So I shot a gun the other day…
I grew up in Texas and currently live in Oklahoma, so the reaction from many of you will be rather banal. Guns are ubiquitous in this part of the country and no doubt most of you have shot firearms numerous times.
But not me. And if you know me very well, this was kinda of a big deal. Because while multiple members of my family have served in the military, while most of my friends grew up hunting, while I know many people who carry a gun with them at all times — I have never shot a gun.
Until the other day.
My brother-in-law wanted to teach his nephews to shoot. He’s an ex-Navy man who still works overseas with the military as a civilian contractor. He’s spent his adult life defending the lives of others. He owns a lot of firearms and wanted the boys to feel safe and learn to use a gun properly. I have huge respect for this because he’s trying to pass on his knowledge to the kids he cares about.
So on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I found myself at a gun range. Which felt strange enough even before I found myself standing next to this guy ——–>
Now let me answer a few questions that will inevitably pop into your mind:
Yes, that is a man in a full-on kilt and tartan.
Yes, he is also wearing a beret.
Yes, that is the handle of a huge knife sticking out of his right boot.
Yes, I did slyly snap a pic of him as he perused the handgun selection.
And yes, I am a little afraid that he will find this image online, hunt me down and attack me with a trident.
He was actually a nice guy who struck up a conversation with me about who-knows-what and making your own bullets. The whole experience was surreal to begin with. William Wallace here only added to the entire scene.
In the end, though, I actually ended up enjoying myself. I liked the challenge of hitting a target and trying to outdo myself each round and improve. I get why people enjoy shooting. I’m glad my brother-in-law shared his passion with me.
But here’s the deal: I don’t think I could ever carry a gun.
I know we have this huge debate going on in this country about guns right now. I hope you don’t tune me out now because I want to be very respectful of everyone’s opinion and my intent isn’t to talk about gun control or mass shootings or legislation. I want to talk about peace. So stick with me.
I don’t know how I could carry an implement of violence without it coloring the way I viewed everyone around me. I understand myself pretty well. And carrying a weapon at all times would cause me to view others with suspicion rather than hope. I would be looking for potential threats rather than common ground.
I can only speak for myself. I know my strengths and my shortcomings. I have to be honest with who I am. Because I take seriously the words in Psalms 34:14 —
Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
As Christians we are called to be forces for peace in the world, agents of God’s shalom in our communities. So with any issue that comes up, no matter how our political system manipulates it or how slanted the rhetoric becomes, I need to ask myself this question:
How can I be someone who brings more peace, love and joy into the world?
For me, that means not carrying a gun. If something goes down, I want to be the one stepping in front of the bullet for you rather than firing one back. Because that’s who I am.
But I also have huge respect for people like my sister and my brother-in-law and others I know who would bravely enter into a violent situation to protect their loved ones and others around them. As much as I lean toward pacifism, I am thankful for people who willingly put themselves in harm’s way for another. Because the way to peace isn’t always easy or free.
The issue we need to deal with is not gun laws, it’s our world’s addiction to violence and our reliance on it to solve our problems.
When we talk about guns in this society we get so sidetracked by our desire to protect our rights or debating the original intent of a constitutional amendment or by a media that spreads fear and misinformation or by religious leaders who say some really, really stupid things.
For Christians, this should not be our focus. It should be about peace. About seeking peace in the world and pursuing it wholeheartedly.
So for you — if seeking peace in the world means you decide to carry a gun, then I pray that God gives you courage and wisdom to protect others around you if a horrible situation arrises. I pray you never find yourself in a situation where violence is required.
And if you like me, choose to never carry a gun, may you be an agent of peace as well. May you work to heal the world through the way you look at and treat your neighbor and the stranger.
No matter what, may we all look for ways to make our world more peaceful.
And may the shalom of God be a tangible reality even in a violent world like ours.