On Sunday morning, while I was singing with hot tears streaming down my face, moved by the conviction that I don’t trust God’s no and longing for Him to help my unbelief, some of my brothers and sisters in this faith were violently plunged into the presence of Jesus amidst the terror of bullets, blood and screams. While they worshipped the goodness of our God a man given over to the schemes of the devil filled the room with death. My heart can hardly take it.
I’ve been casting those anxieties on God all day. As I’ve cried and groaned and listened I see how violent, divided and dark the time we live in as American Christians is. And these dark times are in the hands of the One who suffered for us. He has us in this time, and in this nation to be peacemakers and truth-sayers, by reconciling and resisting. Reconciling in laying down our lives to bring the peace of God to relationships. And resisting evil, even unto suffering.
Jesus said, “
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. – Matthew 5:9-12
In a heated discussion with my husband about guns and laws and what needs to be done I yelled, “Someone is going to have to give up some of their rights!”
People want the right to bear arms. OK. Well, if we do anything to change the way guns are legally “born” in this country, someone is going to cry foul and feel like their rights have been violated. If we restrict based on mental-illness someone will cry foul about discriminating against people with a disability or violating the rights to privacy. If we restrict based on kind or amount of weapon someone will cry foul about the second amendment. But if we do nothing this will only be one of a string of massacres with guns in the United States.
As I passionately voiced my opinion, concerned for my sons and for my neighbors, I realized none of my rights would be violated if gun laws were imposed in a different or more stringent way than they are now. I’m not a gun owner. I’m not a gun person. It’s not a hobby for me and I don’t feel the need to carry a weapon for protection. I know many people who do and I know them to be kind, moral people who I trust. I know they would feel some sense of their rights being infringed on if gun laws changed. I know this is not a black and white issue. But my thought is, as Christians in America, we should be the last people crying rights when it comes to guns.
I wonder what it would be like if Americans who love and trust the Jesus who bore violence to save them laid down their guns and said, “We will be a people of peace even if we have to suffer the loss of our American right to bear arms.” But since I’m not one of the people who would have to say that I thought about Christ’s call on me to humble myself because I know who I am in Christ. And my prayer was, “How would you have me lay down my ‘rights’ Lord?”
The Governor of Texas in updating the public about the massacre at the church in Sutherland Springs said, “Every mom and dad… put your arm around your kid and given them a big hug and let them know you love them…”
And he went on to say we should go to our neighbors and find ways to help them. It struck me as subtle but powerful. As a Christian, Jesus beckons me to get off my phone, my computer… my agenda and sit with my teenage sons and listen and give them a back rub and look them in the eyes and plant the gospel in their hearts. Jesus also beckons me to leave my comfortable four walls and go outside and be a good neighbor, on my street and in my city. It’s messy out there. People have messed-up lives. But I will not be a peacemaker, as Christ compels me to be, by hiding in my home in the most violent, wealthy nation on earth. Trying to hold onto my controllable, clean and tidy life (as if I had one) won’t keep my sons from evil. The Governor pointed to a profound truth: hugging our children and helping our neighbors is one of the most powerful things we can do in such a violent culture.
I am a Christian. I live in the U.S., a nation where rights are valued and defended. And I enjoy the benefit of those rights being defended. But rights shouldn’t be an issue for me as a Christian. I know I have no rights and yet have been given the right to be called a child of God and therefore have nothing to loose. I don’t have any guns to lay down. But I do have a life and resources. I can plant my life in Jesus’ name in the lives of those around me with good news that brings lasting peace. I can pray for healing in my nation and a restraining of violence and evil, and trust my good God’s no. And I can be willing to suffer, even the loss of rights, for what is right.
Oh Lord God. You who raise up nations and bring others to nothing. You are the source of all that is good and right. You give authority and take it away. You hear the cries of your children and you sometimes say no when we cry. You speak and nature gives way. And you’re silent and we ache and reel and wonder if you’re hearing, all the while you’re working your wonderful plans for our good and you’re glory. Help Lord! Help me and us weak, wimpy American Christians who don’t know how to suffer well. Help us to lay down our phones and hug our kids. Help us to leave our homes and help our neighbors. Help us to resist evil and speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Help us to rejoice if we suffer because Jesus is living in us! Make us shine here Lord. Make us peacemakers in such a violent place.