Time For A Change
As I write this, I am listening to the news accounts of the 128th mass shooting in the United States and the 19th such event at a school or university this year.
Three children and three adults were senselessly slain today in Nashville at Covenant Presbyterian Church School by an assailant who appears to have once been a student there.
Thankfully, unlike the terrible school shooting in Uvalde, TX, law enforcement officials immediately entered the school and stopped the assailant before more lives were lost.
I quickly studied social media platforms and discovered the same old arguments about assault weapons and the Second Amendment. All are made by the same kinds of people standing on opposite sides.
Politicians did what politicians always do: they sent their "thoughts and prayers" and did their best to make political hay. Pundits of all stripes made pronouncements. Bloggers blogged. Cable news sensationalized.
And in a few days, we all know what will happen. Nothing.
The news cycle will turn, and we'll all return to doing what we do. Yet, another tragedy will join the awful pantheon built on these statistics, an edifice to our hubris and desensitization to violence.
As Christians, we say that we are called to love--to love God and to love others. The most grievous thing we can do, as those who say they follow Jesus, is to be indifferent to suffering. The opposite of love isn't hate; it's indifference.
If you're a Jesus follower, it shouldn't matter where you land on the debate surrounding assault rifle ownership. Put all that aside for a moment. The question you should be asking is this:
What would Jesus do?
Would Jesus be composing social media posts to put those who disagree with him on blast? Would Jesus politicize this moment to make a point with his followers? Would Jesus be indifferent to the suffering of the victims of gun violence?
Songwriter Nicole Serrano puts it like this:
When is it time for a liberation?
When is it time for new revelation?
'Cause this doesn't feel a whole lot like the Jesus we're preaching
No, this doesn't look a whole lot like the loving we're living
No, this doesn't sound a whole lot like salvation.
Since we're talking about being a Jesus follower and asking what Jesus would do in various circumstances, let's think about what Jesus would do based on his example from the Gospels.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus didn't come to Jerusalem bearing arms, ready to overthrow the government. He didn't come to maim, kill or destroy. Jesus rebuked his followers, who thought that's what he was all about.
Instead, Jesus took on the worst that world had to offer, stood with the marginalized and oppressed, and went to the furthest lengths he could go to show the world what real love looks like---unconditional, sacrificial, open-hearted, non-violent.
So for those who say we follow Jesus, the way forward is clear. We ought to be willing to follow his example and stand with the most vulnerable. We should be willing to follow his example to show that violence is never the answer.
We should be willing to let ourselves sit (physically if we can, and spiritually if it's not possible) with those grieving over these terrible losses and let our presence and love do the talking instead of our Facebook posts.
And then we should be willing to be led by Jesus to do the next right thing. As I said in a Devo earlier this week, "If you are for the right thing, you do the right thing."
The next right thing, at least the way I see it, is to turn our swords into plowshares and give up the ways of war, our glorification of violence and weapons of mass destruction.
The next right thing should be to show our children what living in peace, and not fear means. They deserve to live in a world where they are not constantly threatened by the unimaginable.
The next right thing is to choose love, and the peace of God over what we might think to be freedom but in reality is a prison of our own making.
Anything less isn't following Jesus.
May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.