We make guns into garden tools by taking their barrels and steel parts and introducing them to a forge that burns at about 2000 degrees. Its in this heat range that steel glows at a bright orange, just right for shaping it and not too hot that it begins to spark and burn away. The steal now is malleable, vulnerable to 30-90 seconds on the anvil as its transformed into something new.
Its not so much that we find ourselves in an era of gun violence as it is being in a place of gun violence. There are far and away more guns per capita in the US compared to other countries. Beyond that, a gun can be acquired virtually anywhere. Anyone in a moment of passion/emotion can follow through with nary an obstacle.
The national gun narrative has had little time to rest between Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs. So here we are, stuck between the stagnant dialogue of all or nothing in the gun debate. Left in the middle are victims and survivors of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers are falling on ears that don’t have time for them unless you are present with the victims and survivors. We must act in the places we occupy to address the unending gun violence. Are you on a city council or county board of commissioners? Act. Work in a trade? Act. have a family? Act. Are you a pastor or faith leader? Act. Dialogue. Tell stories about why you believe what you do.
Faith communities are once again considering arming ushers and greeters to be security guards in the wake of Sutherland Sprigns, TX. The Gun Free Zone debate is raging. There is no question that life is valued. The question is how do you show that your neighbor’s life is valuable? Do you protect it by arming yourself? This is the argument against gun free zones. Fight bullets with bullets. Don’t let them in the front door.
From a Jesus lens, this doesn’t work. For those who say otherwise the onus is on you to prove it. I’ll give you some context to work from. Jesus levels the field by telling us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt 22:39), to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt 5:44-49), and asks us to consider who is our mother (Matt 12:48)? Our brother? Jesus asks us to love our enemies as our brothers and friends who love us. Jesus asks us to consider our enemy to BE our family. Or, there is no end to who can be our neighbor or family, even our enemy, because we never know when that enemy is our brother or neighbor.
These teachings require us to be vulnerable. To soften our edges. We have more in common with the metal being turned into plowshares than we know. Jesus is asking us to be consumed by a refining fire. Iron sharpens iron. When we refuse the fire our hearts harden like Pharaoh. It becomes harder and harder for us to change. It takes a life altering event, like losing your first born son, to consider a change of heart.
It seems this is the path we as a nation refuse to stray from. Little action happens until action happens to us. When Jesus teaches us that our neighbors and sisters and enemies are all worthy of our love, none more than the other, it also means we are someone else’s neighbor or enemy or mother. It means we are just as likely to lose a loved as we are to be the one who takes life. This is often lost on us. We don’t want to see ourselves as the shooter. We must be honest and recognize the triggers in our hearts.
Faith communities, especially ones that follow Jesus, have a powerful opportunity to show an alternative to gun violence. We should be proud of gun free zones. So be it if you call me a soft target. This is what Jesus calls us to be. It doesn’t mean we are soft and passive, it means we are willing to absorb each other’
s pain-neighbor and enemy. Jesus shows us this from the cross. Jesus says it on the sermon on the mount. Jesus might even say, “Blessed are the soft targets, for they will find refuge in the kingdom of God.” The church needs to glow bright orange. Prayer is good and holy, but it needs to compel transformative action. For only then do we begin to see the Holy Spirit at work in our midst, between our soft edges, plowing furrows in the field, anxiously awaiting the seeds to grow the kingdom – on earth as it is in heaven. After all, Jesus sought out the soft targets, not to protect them with a sword, but to show them a different way to live.
***RAWtools supports Restorative Justice and similar conflict mediation practices which are victim based. This post does not condone victims remaining in abusive situations. To read enemy love as such takes the post, and Jesus, out of context.