After every mass shooting in America, The Onion runs the same article; ‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens. It’s a sad indictment of the continued failure of American legislators to do anything to stop the tide of gun violence.
My heart breaks for the people caught up in this, those who grieve, those whose children or parents are never coming home. I’ve often written thoughts and decided against sharing because I’m British and want to stay in my lane – however, this time I decided to post. I may not be American, but I’m human and every act of terror like this is an affront to our shared humanity.
It disturbs me when, in the days after a horrific event like this, you see figures from the “religious” right try to quash discussion of gun control and repeat the party line of Republican politics as though they were a document of faith, as though the “right to bear arms” was enshrined in the Torah and repeated in the Sermon on the Mount.
But when I read about Jesus, when I study this magnetic figure that had such an incalculable impact on history, I find someone who eschews violence and pursues a far more radical agenda. Violence is the way of the world, but He never lets it be the way of His Kingdom.
Violence is the way of the world, but He never lets it be the way of His Kingdom.
There’s a story that occurs during Luke’s account of the night that Jesus’ was betrayed. Jesus is talking to the disciples and preparing them for what is about to happen; arrest is imminent and He tells his close circle that if they’re unarmed they should sell their cloak and buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38).
The story continues when they come to arrest Him and Peter, plucky and short tempered as ever, reaches for one of the swords and lops off someone’s ear. Jesus’ response is to not only order the disciples to stop, but to heal the victim of the violence (Luke 22:49-53).
It’s a strange part of the story that raises lots of questions. If you’re going to go in peace why take swords? If you’re going to take swords why not take more – and actually use them? Was He figuratively warning the disciples of danger ahead but, as so often, they missed the point?
I believe that one aspect of this is that in making sure that the disciples are armed, then telling them not to resist, Jesus demonstrates both to them and to others that violence is not the way of His Kingdom.
Had they been unarmed it would have been easy for them to go away with the thought; “if only we’d taken swords, we could have stopped this.” But as Jesus said when being interrogated by the Roman Governor, Pilate:
“My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
– John 18:36
Fighting their way out of the garden was never on the cards. That’s not how His kingdom works. And by making sure that the disciples could have resisted, then telling them not to, Jesus shows that His many teachings on non-violence extend into the painful realities of life and death.
The disciples could never go away with the thought that the way should turn violent and avenge its founder or achieve its aims by the sword, Jesus simply never left that option.
Jesus shows that His many teachings on non-violence extend into the painful realities of life and death.
Why do I recount that story here? Because it’s another reminder that we’re not supposed to be the violent ones. We’re not to be the ones who achieve our ends by the use of weaponry. We’re to be the turn the other cheek ones (Matthew 5:38-48), the repay evil with good ones (1 Peter 3:9), the ones who bless our enemies and leave the vengeance and justice to God (Romans 12:17-21).
It is incompatible with the world view of Jesus Christ to think that violence will defeat violence, that hate will somehow defeat hate, that if the good guys just kill the bad better than they kill us then right will somehow prevail. That is not how the Kingdom works. He taught us that in the sermon on the mount and demonstrated it in the garden of Gethsemane.
And yet somehow I see people argue against gun control, and support the view that their right to possess a weapon that can kill indiscriminately out weighs the call to make the world nation safer. The net result is children in morgues.
This is a challenge to the American Citizen to make a difference through democratic process, but it is also a challenge to us all in our every day life and belief systems to be bold enough to believe in love and advocate peace.
The word of Christ is not so much a call to arms as a call to lay down our arms.