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  • The Rev. Charles Smith

UNC Charlotte & The End of Violence

Gunshots ring out at another school. It is UNC Charlotte this time. Two people are dead. At least four more people are injured. The UNC Charlotte family has had their entire community injured by a senseless violent act. It is UNC Charlotte this time but it could just as easily have been another school.



My sister is a rising senior at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. In the three years she has lived there at least 3 or 4 acts of violence have been committed on or near campus. At least 3 or 4 times, in just 3 years, violence has been perpetrated at her school injuring and threatening students. It is a sad commentary that there have been enough of these events at my own sister’s college that I can not remember for certain how many there have been.



Predictably, there will be loud shouts from the right and the left about guns. Our friends on the right will argue the constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms. Our friends on the left will argue that we need common sense gun control. I will not try to persuade you one way or the other on the question of guns. Shouting about guns misses the more important spiritual sickness that is at the heart of these acts. Shouting about guns is a lot easier than starting to address the sinful choices that are at the heart of this violence.


There is always a person with a finger on the trigger of a gun when a shooting occurs. There is always a person with a hand on the handle of the knife when a stabbing occurs. There is always a person with a hand on the steering wheel when a vehicle is driven intentionally into a group of people. Whether the person uses a gun, a knife, or a vehicle the result and cause are always the same. We live in a society that is spiritually sick.

You are created in the image and likeness of God. I am created in the image and likeness of God. Every human being is created in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:26-28). Your life, my life, every human life is inherently valuable, from the moment of conception until natural death. Our lives are valuable because we are created in the image and likeness of God. We are each valuable because God chooses us, loves us, and creates us in his own image.


When we as a society run away from God the natural outcome of all this running is a devaluing of human life. If we do not value the God who chooses, loves, and creates us in his image then why would we value and love one another?


There is no simple legislative fix for the spiritual sickness we have. No law can force anyone to turn from the sin of violence. We must address the root cause of the spiritual sickness and sin of violence. We must address our timid embrace of God.


The prophet Micah tells of a day when the Lord’s Temple Mountain will tower above the mountains and rise higher than the hills. Micah tells of the day when the people will flock to the Lord’s Temple to learn his commandments and Law. The Lord himself will be the judge of all the people and he will settle our disputes.


On that day, when the people have returned to the Lord, we will hammer our swords into ploughshares (Micah 4:1-3).


What a glorious day indeed this shall be. It is a day that we are to all look towards and work towards. This is not some pipe dream where everyone magically just get along. This glorious day is the result of people coming together under Jesus’ love and kingship.


In this coming together and seeking Jesus we are gathered in love and harmony. It is in the worship of Jesus and following him and his commandments, the two greatest of which are to love god with all that makes you you and to love neighbor just like you love yourself (Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 22:35-40), that we begin to recognize each other as created in God’s image and likeness. It is only in this following of Jesus that we begin to fully value human life.


When we come together and live as followers of Jesus instead of just talking about it we will start to beat our own swords into ploughshares.


So what can you do?


It will be tempting to score cheap political points at the expense of those with whom you disagree. I myself am tempted by this from time to time. If you give into this temptation it will feel really good. People will praise you for this and like your posts.


RESIST THE TEMPTATION


Be mindful of how you live your life. Are you a follower of Jesus? I am not asking if you are someone who goes to church, or is nice, or a “good person.” Do you follow Jesus in the way you choose to live every day?


Live your life so others see Jesus’ love and Good News in you. Be so much like Jesus in the way you live your life that you respect the inherent and dignity in human life. Be so much like Jesus in the way you live your life that you support the dignity and value of human life even when to do so goes against your own political preferences. Be so much like Jesus in the way that you live your life that you are constantly praying.

Pray. Pray for the conversion of this nation and the world. Pray that we will come together to worship God and be instructed in his commandments. Pray that more people will recognize Jesus as their king and Lord. Pray for UNC. Pray for those shot. Pray for the shooter. Pray that all people will begin to value human life from conception until natural death because we are all created in God’s image and likeness.


Pray that we start follow Jesus and start beating our swords into ploughshares.

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