We are living in a very interesting time. In the United States this year (2018) we have experienced 23 school shootings. The current conversations about whether teachers should carry guns, what gun regulations should look like, or if we should have individuals bringing guns in worship spaces have become divisive. I have noticed that these conversations end up being fueled by fear and emotion.
The problem with viewing this issue through fear and emotion is that rational thought does not get welcomed into the dialogue. We end up looking at solutions based on “flight or fight.” I believe that we need to be looking for solutions another way.
When Jesus was entering His last days and sharing with the disciples what was about to happen, the disciples got confused. They expected a messiah that would restore the Kingdom of Israel to its former glory, just like when David was king. They did not expect a suffering servant, they expected a triumphant king. The disciples wanted Jesus to overthrow the Romans and get them out of their land. We get pictures of this expectation throughout the Gospels.
Luke 22:47-51 gives us an account of what happens when Jesus is arrested. The disciples think that this is the moment that they are going to fight, that Jesus is going to rise up and take back their land. They ask Jesus if they should fight with their swords. Peter, before he even hears the answer, pulls his sword out and cuts off someone’s ear. Jesus says, “Stop! No more of this!” (verse 51). Then Jesus heals the guy’s ear. He allows himself to be arrested and defeats evil by dying and rising. He shows the disciples (and us) that evil will not have the final word.
Time and time again we hear Jesus speaking about how we are to treat enemies and those who disagree with us. Jesus calls us to live in love and peace with each other. Our concept of love is very interesting in our culture. We love our car, coffee, food, boy/girlfriend, spouse, kids and the list goes on. We might think that love is only an emotional feeling, however it is not. When Jesus told us to love each other, He used the Greek word, “agape.” This love is not an emotional love, it is a sacrificial love. It is intentionally thinking of others and their needs above our own. Paul expands on the understanding of what love is in 1 Corinthians 13 (called the love chapter), and gives us a picture of what loving others can look like. Loving people, especially those that do not see things the way that you see them, is difficult. But this is what Jesus invites us to do; to love people.
We are also invited to live in peace with each other. In John 14:27 we hear Jesus telling his disciples that He is giving His peace to them. The Greek understanding of peace is “harmony in relationships,” learning how to be together and not always agreeing. We are called to be together in beloved community, living a response of love and peace. This is what our world needs to see more of and how I believe we should respond to what is happening. Not out of a place of fear, but from a place of love and peace. In the words of Sy Miller and Jill Jackson; “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
Jim Barth is a pastor at First United Methodist Church.