Gun violence prevention (GVP) is a struggle. Victories appear scant. Yet, there its consistent forward movement. I urge you to study the state score card on www.giffords.org. Most states are doing many positive actions. But the summit of the gun violence mountain has not yet been reached. The bottom line is the United States ranks first among Western Developed Countries in rate of gun violence. By far! Too many guns and too few laws to make us more gun safe. Then there are the challenges of racism, economic inequality and political division. Inject guns into this volatile brew and gun violence boils over. How do we keep going?
I suggest we look to the Spirit. In Matthew 4:1-11, the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. The Spirit did not buy a ticket for Jesus to sun-bathe in Cancun, Mexico. Jesus was led into the temptations of the world, into the “maw” of evil. Gun violence is evil.
The tempter commanded Jesus to turn stones into loaves of bread. 40 days and forty nights! Hmmm. Satisfy you hunger! Comfort yourself! Feast and be full! Enjoy a Singapore Sling and eat caviar while you are at it! Jesus’ response? The faithful life is firstly to feast on the Word of God. Steak, potatoes and drinks later. Everything in due time. Pleasure comes not from gluttony but from disciplined obedience to the Word of God. The overwhelming ethic of Jesus Christ is nonviolence. Feast on nonviolence!
How about a scenic view of the holy city from the pinnacle of the Temple? Sweet! Everyone wants a room with a view! Jump off the balcony and soar! Paragliding anyone? Become a Holy Superman! Obey me! I will be your parachute! I will catch you! I will be your MyPillow! I will be your agent, your promoter! I will write your contracts! Jesus’ response? You’re fired! I am in charge! I kneel to God and usher in God’s Reign. God sets the life agenda. I will live among the people, teach and heal and not be a spectator who wallows in narcissistic admiration, draining applause from a broken world crying for liberty. To soar above gun violence reality is counter to discipleship.
How about climbing a few Colorado Fourteeners, enjoying the tundra and wildflowers, watching mountain goats, oogling at an awesome sunrise and enjoying jerky, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and gorp on the summit? Cool! Another accomplishment to notch on my belt and stitch on my day pack. Satan promises power and glory! Master Conquerer! Atop and apart! Snap your fingers and people and food arrive via helicopter to feed your ego while armies surround your mountain to protect your privilege. Jesus’ response? “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only God.’ Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.” Worship and world belong together as do Good Friday and Easter. Down the mountain you go to engage the gun violence tremors.
The Spirit led Jesus to confront the world’s brokenness and emerge victorious! Obedient to God. Captive to God’s Will. True to his identity as the Son of God.
As are we who are followers of Jesus. The Spirit leads us into the wilderness of gun violence prevention. Avoidance of reality is not part of our calling. We are not called to the ease of spectating, loafing on silk pillows, sipping fine wine, pleasuring in privilege, gazing in summit serenity at sunrises while our homes and communities bleed out. We are Spirit led to carry on for gun violence prevention.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)