I have given myself permission to be a part of the solution with gun violence. I have already had others declare that I am part of the problem (that didn’t take long!). I’m starting by trying to become informed on the subject of gun violence, and violence in general. As I find articles that have been interesting to me, I’m sharing them on Facebook. I don’t necessarily agree with all of the articles, but they show some different perspectives on what can bring about change. Change is what I am looking for. The status quo just isn’t good enough. For some people, the articles that I have posted have been enough to label me, and then to disregard me. I’m OK with that.
As Christians, what is our role in bringing about change? This would be an easy discussion if everyone agreed about what needs to be changed. Unfortunately, this is almost never the case. Even little issues within the church can make us stumble.
I remember one of my early churches that I pastored almost three decades ago. There was an old bookshelf in the hallway outside of my office. I questioned some of our members about moving it somewhere else, but I was told that the choir liked to keep their music there. I watched the bookshelf for a month to see if anything was ever added or moved from it. The only change that I saw was the addition of more dust. I decided (gasp!) that I was going to move it. With more experience, I think that I would have come to a different conclusion.
One night just before midnight, I decided to move the bookshelf upstairs into a storeroom by myself. This was not one of my finer moments! Half-way up I realized that the bookshelf was too heavy for me. These stairs had two flights, and I made this determination when I had already turned the corner onto the second flight. That is when it dawned on me that if I let go of the bookshelf it was going to fly through a window at the end of the flight of stairs. I gritted my teeth, and used the last of my strength to get the bookshelf safely onto the second floor. It was with a great deal of relief that I positioned the bookshelf, with the replaced items, into the storeroom. A month or two later I did have an angry member ask what happened to the bookshelf? I told them that I had seen it upstairs in the storeroom, and if they wanted to bring it back downstairs that would be fine. They decided to leave it where it was. That was the last I ever heard about the bookshelf.
With more experience I have learned not to worry so much about the little issues, like bookshelves. It is very easy for us to waste energy and emotion about little things that don’t really matter. Little issues have a way of derailing us from working on bigger issues. As Christians, though, should we even get involved? Isn’t this best left to politicians?
My answer is that as Christians we should be praying about what God wants us to do. If God is directing us to get involved, we need to follow. I think that there are times that we never ask God because we are afraid of what might be the answer. I fully understand, because what are the odds that God is going to say “Ignore your brothers and sisters who are at risk and in need”?
I need to warn you up front that when we get involved in change there will be a cost. This is rarely as simple as finances. Quite often it impacts relationships. It can be very surprising who starts to ignore us or publicly criticize us. The cost can even go so far as being physical, perhaps even demanding our life. What price are we willing to pay?
As one Christian to another, I do have a request of you if you decide to get involved in change. Let’s be role-models for treating other people (and each other) with love and respect. On second thought, even if you don’t decide to be involved with change, I’m making this same request of you! I have witnessed way too many Christians acting hateful towards each other, and the world, in words and deeds. This is not how Jesus taught us to behave! Together let’s be the living example that it is possible to love each other—and to work together—even when we disagree with each other.
Your brother on the journey, Mark