He shall judge between many peoples,
and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore;
As Christians, we may differ in our understanding of God’s will, but there are some very clear messages from our scripture. War, violence, killing, injuring others, vigilantism, and revenge are aspects of our brokenness and separation from God. We are called to be peacemakers, loving mercy, showing compassion, standing for justice, and doing all in our power to spread God’s love. Few people debate these things.
Yet, on February 14 – Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day – seventeen students died at the hands of a troubled gunman. It deeply saddened me to see one of the earliest responses to this tragedy was not condolences or sympathy, but a strident defense of the right to own guns in the United States. The core of the defense was that the latest tragedy wasn’t about guns, but about the breakdown of our civil society and discipline for our children. Such equivocating breaks my heart.
Children were shot and killed. The scope and reach of this tragedy was definitely connected to guns. We must, as a society, as a culture, and as a Church stop living in denial. Gun violence is out of control in this country. Among developed nations, the United States resides among those at the bottom of the list for responding to and addressing gun-related violence. We must take firm action for responsible gun laws. Guns are not tools for peace; they are destroying more and more lives with each passing day.
I am not debating military actions and law enforcement. These are stark and sad evidence of our fallen world. Where there should be peace, we see war. Where there should be justice, we find corrupted law. Where there should be mercy, we see judgement. And so sadly, where we should see young lives flourishing with the possibilities of a hopeful and productive future, we see students down before they get a chance to truly live.
Don’t argue and debate guns. Pray with me. Pray for the victims and their families. Pray for the shooter and his family. Pray for the communities, the police, the teachers, the leadership of a world turned upside down. And take action. If you are as saddened and enraged as I am, write to your governor, your senators, your representatives, and your local officials. Invite them to join us in the Wesleyan injunction to first, do NO harm; second, do all the GOOD we can; and last, to strive in every way to ground your life in the love and will of God.
Attached here are some resources to help your leaders and congregations provide support during this trying time: for all leaders; for leaders of children; and for leaders of youth.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).