“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” says Paul in our Romans passage.
I hear these words and I cannot help but think of the ongoing violence that is America – its culture of violence and racism, the atrocities in Dallas and Baton Rouge last night as the latest incarnation of it. Every day is filled with violence. We have become numb. “Just another day of senseless gun violence,” as we shrug our shoulders in hopelessness.
By now my prayer is that our country has finally turned the page on apathy – that long gone are the days of “our thoughts and prayers go with the victims.” It is now clear that every Christian is not simply called to pray, but called to action. My prayer is that action begins NOW.
These words from Paul have quite a different context than all the swirling thoughts of my mind. People in Paul’s time were arguing that the Gentiles were not saved. He was responding to that with words of inclusion and grace. Paul was arguing that God’s grace had opened up, and that restrictions like circumcision and following the law were no longer in order, that salvation had spread to unfathomable circles.
Our context is different. For us salvation is “salvation from ourselves.” We need to be washed clean of the culture of gun violence, hatred, and racism. We need to have rage well up in us to call us peaceloving Christians to action. We need to be covered in the blood of the victims in order to begin to see straight. That will certainly awake us to action.
I am tired of hearing about the 2nd Amendment. Anyone with a brain knows this is not what the founders of our country intended. But what do we do? As Americans most of us are committed to God’s Word, but equally committed to the US Constitution. What’s more is that we rely on our courts to adapt our antique documents like the Bill of Rights to our modern, technological challenges. We trust our judiciary to sort all this out: what’s a right and what needs restriction. The problem is that we are left with that awkward, irresolvable phrasing of the 2nd Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
The responses vary. My NRA card-carrying, pro-gun-rights readers are asking: “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ do you not understand?” Others ask: “What part of ‘a well regulated Militia’ do you not understand?”
While I am not a Constitutional Law expert, nor do I want this Morning Reflection to become a history lesson, it is worth mentioning that best I can tell for most of our history, the 2nd Amendment seemed almost irrelevant, maybe in part to the ambiguity I laid out above. For most of our history, many American towns and states regulated guns and that was that. But in the 1980s something changed. People began to look at the 2nd Amendment differently, and the right to bear arms for self-defense emerged.
And now we are bearing the fruit of all that. As mass shootings dwindled in Australia after the voluntary collection of guns, and as Canadians continue to have more guns than Americans but yet have far fewer incidents of gun violence, our culture of violence flourishes with police shootings and police being shot. My black friends fear being pulled over by the police, a fear I may never fully understand.
A few things are clear: 1) Prayer is no longer enough to combat violence. 2) Taking away the guns is not enough. 3) Fixing our culture of violence will take more than prayer in schools or a reclaiming of God in classrooms. It will mean something much deeper, like teaching our children to value life. 4) We cannot do this without help from above.
What does it mean to call on the Lord, as Paul encourages? To put one’s trust in, to count on, or to look to. For us it means more than a simple “get out of hell free” card. Paul is arguing that the flood gates of grace are open. We desperately need the flood gates of grace to open in other ways as we call on God.
Now is the time for Christians to stand up and proclaim some good news to hurting America – that salvation is at hand – salvation from ourselves. Now is the time to lay aside our worship of guns and the false hope that more guns will save us, and turn to the God of New Life. Now is also the time to call one another to action.
You are probably sensing the direction God is calling me to. We have tried arming ourselves to the hilt and it didn’t work. Perhaps now is the time to collect up as many guns as we can and have a smelting party. Only then can the glories of love be revealed. Only when our hands are free of weapons can we embrace one another. Only then can we build and bind one another in love’s ferocious embrace. Enough is enough, my friends.