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Aiming for Peace

February 28, 2018

Once Again

The U.S. is once again grieving, angry, defensive, and divided over gun violence that left 14 students and 3 staff dead at a school north of Miami, Florida, on Wednesday, February 14. The 19-year-old former student entered Stoneman Douglas High School Wednesday afternoon, pulled a fire alarm, and when students began evacuating, started shooting. It was the 17th report of gunfire at a U.S. school in 2018.

Building Pressure

The Parkland, Florida, school shooting is the deadliest since a gunman killed 27 at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. Two other mass shootings occurred late last year during a concert in Las Vegas, killing 58, and at a church in Texas, killing 26. This latest massacre has renewed the debate across the U.S. about what can be done to prevent them from happening again. Students from Stoneman Douglas have organized a nascent movement to pressure policy makers to stricter gun laws.

Who’s to Blame?

Everyone agrees that mass shootings and gun violence need to be prevented, but few people agree on how to get there. Some argue that gun access endangers the public, while others argue that owning a gun is their best defense. Some want to focus on the mental health issues of shooters, while others believe gun lobby groups wield too much influence. Still others are
blaming the authorities for failing to act on warning signs about the latest shooter, while some blame state and national leaders for failing to enact strict gun laws.

What We Share

Behind these pointing fingers, both sides share a common desire for freedom and safety. Freedom from fear. Safety from violence. What path will lead us there? Both sides want to reduce gun violence, yet we still remain grieving, angry, defensive, and divided. How can we share so much in common and still be so polarized?

We Keep Longing

These common desires are not just true of modern Americans. People around the globe and throughout history have longed for peace, freedom, safety, and hope. In the Bible, this kind of harmony went by another word: shalom. Shalom is a dream of a time and place where “all is right in the world,” broken relationships are restored, and people flourish in work and rest. But the Bible deals with reality: It’s ugly and bloody and far from the shalom that all people desire. Yet it also stubbornly holds on to this vision of shalom.

Will We Ever?

As the students of Stoneman Douglas push for safer schools, and each of us wonder whether we will ever feel the ease that comes from knowing we are free and safe, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that our hope is not in guns or the absence of guns, but in a God who puts everything right. Prophets like Jeremiah described, using stark pictures, the vast chasm between the lives we live and the shalom we long for.

Jeremiah 23:1-6

“Doom to the shepherd-leaders who butcher and scatter my sheep!” God’s Decree. “So here is what I, God, Israel’s God, say to the shepherd-leaders who misled my people: ‘You’ve
scattered my sheep. You’ve driven them off. You haven’t kept your eye on them. Well, let me tell you, I’m keeping my eye on 
you, keeping track of your criminal behavior. I’ll take over and gather what’s left of my sheep, gather them in from all the lands where I’ve driven them. I’ll bring them back where they belong, and they’ll recover and flourish. I’ll set shepherd-leaders over them who will take good care o<
them. They won’t live in fear or panic anymore. All the lost sheep rounded up!’ God’s Decree.”

“Time’s coming”— God’s Decree—
“when I’ll establish a truly righteous David-Branch,
A ruler who knows how to rule justly.
He’ll make sure of justice and keep people united.
In his time Judah will be secure again
and Israel will live in safety.
This is the name they’ll give him:
‘God-Who-Puts-Everything-Right.’”