let’s be disciples who listen, follow and act for justice in our places and spaces. That’s exactly what the world needs! Join us on Sunday, and see where the Holy Spirit calls you to act.
-- Pastor Rebecca
Most of the blog articles are written by our Rector, The Rev. Rebecca Ragland