Surrender the Right.
We live in a seemingly endless and increasingly devastating path of gun violence in America. “Deadliest mass shooting in America”. This phrase doesn’t describe a particular event for long before the next shooting claims the lives of more victims than the previous. We find ourselves in a state of numbness where we aren’t as surprised or empathetic as we once were. Another one? There always seems to be another one.
Bullets rip through classrooms, church pews, movie theater seats, and human tissue all the same. AR-15 style weapons weren’t created to shoot targets but rip apart families and friendships. An inanimate object is dividing our nation and causing people to choose sides. Do we have a right to live more than our right to own a piece of machinery? Are we as Christians really pro-life if we choose the latter?
As I sat and mourned the deaths of more than a dozen children (again) I wondered, had Jesus owned a weapon, would He surrender it if it would save lives? Would He ask for more swords or would He just sit for a moment and weep over the lives lost? Would He would find His hope, His satisfaction, and security in bullets capable of traveling 3,300 feet per second?
It seems we seek a savior made of metal over the Savior. We create barriers and hurdles when we should be breaking them down and standing unified. We are image-bearers of the divine but the world only sees hate from our words and actions. We stand up for lives lost in the womb but won’t consider laying down our arms for those still alive.
As I started to look closer, I found there are two camps of people that gun-owning Christians primarily live in (and 83% of America self-identifies as a Christian). The first are the people who believe they need weapons for protection. Against the government, against a lone gunman, against the world if need-be. They want to protect their properties, their families, and their own lives. According to the Pew Research Center, 77% of white evangelicals feel safer with a firearm in the house. The second group of people are those that believe the 2nd Amendment is a right that can never be taken away — no matter the cost. In fact, 7 out of 10 white evangelicals believe gun ownership is essential to their sense of freedom. They are willing to defend it with their lives and believe they are qualified to handle a military-grade weapon. (Though a gun shop would qualify any person over 18 with enough money.)
I remember moving to a small city in California on the East side — historically known to have more gang activity than the rest of the city. I expressed my desire to own a shotgun or something that could provide me with some form of peace. We wrestled with these thoughts for a long time. Do we want a gun in the house at all? My struggle was met with grace and with truth — this desire I had was further feeding my fears. Owning a gun wouldn’t give me peace — it would be a constant reminder that someday there may be a need for it. It represented the reality of having to aim it at someone and make a choice to take their life.
I have two kids of my own and a wife that I love very much. I would gladly lay my own life down to save any one of theirs. The importance of feeling safe and able to protect your family is a right we all deserve and should never have to defend. But are our fears cause enough to own a semi-automatic rifle? I can only imagine what a home would look like after using an AR-15 style rifle for home defense. Probably a lot like the war-zones they were intended to be used in. And if we’re not using them for protection, we’re really only buying them because it’s a right we were granted. How can we justify lives being lost due to our desires to possess them?
Here’s the thing about Jesus — He took our sins upon Himself and sacrificed everything in the hope that we would choose a different way to live. One that’s counter-cultural and marked by love and not hate. Peace and not war. Freedom and not fear (true freedom — not government-sanctioned freedoms). One that chooses to love our enemies first. How can we do that when we say, “I value this (weapon) more than I value your life — or hers — or your childs’.” Christ did not call us to live in fear and store up weapons that make us feel safe and protected. His perfect love casts out fear. He desires for us to live free from that bondage. When we put our hope in other things we tell God we don’t believe He can save us. We don’t believe He is powerful; that He is mighty; or that He is watching over us. So we make our own idols and replace the true King with a cheap replica that we think can deliver the peace we desire.
It’s terrifying that we share a world with those who would enter our homes / seek to cause harm or death to us. That fear is impossible to overcome by ourselves — armed or not. We can only find peace in the one who has overcome the world. I know in my heart that this life is only temporary. I have a home where there is no violence and no death. Who then can be against us?
For some of us it’s not about safety. It’s about the “God-given right” we claim to have because a group of men quilled it on a piece of parchment like it was God-breathed. We hold to it like one of the Ten Commandments — Thou shalt own any weapon of your choosing. And honestly, it’s fun to shoot guns. It really is. But we miss the fact that these are not just for the hobbyist. They were designed to end life. We pretend the targets made of paper with bullet holes ripped through them are just that but they’re not. They represent a father, a mother, a son or daughter. They represent our friends, our enemies. Not just the lives that have already been torn apart from gun violence but all of our friends and families.
We think we can stop someone with a gun because we have one too but we don’t always. We think they’ll shoot at someone else first but they might not. We think we can save lives and truthfully, you probably can save a few in that instant, perhaps. Shouldn’t we do more than that? The lives we claim to hold so dear inside the womb are the same lives that are ending too soon. Pro-life has to mean more than that. Life, in all stages, is worth protecting.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with a man on Facebook whose story of surrendering his weapons went viral. I asked if he could share his story with me — just a little bit about why he gave up his weapons and what led to the decision. He remarked that he was hesitant to share his story with me because he wasn’t a Christian, but in fact, the opposite. And that’s when I realized the importance of his story. A man that describes himself as having the opposite religious views as myself decided to give up his freedoms so that others may live. Why is it easier to find people of no faith doing these selfless acts than it is to find a Christian doing the same? Why is it so difficult for our particular demographic to surrender?
I have Christian friends and pastors who own military-style weapons. They are some of the most outspoken 2nd amendment proponents I know. I love and respect them as people but I can’t help but wonder when they weigh the cost of their freedoms, how they believe the price we pay is worth it for them to shoot rounds at a gun range every once in a while. The people I would most expect to take a stand for the victims are the ones who tell them more guns could have prevented their deaths and injuries. That it’s not fair to blame the gun itself because people kill people. To put it bluntly, they are choosing to be Americans first over followers of Christ and putting their own interests and desires before others. They hold personal freedoms closer to their hearts than their neighbors.
The truth is, there are so many areas we need to do better as Christians on a wide range of topics. But it doesn’t take much effort to make a big difference. Use your voices and force real change-making gun-control initiatives onto ballots. Stand with those who’ve experienced gun violence and surrender some of your rights for their sake. It’s difficult to sacrifice something we love for people we don’t know. And we may never see the fruits of our sacrifices in our lifetime. How much though did Jesus sacrifice for us? God sent His son to die in our place knowing that we will struggle daily with sin. We can end the culture of gun violence in America if we learn to put others first over ourselves and our own desires. If we follow in Jesus’ footsteps and value life over money, weapons, power, or anything else this world can offer, it can end.
What will it take? Our voices in unison. Humble spirits. A desire to be a radical change in the world. Laying down our arms if need-be. A bold, counter-cultural commitment to live as Christ lived and to die to self. Truly living up to His call and representing the King and all of His glory and wonder.
Will this radical shift on gun control change the world or our nation? Not likely. But imagine we take this posture of surrender and infuse it into every area of our lives — how much better could life be for us all?
Learn more about our mission to inspire a bipartisan movement to end the culture of gun violence in America. We created Surrender the Right to speak truth and love to fellow Christians and other people of faith who may be anxious or reluctant to surrender their weapons. We believe it is our duty as Christ followers to address this issue with humbleness and an attitude that leads to surrender.