From time to time, I am honored with the request to write about certain subjects. This is one of those instances.
Many of my readers know I am a LGBT affirming pastor and write extensively and boldly on the issue.
Yet, I have found within myself more apprehension to communicate my thoughts on the topic of “guns” than with perhaps any other subject I have written on thus far. The emotional angst and passion of views towards this topic seems uniquely, politically charged, and at times, more toxic, polarized, and widespread than what I have witnessed among the most controversial issues of human sexuality.
Given this climate, I want to be absolutely clear from the start. I am not a progressive, conservative, or liberal in the sense of some simplistic, political label one might try to tag upon me. I am a human being trying to see God, my life, and the world through the lens of Jesus. Loved by the Father, made whole and complete in Christ. Grace upon Grace. That’s who I am.
As did Jesus, I vehemently resist becoming a political pawn used by any side for the demonizing of opposing viewpoints and the people involved. Let it be loudly heard, this writing serves no purpose, political or otherwise, in minimizing the perspectives or personhood of anyone, particularly those who would disagree with my conclusions.
Rather, I write, first and foremost as one, loving and standing with all people, all created in the image of God, seeking the way of Grace for my life. Not that I agree, support or promote every action, belief, or viewpoint of another. Hardly. But that I stand with all, mutual sojourners on this complex journey of life, deeply grateful that God stands with me, right in the midst of all my “me-ness” with pride, acceptance, and steadfast belief in me… fearfully and wonderfully made by His hands. Promising over my every moment, “never will I leave you nor forsake you.”
I will do no less for any other.
So to all my friends with guns and varying viewpoints regarding such, there is no distance, condemnation, nor disbelief in you. Not from me. We are all humans… together. Beloved by the Father of Lights, His Grace being sufficient for all of us. None are better, only different.
With that said…
In my faith, I find Jesus to be the sole window through which I see God, my life, and the world. Everything begins and ends with Jesus. He is the lens through which I must see, understand, and interpret all things.
God is love. Jesus is Grace. This is the sum of all that I believe to be true and life directing.
If I am to believe in Jesus, I must believe in Jesus… all the way.
If I am to believe in Grace, I must believe in Grace… all the way.
Either Jesus presents me with the best way to live, to understand God, and to see the world, or He does not. Either the Kingdom Jesus manifests is the best way to do life or it is not. There is no in between.
I find in Jesus, no model for violence. Not even a loop hole, nor an extenuating circumstance. That Jesus declared, “I do not come to bring peace, but a sword” is not a physical assertion condoning violence, but a spiritual articulation of the power Grace wields to renovate our lives and the world. When Jesus turns over the tables in the temple, this is not an act of violence harming humans. Not a chance. Not even close.
There is no example, blueprint, or receipt to be found that shows Jesus purchased nor promoted for us any tenet for violence in our Christ-following or Kingdom-bringing. None.
Wiggle, squirm, do “the dance” as I may. There is no other example that Jesus gives me other than the way of… non-violence.
In fact, for Jesus, the cross is the weapon of choice against all that evil can bring. Not a gun, but a cross.
There is no greater violence than Jesus experienced. Dying for humanity as humanity. In His death, the height of human violence is displayed and in Him contained. Yet in His death, the greater height of Jesus’ non-violent response is proclaimed. Knowingly, willingly, yielding His life in the midst of those would take it.
From a distance, it seems the way of violence is winning…
Jesus speaking against Peter cutting off a soldier’s ear… fail… the path to the cross continues.
Jesus, flogged to the point of unrecognizable appearance… fail… He’s losing the battle.
Jesus, hands and feet nailed to the cross. His sides pierced, suffocated by his own weight and fluid… fail… He’s dying.
Jesus proclaiming forgiveness over all humanity… fail… His breaths still stop breathing.
Jesus, do something, get down from there, defend yourself, open up a can, let ’em have it. You’re losing.
At the cross, it seems that the way of violence wins, overpowers, and claims victory.
But with further review, all the violence in the universe could not overcome the nonviolent power of Jesus Christ.
In His death and resurrection, all of life is made whole. Death is stripped of its sting. The power of sin obliterated. The way of surrender, the way of a servant, the way of Grace forever lifted. A path, a walk, a Name above all names. The banners of peace and non-violence are revealed as forever superior, rising far above all other anthems.
As a recipient of the sum of all human violence, Jesus chose the way of non-violence, the cross, destroying the power of evil within the black hole of Grace. The way of violence is exposed as the loser, swallowed up in love, and powerless to solve anything.
The final scoreboard at cross. Violence-0 Nonviolence-1.
Grace wins. Love prevails.
In fact, one Bible writer, inspired by this revelation, declared the cross to be the power of God for salvation. ( 1 Cor. 1:18)
“Salvation” (Sozo in Greek) literally means “wholeness” with God, self, and the world. All together known as “peace.” The cross, wrapped in the Gospel, is the power of God to bring all dimensions of peace out of and into a physically, emotionally, and spiritually violent world.
Nonviolence and the Gospel are inseparable. If you remove non-violence from the cross, there is no Jesus on the cross. If you remove the cross, there is no Gospel.
To echo this example forever into our living, Jesus did not say, “take up your guns and follow me.” He said, “take up your cross…”
Sounding into the depths of the human experience, the megaphone of Jesus’ death declares, “don’t bring a gun to a cross fight.”
And here’s the kicker, every battle is a cross fight. The thief in the night, the terrorist on the streets, the gossip in the office. Cross fight, cross fight, cross fight. Grace, forgiveness, non-violence, surrender, even suffering… weapons of divine reckoning. The power of God unto peace and the destruction of all that is evil.
Perhaps, in the laying down of our guns and the choosing of a non-violent way, right in the very face of it, we discover an ultimate sacrifice of praise. To lay down all that is a weapon, to stand in defiance of violence. To boldly say, “In Jesus, is truly the way. I believe it all the way. Even to my own cross.” This is the most powerful force in the universe, disarming evil completely and rendering its systems, religions, and ideologies as powerless in the end.
Until then, the cycle continues.
For violence has never brought peace, just the illusion of it. It may subdue it for a moment, but evil always grows back. And that, increasingly.
How all of this translates into every aspect of our world and living, I am not fully sure. What this means for us as a nation, as a society, I am not fully sure. It is for freedom Christ set us free.
But the question isn’t just, “could we?” but “should we?” Even deeper than that, “Did He?” and “Would He?”
All for which I am certain, is only what this means for me.
In the laying down of my guns, and even my life, I find true life… as Jesus taught I would.
Just imagine, a world unwilling to be provoked by violence into violence.
A world, defiantly determined to never become the evil done against it.
A world, that sees in Jesus, the only way to overpower evil; in all our ways, nonviolence.
Even to the point of our own cross, boldly displaying. Shining light into the darkness.
The enemy, bowing down in awe, disarmed at the soul, confronted with the end of their influence.
All, on earth, as it is in heaven.
Thank God almighty.