I have been taught to believe that we are to look at the Old Testament and New Testament through the eyes of Jesus. Imagine wearing a pair of glasses. We see the world through the glasses. If they are rightly prescribed and the shade is proper for the time of day, we can see properly. Similarly, as people of faith, it seems proper to see gun violence prevention (GVP) through the eyes of Christ. The Christmas texts provide a focus.
ISAIAH 9: 2-7: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” GV is darkness. Could it be that the light is a realization that we need to take action to help lessen GV? “For a child has been born for us….” Too often, children are the innocents, the victims of GV. Do we want our children born into a culture of GV? “…he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” The person who is to give us hope and deliver us, has the attributes of a strong counselor, caring father and peacemaker. There is no indication that this person is a warrior god, wreaking vengeance. The image is one of an active listener, able to give strong counsel towards nonviolent GVP. As followers of Jesus, are we not to reflect Christ? Are we not called to imitate Christ? The mission of the ELCA is “God’s Work-Our Hands.”
PSALM 96: “O sing to God a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth!” Our faith response is to sing, not to kill. Can we imagine killing to God as our new song?
TITUS 2:11-14: “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly . . . . zealous for good deeds.” I suppose killers could be self-controlled in their killing methodology, but is that what Titus is referring? I would classify GV as an impious worldly passion. Is it godly to kill? We are to live with restraint yet zealous for good deeds which suggest acting for GVP. God’s will is salvation, liberation for all, not death.
LUKE 2:1-20: Jesus is the counterpoint to Emperor Augustus and Quirinius, governor of Syria. There were no armies to protect him. He was sought after to be killed as he was considered a threat to the powers. Jesus was born into poverty. No guards. Mary and Joseph were commoners. Perhaps Joseph carried a knife to cut meat and bread as there were no Perkins or McDonalds to provide culinary aids. Mary, Joseph and Jesus were three poor and vulnerable people needing a hospital but finding only a stable or cave. Shepherds came to honor a Savior not to provide Secret Service protection. The birth scene is the stuff of nonviolence.
Seeing the Birth Narrative through the eyes of Jesus enhances a nonviolent clarity of the nature of the Christ. Leaping ahead to 2020, it is a vision of GVP. Honoring Christ is to seek peace, devise strategies to protect life, pass necessary laws, and be zealous for good deeds of reverance for life! Christmas gives us Jesus glasses to see the nonviolent imperative for GVP.
Rev. Dr. Ron Letnes