A Commentary by Dwight A. Moody
The statistics are just staggering.
Since I graduated from high school in 1968, 1,400,000 people in America have died by gun violence. This year alone, there have been more than 250 mass shootings in which at least four people (not counting the shooter) were shot.
All minds and hearts are focused on the three mass shootings this past weekend: Dayton, El Paso, and Gilroy, California. These overshadow the on-going violence in places like Chicago where, last weekend, 72 people were shot and 12 died.
Two thirds of Americans support stronger regulation of guns and ammunition. Some efforts in that direction may very well happen. I hope so. And there certainly is a need for stronger security in many public places as well as more access to mental health issues.
But there is another answer to this insanity, and it is rooted in the gospel of Jesus.
The entire Christian message is premised upon an act of surrender: God surrendered his only son to be the redeemer of the world; and Jesus surrendered all the prerogatives and potential of his remarkable life and submitted to the ungodly violence of religious and political authorities. It enabled God to do a remarkable thing!
An early Christian hymn put it this way:
He gave up his divine privileges.
He took the humble position of a slave.
He humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Paul embedded that hymn in his letter to the church at Philippi to encourage them to, as he put it in the preface to the lyrics, “have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”
Which, of course, is an attitude of giving something up. Surrender, we call it.
The call to surrender was the appeal that touched my soul when I was a teenager, and I suspect I am not the only one. We would often sing that old gospel song, “All to Jesus, I surrender, all to him I freely give.”
It voices the invitation that Jesus gave to those first disciples. “Come, follow me,” he said to the brothers who were busy with their fishing nets. Since then, millions of people have heard that call and answered.
For some, it is a surrender of habits, attitudes, and relationships. For others, it is giving up things that are enjoyed and appreciated. Francis of Assisi gave up his family fortune; he surrendered gladly what most of us spend our days trying to acquire. Last century, the woman we know as Mother Teresa did the same. Some surrender promising careers in politics, business, or sports in order to give themselves wholly to what God has called them to do.
It is all the same: surrender.
I am reminded of the encounter that Moses had with the Living God while herding sheep on the back side of the desert. He saw a bush burning and, the narrative says, turned aside to inspect it. As he did, he heard the Voice calling him to a life of service and leadership. When he resisted, the Voice said, “What is that you hold in your hand?”
It was a staff, necessary in the work of a shepherd.
Throw it down, the Voice said. Give it up, let it go, throw it down, in the version of the story turned into song by the blind gospel singer Ken Medema.
No government can (or should) make our citizens give up their guns. But there is something at work in the world greater, stronger than any government—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The call of Jesus to surrender our guns is the great gift the Christian community can give to the American people.
Last week, I wrote about people giving up church, Jesus, and even God. It is a sobering and sad trend. Many people are disgusted with the materialism, the selfishness, the nothingness of the religion practiced in the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Here is “true religion and undefiled”, to use the description first given by James the brother of Jesus. Surrender. It is ensconced in the first appeal of the Lord’s Prayer: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.
There will be no guns in heaven. Christians need no guns on earth.
Someone rebuked me this week when I proposed this. “Completely crazy”, he wrote. Yes, I agree. Completely crazy. And irrational. And counter intuitive, to use the more sophisticated phrase.
Respond to gun violence by laying down the gun.
But who knows what mysterious thing might happen, what transformation of people and culture might ensue, what mighty thing it will enable God to do!!
Thirty percent of Americans own guns, and the majority of the gun-owners are Christian. If we all surrendered our guns, what would happen to the gun manufacturers, the gun organizations, the gun traders, the gun magazines, indeed, the entire gun culture??
Who knows what God might do if we humble ourselves, and pray, and seek the face of God, and turn from our gun-loving ways? The promise is that God will hear from heaven and heal our land—2 Chronicles 7:14.
I’m ready for that, aren’t you?
copyright 2019 Dwight A. Moody