I wanted a gun.
Not a big, Sledgehammer type of gun capable of blowing off someone’s head. Just a small pistol, something I could conceal in a pocket or holster. Something I could use to protect myself and my family in case of danger.
This desire grew stronger after the shootings in Orlando. “What if someone comes into the movie theater and just starts shooting?” I asked my wife. “What if someone breaks into the house?”
I grew up around guns. My friends were farmers and we would go out in the woods to shoot at cans, bottles and skeet. I was in the Army, where I trained to shoot an M-16 at a target 300 meters away. They gave me a 9-millimeter pistol when I went to Iraq. I’m actually a pretty good shot. Guns don’t scare me.
Then this week happened. First, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Just a day later, a policeman shot and killed Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Minnesota. Soon after that, in some sort of retaliation, 11 police officers were shot in Dallas, Texas. Five of those officers died as a result.
Every one of these men should still be walking around with us today. Not one of them did anything deserving of the death they received. And every single one of them carried a gun.
Their guns did not protect them.
Fear of their guns may have killed them.
Fear is running the world today. As my friend Jonathan Ryan writes, our fears have now overtaken us and become our god. Fear of the black man by the police that shot them. Fear of police when they get pulled over. Fear of guns. Fear of not having a gun.
Fear grows and spreads like wildfire. Last year, everyone seemed to be in a panic over the Ebola virus. This year, the Zika virus is the one causing paranoia. My youngest son is afraid of growing up. My oldest faces fears of rejection and criticism. Parents fear they have ruined their children (I know it’s not just me). We fear the future, we fear failure, we fear everything that we can’t control.
In John 18, Peter was afraid. A mob of men came to take Jesus away, and, in his fear, he drew his sword and cut off someone’s ear. Matthew 26 records Jesus’ response. “Put your sword away, for all who take the sword with die by the sword.” Many times, we stop at this point and say “Ban all guns. Guns are bad.” But it’s the next verse that carries the point, and holds our hope.
Jesus continues, “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide me with more than twelve legions of angels?” The point is not the sword, the point is where your confidence is.
Peter pulled his sword because he thought it would protect him. He was afraid he was about to lose the Messiah he had followed for the last three years. His dreams were in jeopardy, and he had to do something. So he lashed out.
We all hold swords of some sort.
Objects that give us the confidence the outcome is up to us. We hover over our children to make sure nothing bad happens to them. We work harder and harder to provide money for a family that begins to wonder what we look like. If we just had this or did that, our world would be safe.
But it’s not a safe world we live in. We have these false ideas of confidence and security, and they will let us down every single time. The “guns” we have won’t protect us.
In these moments of heartbreak and anguish, when the world is at a boiling point and people are both devastated and furious at the same time, we want to copy Peter’s knee-jerk reaction. Everywhere I look, people are lashing out because the world they know is being torn apart.
Jesus knew better. His confidence was in His Father. He didn’t need a concealed carry because He knew Who was in control. When the enemy surrounded Elijah and the situation looked hopeless, he was calm because he knew that those who were for him were more than those who were against him (2 Kings 6:16). He didn’t worry and fear, because he knew who was in control.
I don’t have any answers for what happened this week. My heart cries for my black brothers and sisters who live in a world like this. My heart cries for all of those who lost their loved ones this week. I want to pull out a sword and start swinging at those who have done wrong.
I don’t think that’s the right answer. The situation we face is bigger than a hashtag. We should look at the wounded places in our hearts, at the guns we try to carry and the swords we wave around to protect ourselves and the things we care about. We have to put down the weapons in order to find the healing that we need.
I don’t want a gun anymore.