Paul to the church in Rome, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15)
Christians are not to live as slaves to fear, because we believe that death holds no victory over us. That’s no excuse for ignoring things that will prolong life (modern medicine, healthy diet, or taking safety precautions). Yet it is the reality which should be remembered by all who claim to follow Jesus.
My United Methodist Church published in our 2012 Book of Resolutions, which is a book of published stances of our United Methodist Church in general, “We recognize and deplore violence which kills and injures children and youth. In the name of Christ…we call upon the church to affirm its faith through vigorous efforts to curb and eliminate gun violence.” (3426, p. 490) This section goes on to talk about how we, as Christians, through social policies (laws and education) and personal lifestyle choices can bring an end (or I’d add, curb) gun violence. Specific ways given are: connect with our communities to facilitate dialogue around issues of gun violence, organize educational programs for gun safety including prevention and parental responsibility, connect with national and local agencies who are already working on issues of gun violence prevention and it’s effects on children and youth, support legislation and regulations for the purchase and sale of weapons among the general populace, communicate with governmental leaders to establish and maintain bans on weapons and conversion kits, and a few others. (You can look it up if you want to know the rest.) These are practical things you can do, and yet they may not address what I think is the root cause of our problem.
It seems to me that the problem goes all the way to what Jesus said to his disciples in Luke 12. He reminded them that five sparrows are sold for two pennies (basically worthless to human society) and yet they are known and loved by God. Then arguing from lesser to greater Jesus points to how much humanity is loved by God so much more than sparrows. What I think he’s teaching them, and us, is that our lives are not only important to God, but also that our God doesn’t abandon us to death. Therefore, we don’t need to worry about the perilous reality in which we live. Not that we should be ambivalent, but that we should not let our fear of death rule our actions. The root problem of the disciples, whose lives were in peril because of their connection to Jesus, is that they were afraid of what might happen to their lives. This too, I believe is the fear of many today.
This fear leads us to crave security, which is a grasping at the wind. Fear tells us that we need more guns that are bigger than the “other guy” if we want to be safe. Fear tells us that nobody can have guns so that we can be safe. Fear tells us that there is something WE can do to be safe. Yet the reality is that we are never safe in this life. Every one of us will die, some of us will die tragically as a result of something that may have been prevented but wasn’t. We should be concerned about violence. We should also do what we can to prevent it. So please do something! However, remember the reality is that no matter the laws we make about guns, we will never truly be “safe” in this life. Security is a myth as long as it is rooted in fear. The only true security we can find is in knowing the one who died, was buried, and on the third day rose again. When our lives are founded upon that hope and reality, then fear has no hold on us. Then we may begin to understand what it means to live fully and be truly safe and secure in the arms of our Creator.