So I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m getting sick of this whole gun control argument happening south of the border. As we talked about last week, the number of mass shootings in the States lately is staggering. And it is even worse when we hear the stats around how many of those shootings happened in a school. Of course, any gun-related death is sad, but when it happens to school children, well let’s just admit that is a lot worse. And as it has happened after all the school mass shootings, the gun lobbyists deflect the question around gun control with, “now isn’t the time to talk about gun control” or “all we can do is offer our thoughts and prayers” or my personal favourite “imagine how different things would be if we gave all the teachers guns”.
Maybe I’m speaking out of my sheltered, small-town Canadian background, but why do people need those really high powered rifles? Or automatics? Or any gun that shoots more than water, foam darts, or a little flag on a stick that says “bang” on it? There really isn’t an argument for it, at least not a logical or convincing one that comes to my mind.
Now, I’m not say that there isn’t any argument for having guns, I’m just saying that they aren’t logical or convincing to me. The most common of which is saying that having guns is for protection or to help us feel safe. That guns will ward off bad guys, and they’ll be our last line of defense when the government goes crazy and comes after us and our families. Sure, all those are fine and good, however in my opinion quite misguided. I mean statistically guns in the home are more of a danger to those living in that home than they are for invaders or intruders. So you’re not really protecting yourself as much as you’re putting your family in more danger.
But I know, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know as I’m sure you’ve seen all the news around this debate that has been going on for decades. And as mostly Canadians here, you might lean on either side of the fence, and that is fine. What I see though, is a deeper issue that isn’t addressed that I actually think is at the root of the whole debate and this seemingly desperate need to hold onto that Second Amendment as though their lives literally depended on it. (which they don’t, by the way).
At this point you might think that I mean mental illness, but no, that isn’t what I mean. I think this need for guns reflects a much deeper issue that is in all of us, and that is simply insecurity and the inability to admit weakness and brokenness. And that isn’t just around this gun control debate, it is seen in almost all walks of life. Think about it, no one really likes to admit that they aren’t the best at something that they should be good at. And maybe it is around protecting or even providing for their family and feeling safe. But also it could be about having certain knowledge about something, or a certain skill, or maybe an experience that others have had but we haven’t so we just pretend we have in order to fit in. It is tough for us to feel weak, or insufficient, or inadequate.
So we grasp for things to compensate. Maybe it’s guns to help you feel powerful and strong. Maybe it is material possessions to make you feel wealthy. Maybe unscrupulous people to make you feel loved. And then any hint that might surface that contradicts that “strength” we feel gets shot down by the defenses we put up around us at the expense of reason, reality, and even relationship. Because no way we’ll admit that we’re lacking in any way. Nuh-uh, we have perfect lives. Didn’t you see our social media posts? We are happy. We are strong. We have no blemishes whatsoever.
And I think that is why people get so defensive about their guns. It is their source of strength and threatening that then would force them to admit weakness. This is why I mentioned the social media thing. It is almost like a cover up for all the brokenness of real life. This is why Peter, the impetuous disciple, rebukes Jesus when Jesus admits vulnerability, humility, and mortality in that he will die at the hands of evil.
Just that suggestion of that weakness triggers our minds to shut down and go into the defensive. “Forbid it Lord! That shall never happen to you!” or “Get lost, I like guns, you can’t take them away” or maybe one that most of us can relate to, “No I’m fine, I don’t need help, I can deal with my problems myself.” We like to hide behind our walls. We like to protect our pride and image. We like to put up this façade of strength thinking that it is what actually makes us strong, maybe feared and respected, or maybe… even loved?
“Get behind me Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things!”
For years, those words seemed so harsh to me. I mean if we really think about it, Peter really just did what any of us would have done, protected those he loves and the ideals that he held onto, and rejected any sign of weakness and brokenness to maintain the image of strength. And to be called Satan for that? The adversary? The great deceiver? The one that stands against God and rallies others to do the same? Harsh, right?
But then I think about what is at risk here. I think about why Jesus needed to use such harsh words against what Peter is doing by saying what he’s saying, like what Peter is actually revealing about himself in this. Yeah, his mind is set not on divine things, but on human things. What does that even mean? Well, like we were talking about before, Peter was holding onto his strength, hiding behind his walls, rejecting everything that makes him look weak, broken, human. And by doing that, he actually is separating himself from all those who have weakness, who feel broken, essentially every single person that has ever lived and ever will live.
And our call as humans, as God’s sons and daughters, as citizens of God’s kingdom, is not to live as lone rangers, as these pillars of strength and might, as infallible self-righteous champions that cannot feel pain or hurt, but we are called to live in community, to be with each other for each other in difficult times, and love and support each other as the body of Christ. This means we don’t deny our faults and weaknesses, but rather we embrace them because that is what brings us together as humans, and together we can see the grace of God in that.
This is what Jesus was talking about when he told us to take up our crosses, to take up our suffering, take up those thorns in our sides, those burdens that weigh us down and follow him. Follow him into caring community, in righteous relationship, in the lavish love of God shown to all people in the midst of their hurts, their brokenness, their suffering, and lifting them up as joint heirs with Christ as God’s very own children.
But that isn’t exactly easy, is it? It isn’t easy to admit that we suffer, to embrace our brokenness, even to revel in our own hurt or loss or even sin. It isn’t easy to display that part of us, to show that we can be weak, that we can fail, that we feel pain. It isn’t easy to stop hiding behind our walls, to let down our defenses, to be vulnerable around each other.
I get it, life is hard. It can be scary. It is often painful. But that just gives us all the more reason to trust in God’s promises, rely on God’s grace, and put our hope in God’s unending and all-encompassing love, inviting and welcoming us together and revealing to us a peace that surpasses understanding. See life with Christ doesn’t free us from problems and brokenness. God doesn’t tell us that God will abolish all enemies and things that scare us. We aren’t promised security and safety from all harm. Rather, life with Christ is life not alone, but living with others and joined as one body. God tells us that God will be with us through all the hardships of life and be surrounded by love, support, and peace. We are promised life in community, with one another and the saints, blessed, cleansed, fed, and granted healing, wholeness, and right relationship with God and each other.
So we can navigate this crazy world of violence, and greed. We can confidently admit our pain and brokenness knowing that God brings healing and wholeness. We can, by the grace of God, pick up those crosses of ours, and follow Christ into community and relationship, where we can find love and support, where we can serve and be served, where we can see the real and ever present blessing of God that leads and guides us through life, showing us how nothing could ever remove us from the love of God.
So you like guns? That is ok, but know that they aren’t the things that will grant you security and peace. You like hiding behind your walls? Ok, but know that those walls aren’t only preventing people from coming in but also you from going out. Find it hard to admit that you feel pain and hurt and could be broken? Yeah, me too, but it is together that we can grow, find healing, and feel the peace of God reigning in our hearts and lives, bringing us together as a community.
Let’s together put those ways of the world behind us, let us look ahead to the ultimate cross of Christ that is full of grace and mercy, and accept our need for God and each other for wholeness and relationship.
This Lent, as we walk in hope, let’s embrace the fact that we are a people in need of a Saviour, a people that need to learn how to live with each other, a people that more often than not put our minds on human things over divine things, and let’s together follow Christ into the difficult areas of life, into our own pain and suffering, in realising our brokenness and find God’s strength empowering us, God’s healing making us whole, and God’s peace joining us together as God’s children, beloved and forgiven, blessed and brought into new life, now and forever. Thanks be to God. Amen.