In the first three months of 2021, 126 mass shootings took place leaving 148 dead and 485 wounded. Last week, in a surreal incident, another black man was shot to death just ten miles from where the George Floyd Murder Trial is taking place. The best response available? “Oops. Thought it was a Taser.” Violence. Death. Fear. These are the perverse “values” of our society."
Perhaps we should not be surprised. As a nation, we spend 53% or our national budget on war. That is more than the next ten nations – combined. The next highest amount we spend is 7% on government, 6% each on health, housing, veterans. The movies we watch are violent revenge plots and murderous crime stories. In our nation, we won’t let just anyone drive – or vote – but we will let everyone have a gun. We are a violent people, and we seem to crave the stories and tools of death.
It all makes me queasy and feeling a little hopeless, even more helpless. In this season of the Resurrection, which is all about “new life,” we are more and more a culture of death. With our “right to bear arms” held to be more sacred than life itself; with our rugged individualism urging everyone to leave a mark on the world, even if by leaving a death toll, I wonder how history – not to mention God will judge us?
In the lesson appointed for this week, Peter preaches to the people in Jerusalem saying, “you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:15) The people of violence killed God and we still are at it, two millennia later. And each of us are witnesses – even if we won’t tell the truth. Peter goes on: “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.” (Acts 3:17) Is that how we will be viewed when the long arc of history finally bends toward peace? Ignorant? Dull? Maybe a bit bloodthirsty? Or are we just destined to disdain life, in love with death, and unaffected by God’s grace? When will the swords be turned to plowshares? (Isaiah 2:4)
All I can cling to is the persistent love of God, who even when subjected to violence and death, rises up, bringing life. All I can cling to is that God, revealed in Christ, is so dogged in love for us that one by one, peace will come to our hearts and lives. All I can think of to do is to say what Peter preached to the crowds after our Lord was put to death, “Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19). Lord have mercy, let us repent of our love affair with violence, guns, and death.
Tim Olson, Lead Pastor