As I Was Saying is a forum for a variety of perspectives to foster faith-related conversations among our readers with the goal of mutual learning, even in disagreement. Apart from articles written by editorial staff, these perspectives do not necessarily reflect the views of The Banner.

On the evening of Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas, Nev., a gunman fired onto a music festival crowd, killing over 50 people and injuring almost 500 more. This is being called one of the worst mass shootings in modern U.S. history. I grieve over this horrific tragedy. I pray for the victims and their families, for those helping them, and for all who are affected.

As Christians, we need to “mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15). Not only with those affected by the shooting, but also remembering all those suffering from the series of hurricanes in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and other places.

And we need to pray. We cry out to the Lord for God’s mercy, comfort, and justice. “The prayer of a righteous [one] is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). But genuine prayer should also move us to act. To simply pray with our mouths but not act with our hands and hearts to help, or to work toward prevention of more such senseless deaths is akin to wishing someone well but doing nothing about his physical needs (James 2:16). Our faith, although not reduced to deeds, are always accompanied by deeds.

As our contemporary testimony states, “We deplore the spread of weapons in our world and on our streets with the risks they bring and the horrors they threaten” (Our World Belongs to God, article 54). Our faith confession must compel us to do what we can to protect our neighbors. The Heidelberg Catechism calls us to “protect [our neighbors] from harm as much as we can” (Q&A 107). It also regards the “prevention of murder” as the reason why “government is armed with the sword” (Q&A 105).

We must heed our Lord Jesus Christ’s warning that “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). Swords were the guns of Jesus’ day. Surely it is godly for Christians and the church to call upon governments to reduce the spread of weapons on our streets and develop other means to protect neighbors as much as we can.

The prophet Isaiah longed for the day when nations “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isa. 2:4). If God desires peace among nations, surely God also desires peace among the people.

Let us not trust in guns or weapons to protect us. Violence begets violence. Let us put our trust in the Lord. Can we, with the psalmist, say that the Lord will keep us from all harm, and watch over our lives? (Ps. 121:7). I know that Christians are not immune from harm and suffering. But we need to model to the world what trusting in God and God’s ways look like. By shunning violence as much as we can, and working toward prevention of violence, we can show the world that lives by power, coercion, and aggression that the way of God’s peace and love is more powerful and true. 

Even if we die, our lives are held in God’s hands. Nothing, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). From a biblical perspective, separation from God is the ultimate death, not the stopping of our beating hearts. As long as God holds us in his bosom, we live, even though we die. Let us trust the Lord, “for he is our sure defense” (Our World Belongs to God, art. 54). Let us trust the Lord, for he will right all wrongs and bring justice to the oppressed. He alone saves.

About the Author

 Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

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Comments

There is a great Network post about "what we can do about rampage killings." https://network.crcna.org/disability-concerns/something-we-can-do-about-rampage-killings .  One of the things it does well is to not go down the political hole.  Sadly, the Banner editor could not resist here.

There is so much the institutional church, the Banner, can say about this that would be said within its area of expertise.  Taking the political bent -- pitching for gun control -- is neither constructive nor helpful, nor inside the Banner's area of expertise.  There are plenty of forums that deal with gun control, few that deal with what Mark Stephenson dealt with in his Network post.  Wouldn't it be better for the Banner to cover this from a non-political angle?

Hi Shiao,

You seem to be hinting at pacifism in some of your concluding comments.  Do you care to expound a bit on what you intend to communicate with this series of quotes?

"Let us not trust in guns or weapons to protect us."

"Can we, with the psalmist, say that the Lord will keep us from all harm, and watch over our lives?"

"By shunning violence as much as we can..."

"Even if we die, our lives are held in God’s hands."

"Let us trust the Lord, “for he is our sure defense”"

The progression you make seems to hint that self defense (use of force to prevent taking of innocent life) is contrary to trusting God and that it would be ok to die anyway.  Are you intending to communicate something else?  In the context of trusting God and personal death, what do you think it looks like to "shun violence as much as we can"?  Do you believe that trusting God and prudent forceful defense of innocent life are mutually exclusive?

 

Thanks.

Dear Eric,

Thank you for your questions. Normally, Banner staff prefers to leave the comments section alone as we regard it as readers’ space to voice their opinions. We occasionally intrude when we have to. Since you specifically directed your comment to me, I will try and answer.

My position on this matter is the denomination’s position on just war, found summarized here: https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/position-statements/war-0

In that summary position statement, it says, “Christians are called to do all in their power to promote peace”. And we only use just force when absolutely necessary. My statement, “By shunning violence as much as we can, and working toward prevention of violence,” reflects the summary statement’s position “to do all in their power to promote peace”.

The “as much as we can” phrase also reflects the apostle Paul’s admonition: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

As for warning us not to trust in guns or weapons, I am trying to reflect the prophet Isaiah’s admonition to the Israelites, when faced with war against Assyria, to not trust in Egypt’s military might for deliverance but rather trust in the Lord: “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.” (Isaiah 31:1)

When facing terror and violence, we, like the Israelites, can be tempted to trust or rely on the power of weapons and might to deliver us, and forgetting the Lord. Of course, we should not be stupid but seek to protect ourselves as best we can while still minimizing harm on others.

But if Isaiah feels right to call Israelites to not trust in Egyptian firepower but in the Lord even during impending violence and war, I think it is right for a pastor like myself to call on Christians to not trust in firepower in the face of terror and violence but to trust in the Lord.

I merely try to pass on these Scriptural and Confessional insights to our readers as best as I can. I hope this clarifies things enough for you.

 

Thank you.

Chong

Hello Chong,

Thanks for your reply.  That is helpful.  I can hardly ask other people to clarify your thoughts, so I am glad you were willing to reply.  Your quotes had a logical/rhetorical pattern consistent with arguments for pacifism, so I sought clarification.  I was not questioning the validity of a pastor or any Christian to call on others to trust in the Lord.  Of course trusting in the Lord does not preclude the use of violence or weapons when necessary to protect innocent life any more than it precludes insurance or seat belt use.  Thanks again. 

Eric