Getting the Right Policy Prescription for Gun Attacks

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I’ve never written on gun violence since it’s really outside the immediate purview of the issues dealt with by the organization I lead. But given the latest attack on a group of people and the growing frequency of such attacks, I think it’s time to say something. We need to get straight a bit of reality that few on either side of the political aisle or the general public want to talk about.

Every shooting prompts a call for Congress to do something to stop the madness. The NRA rightly says that guns don’t kill people, people do. Gun control activists rightly note that guns often get in the hands of crazy people.

Could different public policies, not just on guns but any number of things, make a difference? Perhaps. But we first have to get to the reality behind the shootings, their cause, before we decide what policy might best work within the milieu of other individual rights and duties and the powers and limitations on power given civil government that all have to be considered.

Any ‘Solution’ Must Consider the Cause

In that regard, I suggest we consider what was said by Jesus, who many non-Christians and even some despisers of Christianity describe as a great moral teacher: “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed . . . murders,” whether of a single individual or multiple individuals at one time (Mark 7:21 NKJV).

The context of His statement, though, is what makes it so important to the policy debate.

Jesus said this to His disciples about the “policies” of the scribes and Pharisees, who approached life through a detailed set of rules designed to avoid doing what was wrong in God’s sight. They built up rules (or policies) around rules in order not to get too close to violating the main rule actually prescribed to them under the Mosaic Law.

They were well-intentioned. But Jesus was telling His disciples that the problem of murder (and all other wrongs) is not something external to us and, therefore, not anything that can really be solved by anything external to us, such as various “policy rules” built upon “policy rules” to avoid defilement.

It wasn’t that a heart desirous of avoiding defilement was wrong, but the Pharisees had lost sight of the fact that it was the heart that was itself wrong. That is the reality neither we nor the politicians nor even many Christians in the pews or pulpits want to talk about.

Taking the ‘Cause’ Down to Its Real Root

More specifically, the reason the desires of our hearts are wrong is not because we’re anti-Semitic, or anti-homosexual, or anti-anyone-who-doesn’t-look-or-think-like-us, but because we’re anti-God.

The Apostle Paul said it this way and, for those who prefer the “New Testament Jesus” to the Old Testament God, note that what follows is a string of quotes from the Old Testament:

There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-12, 15-18 NKJV).

That doesn’t sound very nice, but it is what both the Old and New Testament Scriptures say about our natural human condition.

The First Law We Need to Consider and Deal With

As a consequence of our alienation from God, we also despise and look for ways around the clear law of God, not delight in that law as Jesus did.

This is important because we have to understand that if God created us and we, as a society composed of individuals, are alienated from our Creator and despise our Creator’s law for us, then we can’t help but be alienated from one another.

In fact, that’s exactly what Jesus meant when He said that when “lawlessness,” clearly referring to disregard of the only true law, the law of God coming from God, marks a society, “the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12 NKJV).

Cold-hearted murders—like those we’ve witnessed time and again—are, as the description implies, a symptom of the heart that’s against God and His law that no external “policy” of civil government can even begin to address.

That’s because what needs fixing is not outside us any more than it has been since Adam’s sin alienated the whole human race from God and Cain killed Abel.

More laws external to us won’t lead to the reconciliation of the heart that we need in order to be reconciled with each other.

Instead, we first need to be reconciled to God. That happens when a person’s human condition is changed by being joined to the God-man, Jesus, in whose sinless humanity that human condition was restored. Through that joinder, we will then find a growing delight in the law of the God who made and restored us. That, in turn, will allow us to love others—those toward whom we’ve directed murderous attitudes, if not weapons—as God would have us love (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).

Soon we’ll celebrate the coming to earth of the God-man, Jesus. According to the angel’s proclamation to the shepherds, it is through Him that there can be peace on earth, goodwill among men.

He is the one “policy” we need most. That’s why I’m praying that the heart of the Christmas message becomes very real for many hearts this year.

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