The incomprehensible events that took place this week in Oregon have reignited a cultural frenzy over gun control. Many are speaking out of their own beliefs and convictions, whether scriptural, moral, or political, imploring action to be taken. I’m not here today to provide my own thoughts on moral nor political action. However, I became concerned this morning as I see a church who is easily divided by this subject.
We are polarized.
People get down-right angry when the discussion is opened up to reviewing gun-control policies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, some may come across as moral bigots at the idea of owning or using a gun. And we fight. And claw. And scratch. To what end?
I’m concerned about the condition of our hearts.
As believers, whether we are pro-gun, anti-gun, or somewhere in the middle, what does it say about our hearts that we take up such righteous anger over how our government does or does not regulate gun control? Why do we all want to convince another what we have come to believe is right? What makes us so qualified? Why is it that we almost never enter into a discussion with intent to potentially be swayed by the opposing view, but nearly always with a moral or political obligation to defend what we know to be truth? How is it that this can so easily cause us to draw lines, give birth to mean-spiritedness, and speak against our brother in Christ in favor of either our brother in arms or brother in peace?
I believe the core issue resides in our great difficulty to separate our beliefs about government (American pride) and beliefs of morality (Kingdom pride). Many of us have grown up with great identity in ideological beliefs that equates our national interests to equal measure with moral convictions. As a nation, we’ve hardly known religious beliefs apart from national beliefs because we’ve had the great luxury of the two meshing together. Effectually, we are quick (a) to defend our national beliefs with as much strength as our religious beliefs and (b) to impose our religious beliefs on the collective national interest. We are fundamentally incapable of living in a world where we don’t strive to blend the two together. And so, we naturally form sides that manifest to be more political than religious in nature, and as the body of the Christ, turn against each other. And we feel good when we feel like we’ve made our point to the other side.
Friends, believers, is it not ugly? Can we not live a co-heirs in Christ without tearing each other apart to try to convert one another to our own idealogical beliefs? Can you not see, we are just like the Church, that Jesus came to save, struggling with the same issues that He equipped us to overcome — we are the modern day Pharisees and Sadducees and we all think we are right.
I propose gun-control, with regard to moral discussion, is an open-handed issue. It is not a belief which fundamentally determines if we are in fact co-heirs in Christ, brothers and sisters. This is secondary to the core of who we are. Let us not permit such secondary issues to divide us. May we discuss our beliefs about it, may we listen to others, may we attempt to better understand our own beliefs — and even more so — may we better understand why it is we believe what we believe. And let us learn to better articulate why we believe it. But let us not digress into defending such a belief on the grounds of moral conviction. Let us first and foremost be bound to each other, in the spirit of truth and love. Let us not allow room for division on such matters.
I implore you to take pause.
The next time you read a CNN article or Facebook post about gun-control that stirs up something fierce within you — take a few steps back. Muster of the courage to look deep within your own heart and ask yourself: from where does this ferocity come? What is the root that binds it to me? For what purpose and to what end do I desire to silence those who’ve taken up an opposing view?
And finally, I want to also encourage you. To those who have great convictions, whether I agree or disagree with you, I’m encouraged by your boldness. May we all be so bold to stand for what we believe in. But may we learn from one another. May we agree and disagree. May we figure out how to have love for those who oppose our own beliefs, and not tear them down. May we put our Kingdom family first-and-foremost, even above our own political beliefs. May we learn how to lead not with words, negotiations or arguments, no matter how logical or reasonable, but lead with love, laying-down our lives for one another, seeking to serve one-another rather than teach or instruct or correct. May we be more concerned with the condition of our heart than any other thing which crosses our paths.
My son, give attention to my words;
incline your ear to my sayings.
Do not let them depart from your sight;
Keep them in the midst of your heart.
For they are life to those who find them
And health to all their body.
Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the spring of life.
Put away from you a deceitful mouth
And put devious speech far from you.
Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.