To catch up to this post (re)read Part 1 and Part 2.
It has been five days since the school shooting in Sante Fe, TX
That was less than 14 weeks since the shooting in Parkland, FL.
Embrace Part 1 gave us a scriptural basis for what we are talking about, and in Part 2 James wrote about City Chapel’s hopes to be a church of the gospel for the city of Grand Rapids. This means being invested in the city, and not just another building taking up space. It means caring for the people, and the well-being of all in this city. It means bringing the good news of Jesus Christ in word and deed. It means, being people who live like Christ. The one who willingly goes, like a lamb to the slaughter, on behalf of those crying out for his death. As Christians, we are called to follow Christ. Jesus himself says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Jesus is the ultimate example of one who left a place of privilege (see Philippians 2:5-11) and glory, to live with those without privilege, to bring honor to the marginalized, and live a life of sacrifice. And we see the supreme example of this on Good Friday. When Jesus willingly died on behalf of the very people who are calling for his crucifixion. It’s astounding.
Which is one reason why we believe it is Christ-like to be for better (read stricter) gun control laws. We are not calling to abolish the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. But, we are calling for changes. Amendments have been amended. At least let us study the impact of guns on society and our health.
For example, in order to drive a car (an object designed to transport people and things from one place to another easily and safely) one must pass tests, enter a massive database, pass checks, and put in hours/days/months of practice before they are allowed to drive without supervision. This is not true for guns (an object designed to fire a projectile at deadly speeds). If you believe that money, and where money comes from, has anything--at all--to do with why politicians act, and enact policies (it does), then this is true with gun policies. For more on this, read HERE.
And, this is why the phrase “thoughts and prayers” is, at least, frustrating to many people when politicians say this after a mass shooting, and then don’t follow it up with actions. Because politicians are exactly the people who can do more than just pray during that situation, and to prevent it from happening again.
Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo put it this way: “This isn’t a time for prayers, and study and inaction, it’s a time for prayers, action and the asking of God’s forgiveness for our inaction (especially the elected officials that ran to the cameras today, acted in a solemn manner, called for prayers, and will once again do absolutely nothing).” Read his full statement HERE.
Police Chief Acevedo is not saying that prayers are bad and that we shouldn’t pray. He’s calling for prayers alongside other action. It’s what James was getting at in James 2:15-17 when he said, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' (i.e. 'thoughts and prayers’) without giving them the things needed for the body (no action), what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
The average person is only able, at a given moment, to pray for those who are hurting. And please pray! We believe in the power of prayer. As Christians, we pray first, to receive the correct marching orders from the one we call Lord, Jesus Christ. And, we have the word of God given to us as our guide, as well as the Holy Spirit. But, when politicians ONLY say “thoughts and prayers” they are doing exactly what James meant when he shared about only giving lip service and not actually doing anything when you have the capability to act. Faith without deeds is dead, James said. Dead. I do not want my faith to be dead. And as Police Chief Acevedo said, we need to ask God for forgiveness for our inaction.
We have been given the vision of what God’s kingdom looks like: A place where people beat their weapons into tools for growing crops. And, as ambassadors for God, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation--to reconcile the world back to God, in Christ. To bring the kingdom of God here on earth as it is in heaven. By beating our weapons into plowshares. By following the Prince of Peace. By being peacemakers. By denying ourselves (even if we feel it is our “right”), for the benefit of others. By being humble, being willing to be wrong and corrected when we are wrong, and listening to others. By actively looking to where we are blind to our own privilege, and listening to others when they point it out in us. By not being defensive.
Another thing needs to be stated. There have been POC (young and old) who have been marching and raising awareness for quite some time now in regards to gun violence and gun control and much more. We need to do better as a society (especially if you’re white) to listen to our brothers and sisters of color when they say, “We’re hurting.”
None of this will be easy. This will require endurance. Whenever anyone tries to change the status quo, it will be difficult. Especially for us with a lot of privilege. For those of us who have been used to privilege (especially without realizing it), it will feel like oppression as we start to experience equality more and more. It will feel like we are being mistreated when, in reality, we just no longer have the same privileges we’ve always experienced.
As a church of the gospel for the city of Grand Rapids, City Chapel is promising to enter into this struggle. To suffer with those who suffer. To be ambassadors for Christ, bringing the good news and the hope we have in Christ--eternal life--which begins now.
I have to admit that this is a hard post to write. I'm worried that people will get upset or something similar. If that's you, let's talk. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to talk. If you're in Grand Rapids, let's get coffee. It's on me.
Be like Christ—
The one who sacrifices for love.
The one who died for the very lives that were demanding his death.
The one who died so that all may have life.
The one who suffers with those who suffer.
Live for peace. Die for others.
- Ronald Radcliffe