Lord, Should We Go Target Shooting?
“Lord should we strike with the sword?” Then one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” – Luke 22:49-51
There are 347 million guns in America. One for every person.
I grew up in northern Michigan. Each fall the public schools closed down for “deer day” so children could go hunting with their parents.
The first time I shot a gun I was nine years old. My friend’s dad was trying to teach me how to fire a shotgun in their backyard. I was anxious about the gun’s power. My friend’s mom noticed my apprehension and said to her husband, “That thing has far too much kick for a boy his size.” Relieved, I set the shotgun down, figuring I’d get my initiation in a few years. Then she reached into her purse, pulled out a small pearl-handled pistol and said, “There you go, dear. Just squeeze the trigger gently.”
In fifth grade my school taught Hunter’s Safety. When the bell rang at the end of the day the girls left for home, while the boys stayed behind to get weaponized. When the bell rang, the girls rose, and a boy named Jim started moving toward the door. I asked him where he was going. “Home. I can’t take gun class. They said no guns.” I asked him who said it and he answered, “Church.” I asked, “What is your church like?” And he said, “My church says ‘no’ a lot.”
There are many ways to measure the success of a congregation. Attendance, money, the quality of worship. Here’s one that might be closer to Christ’s intentions: Could your church turn out a fifth-grade pacifist in a gun-crazed town? How about in a gun-crazed nation?
Dear Jesus, teach us how to put our weapons down.
Matt Fitzgerald is the Senior Pastor of St. Pauls United Church of Christ in Chicago. He is the host of “Preachers on Preaching,” a weekly podcast sponsored by The Christian Century.