By Jack Wilkie
Over a month later, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting remains in the headlines on a daily basis. What bothers me most about the Parkland, FL case was how I saw the news and barely reacted to it at first. Many of you probably felt the same way. These stories have become so commonplace that what was once an unthinkable horror in the days before Columbine has now become almost routine. Another shooting recently occurred in Maryland, though this one was limited to just two students as a resource officer was able to save countless lives. But history tells us that it won’t be long before there’s another shooting. When that next one happens, we’ll likely be dulled even more to the headlines.
Where the shock and sadness should be, the fierce debate over guns has taken its place. Facebook and Twitter are filled with people – scores of Christians included – debating the issue, many of them digitally yelling at each other and calling each other brainless or heartless for their positions on guns. With this topic being so prominent, and with the discussion rising to the national forefront multiple times each year, here are three things we all need to keep in mind when wading into the debate.
We must acknowledge that there’s no simple, clear-cut solution.
Before the bodies are even buried, it seems that everybody has the solution to the problem figured out. “Ban all guns.” “Arm the teachers.” “Ban only certain guns.” “Hire veterans to guard the schools.” Though both sides share the same goal of wanting innocent people (children in particular) to be kept safe, that fact gets lost once we get into the finer points of the varying sides. If you don’t want the government to impose gun bans, you’re clearly heartless and want children to die, as one side sees it. If you do want to impose gun bans, you’re ignorant of how guns and prohibition work, as the other side sees it. Like a dog chasing its tail, our country goes around and around making those accusations of each other, failing to acknowledge that none of us have a 100% fool-proof answer to protecting innocent people and that we all want the same thing, despite our different methods of getting there. If we have the humility to accept those two points, maybe our divisions won’t be as sharp.
We must realize how pointless most of our arguments are.
This is an important point that extends far beyond just the issue of gun control. Minds are almost never changed by you or me posting our opinions online. One study found that 94% of Republicans, 92% of Democrats, and 85% of independents claim that their minds have never been changed by a Facebook post. We might think people who disagree with us on guns are hopelessly misguided. We might think we have the perfect answers for their beliefs. But in the end, we’re probably not changing their minds by posting on Facebook.
We must remember that showing love to others is our first priority.
Even if you or I were able to win one person over to our side on the gun debate, if we drive away others in the process, it simply wasn’t worth it. Romans 12:18 must be a governing principle for every Christian when it comes to heated debates – “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” That often means keeping our thoughts to ourselves on divisive matters of opinion and working hard to find common ground, even with people who strongly disagree with us. The thought of Jesus publicly getting into a non-religious, left/right, political policy debate with someone, calling them stupid for disagreeing with Him, and causing them to hate Him and never associate with Him again because of it is absurd. We want to be like Jesus, right? Then it should be absurd for us, too.
We already preach a divisive, controversial gospel. Let’s not do anything to push people further away by publicly dividing people with our opinions. This is obviously an issue about which both sides feel very passionately, and truth be told, we’re probably not going to be able to reach an agreement or even a compromise with a lot of people. That doesn’t take away the Christian’s need to be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).
These shootings are horrific reminders of the power of sin in this world. In responding to them, we must make sure we’re showing the love and care that Jesus would show, regardless of how strong and disagreeable the opinions of those around us may be.