A reflection on last week’s gun control debate
Early in the morning Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” ~Matthew 14.25-31
For those of us following the national gun control debacle, last week was interesting, to say the least. For those not following it as closely, last Wednesday the Senate failed to pass a bipartisan bill which would have required gun retailers to perform a background check on the people they are selling guns to. As it stands, background checks are required for people buying guns at a gun shop, but not for those who prefer to purchase their weapons online or at gun shows. This makes perfect sense – it is totally illogical that the standards for gun purchases are so different depending on where you do your shopping, and I cannot understand why anyone would not want to check to ensure that people buying guns online are not felons and/or have a debilitating mental illness. A CNN poll found that 90% of Americans approved of the bill. Everything considered, it was not a big change (the bill would not have required background checks for gun sales between individuals), but it was a small step – and it represented an undeniable movement towards a bipartisan, common-sense solution to gun control.
But the Senate froze, and couldn’t take even this small, simple step towards sane, bipartisan gun laws.
In the Scripture I opened with, we find Jesus walking on water. This imagery is nothing new – after all, this is not the first time Scripture describes God moving over water. God has walked on water before – namely, at the creation.
Jesus means business. He is walking on water again – he is about to start creating once more, but this time is different. This time, Jesus calls to the disciples in the boat to move over the surface of the water with him. Jesus calls us to begin the creation of God’s new world order alongside him.
This is our Christian duty: to step out of our comfortable boat and join the creation of a brand new world alongside our God. Jesus calls us to be signs of the world that is to come, and to witness to the radical new kingdom that God himself is creating in our midst.
But that is hard, and stepping out of the boat is too much for Peter – as it is for us today. God calls us to participate in the new creation with him, but creating a new world takes a lot of bravery – and even more faith that God will make sure everything turns out alright.
The new world God has planned involves more that just a handful of gun control laws – after all, God has every intention of turning our world upside down. But ensuring that we are doing all we can to keep instruments of violence out of the hands of people who should not have them is a step towards creating the world God wants for us.
Last week God called the US Senate to step out of their boat and join the new creation, and they sunk. They had the opportunity to take a baby step onto the water with Jesus, and begin the creation of God’s peaceable kingdom right here and now, and they failed.
But there is hope for us yet, after all, Jesus is still calling. And as Christians, we cannot allow ourselves to be passive observers of this debate any longer. We must write our Senators and tell them that an insane lack of common-sense weapon control is not the world God wants. We must let them know that they do not represent us, and that we will elect Senators who do. We must step out of our boat, and, hopefully, we will walk on water.