This week, the news broke about a vocally pro-gun mom who was accidentally shot by her 4-year-old son. It is axiomatic that, in today’s American society, for the next two weeks, the Internet will be alive with horrible cruelty towards her (the worse because she survived). All I can think of is that hospital room somewhere, filled with those heartsick for the recovery of their mom, their wife, their daughter.
Friday, her family publicly stated that the incident does nothing to change her stance on guns; I imagine that will be a source of much scathing derision as well. All I can do is remember bad things in my life that were partly or wholly my own fault, few of which occasioned a wholesale abandonment of my worldview.
Does my compassion means I am pro-gun myself? On the contrary. But if our sympathy’s reach is so short that it encompasses only our friends, then what good is it?
Compassion is not agreement
It happens that there is much about this woman I don’t agree with.
- I don’t agree that owning a gun would make me safer. I’ve never had an experience where I wished guns were involved; I’ve had several where I was grateful they weren’t. But nothing about that prevents me from understanding the opposite perspective.
- I don’t agree with the tone of her past published remarks on Facebook. Some of them, to my ear, sound sneering, condescending, mocking. But nothing about that makes me want to abandon my core values and retaliate in kind.
I cannot help thinking, what if our situations were reversed?
Bad things happen
Something bad happened to her because of what she believes, but bad things can also happen to me because of what I believe. There are situations in which I could become the poster boy for those who want to mock the “stupidity” in failing to own a gun. In a worst case scenario, I could find myself powerless to protect innocent lives.
None of that, if it happened to me, would make me go out and buy a gun. Life is a gamble, and everyone still loses sometimes. I have educated myself as best I can, and of the various imperfect options, I have chosen one that I can live with. Pro-gun Christians argue that scripture permits self-defense, but at the very least, it runs wildly contrary to the example of Christ, which we are repeatedly urged to follow:
- Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.
- I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.
- Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.
I would hope that, come the worst, people who disagree with me would understand that I lived my life as I did out of sincere conviction and accepted the consequences of my choices, just as Christ accepted the consequences of his and as, I’m sure, this mom accepts the consequences of hers.
No place for ungrace
People go skydiving and break a leg. People go swimming in the ocean and get stung by jellyfish. People cross streets and get hit by cars. We make choices every day and those choices sometimes go horribly wrong.
If we will not show compassion and grace in those moments, who are we? There is no part of your being at fault excuses me from my humanity. No good ever came of gloating or bullying. The Bible teaches, “Do unto others as you would have done to you.”
Which of us, in our darkest hour, beset by tragedy of our own making, would have others come around us in scathing condemnation and judgment? Be kind. Be loving. Be Christlike.