"I never want America to forget that Jesus Christ was the first non-violent revolutionary..." - Stephen Stills
In the hours, days and weeks following the tragic events in Newtown, Connecticut my Twitter feed has erupted with both pro and con arguments on the subject of gun control. I do not claim to have any true insight into the politics of this issue, and I do not intend to make this post about the 2nd amendment, the NRA, or the statistics that establish USAmerica as the world leader in gun violence. But I do have something to say. I am a pacifist (a believer in non-violence and peacemaking) because I believe that is what Jesus calls me to be. For me, it is a matter of faith, not politics. Today I would like to tell why I believe pacifism to be the way of the Prince of Peace. (The sound you hear may be my 2300 Twitter followers clicking "unfollow" all at once...)
I believe that if we call ourselves followers of Jesus then we must be willing to heed all of his teachings, not just the ones that are convenient in this day and age. He even goes so far as to warn us that when we follow him, we may lose lose everything- because "to find your life you must lose it." It is difficult to love our enemies, yet we are called to do just that. It is hard to turn the other cheek or walk the second mile instead of seeking revenge or "justice," yet that is the path we are called to follow. In the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) Jesus gives us a quick list of life-attitudes that will make us blessed. Included are things like mercy, meekness and peace making- all of which seem so out-of-step with our society. When Jesus was attacked at the time of his arrest and Peter came to his defense, Jesus rebuked him and told Peter to put away the sword- to my mind disarming me as well. Everything Jesus taught us encourages us to respond to others with God's love, no matter the situation. I believe that scripture declares human life to be sacred, and that there should not be exceptions to that- that pro-life should REALLY mean that God values every life, both the sinner and saint. I believe that the ways of Jesus are the ways of non-violence. You may not, and I do not claim to have cornered the market on knowledge of what Jesus thought. But as I said before, I find pacifism to be a matter of faith. Psalm 23 reminds us to "fear no evil for God is with us." Yet we insist on fearing and trying to protect ourselves rather than trusting in God. To paraphrase the great Tom Lehrer, "the LORD's our shepherd says the Psalm, but just in case...I better buy a gun!" I know that without grace and the love of God whose name is Jesus that I am condemned to death by my own sin. I owe him my life and my salvation. How can I not trust Him to protect me when I need protecting, even as He did Daniel, Rack, Shack and Benny? It is a matter of faith.
Over the years this stance has often made others question how I would actually respond when faced with violence against myself or my family. I have good friends, people I love and respect, who cannot imagine not fighting tooth and nail to protect their families if the need arose. They find my beliefs to be hard to understand...or downright ludicrous. Surely if I had a way to defend my family, I would. How could I say that I would respond to such a situation with non-violence?
The scenario that is often presented is this- intruders invade my home and threaten my family. They have a gun, and I have mine. How could I know I would not kill them to save myself and my family? And the fact is that situation requires me to answer I don't know. How could I? Under those circumstances, under all of that tension, it is possible I might just shoot first. I hate to admit it, but it is the truth.
But such scenarios are missing the point for a true pacifist. There is only one way I can stick to my beliefs and practice non-violence in such situations. I must simply never have a weapon. And so I don't. You may think this makes me weak. And you know what? You are right. I am weak, in so many ways. That is why I must lean on the strength of the One who has already saved me from this world. If someone wants to do harm to me or my family, they will have to deal with Jesus, and we will be with Jesus- no matter the outcome. What more protection do I need?
Let me finish by making one thing clear- I am NOT anti-gun. I have many friends who are responsible gun owners, hunters and target shooters. But I am anti-violence, and there are far too many gun deaths in our country. Something needs to change. I do not have the answer for our nation. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. And for us, that means no guns. It means trusting God as we "walk through the valley of the shadow of death." It means having faith. I welcome your feedback and your questions.
Because of Jesus,