In light of the recent killing of 11 Jews in a synagogue, a suggestion was made by President Trump, that it might not have happened if there was an armed guard in the building.
Yeah, and if you bought a Powerball ticket, you might have won.
An extension of this argument has been raised — let’s arm clergy.
My answer to that — not this clergy person. No way, no how. How can I possibly preach consistently if I am armed with a weapon? Or is our safety more important than the Gospel? How do I preach with my mouth a message of love, forgiveness, trust, and mercy, and then go and carry a weapon on my body in worship? How do I preach a message that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us and at the same time carry a weapon in worship? It is not congruent. How do I proclaim a message that Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow him and at the same time arm myself with a weapon — which exclaims the polar opposite. The actions that I do are louder than the words that I speak. I will not carry a weapon — especially in worship. I would rather quit.
A clergy person arming themselves in worship means they don’t believe what they are preaching. A clergy person arming themselves proclaims for all to hear that Jesus doesn’t call for us to die, so that resurrection can happen. It proclaims that protecting our lives is more important than anything Jesus proclaims or promises.
The Gospel isn’t some feel good, comfortable message. It is a message that is very uncomfortable, that calls on us to die to self and our selfish desires — even our own safety. It is a message that calls on followers of Jesus to pick up our cross — the very thing that will kill us — and to willingly carry it to our deaths. That’s what Jesus did and that’s what Jesus calls on his followers to do. Don’t take my word for it — read Scripture. Read Jesus’ words. It’s all there.
The Gospel message isn’t a message about preserving our safety. Or our rights. It is a message about giving up everything in life to follow Jesus. Jesus plays for keeps — he wants the whole kit and caboodle. We don’t get to compartmentalize our lives with Jesus — choosing what parts of our life fall under Jesus’ jurisdiction and what doesn’t.
Following Jesus was never meant to be safe. Following Jesus cost people their lives — it still does in parts of the world. Following God cost 11 Jews their lives this past week. Would an armed guard have been able to stop the man who did it? I doubt it. Maybe, but is arming everyone the answer to this sickness and addiction to violence and guns? No.
I do know this much — our nation and culture has become literally insane. Too many Christians believe that the way to stop violence is through more violence — the exact opposite of what Jesus taught and lived. Too many Christians are willing to excuse murder, violence, and dehumanization of people in the name of political rights and false safety. Too many Christians aren’t willing to name the sin that exists — the worship of guns and violence in our nation.
Too many Christians fully embrace the theology of glory and reject the theology of the cross. In 1518, Martin Luther wrote “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.” (Heidelberg Disputation, point 21). The violence that is occurring is a sin. It is evil. Is it wrong.
Talking about guns has become more taboo than discussing the divine nature of Christ. I don’t say that lightly. Far too many Christians think that following Jesus means we get to pick and choose what we follow. Too many Christians believe that Jesus has no say over their ideology, political beliefs and loyalty. Apparently Jesus isn’t allowed in politics. Apparently Jesus isn’t Lord of everything — God forbid he be allowed to speak on political matters, or about our money, or our rights, or our freedoms. We might not like what he has to tell us. We might not like the implications of what he is commanding us to do if we are to continue claiming the label as his follower. And then what? What happens when there is a conflict between our ideological/political beliefs and our faith? Too often our faith is set aside, excuses are made, and we reject Jesus in favor of doing things our way — we think we are smarter than God.
Instead of doing something to end the violence, we choose to do nothing and suffer the consequences — blood on our hands for valuing guns above people. Blood on our hands for valuing violence over people. Blood on our hands for valuing death over people. Sound extreme? Then explain how we continue to allow this to happen as we sit by and do nothing. We have made our decision as to what is more important and valuable to us as a society — it isn’t the people of the society. It isn’t even our cherished safety. Safety is just a line that is used to maintain the status quo. It is the idols we create. That’s what we have chosen.
Lord have mercy on our souls.
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on October 30, 2018.