In the wake of increased gun violence in our country that is disproportionately affecting our children and youth, we as citizens of this nation and as people of faith have a responsibility to respond by demanding legislation that better regulates guns and other weapons. We have to create the safest possible situation for our children. This is a call not only for those of us who are biological or adoptive mothers and fathers. This is a call to every person who is seeking to be a good citizen and a faithful steward of all of creation.
As we learn from Jesus’ example in the Gospels, most notably in Matthew 19:13-14, we have an obligation to bless every little child because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. The word “bless” generally has a connotation of a religious rite but we do not bless children through the religious rites we perform regarding them alone, we also bless our children by doing all we can to guard them from evil, both physical and metaphorical, both real and perceived.
When Jesus refers to the notion of the “Kingdom of Heaven”, an important topic in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, He refers to a slightly different concept than the average person does when referring to the notion of “Kingdom”. When we think about a kingdom, especially in the United States context, we often envision opulence or a dictatorship but when Jesus talks about the “Kingdom of Heaven”, he refers to a Kingdom that is not of this world. Jesus represents an alternative to our understanding of royalty. Jesus represents a Wonderful, Counselor, who is also the Prince of Peace. The Kingdom of Heaven represents a place of radical equality and social justice.
Last week, an organization called Everytown for Gun Safety reported that there have been 37 shootings on school grounds in 2014 for a total of 74 school shootings since the mass shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012. Everytown describes school shootings as anytime a firearm was discharged on school grounds. The data is not limited to mass shootings alone. Since the report was released, there have been extensive arguments about whether the numbers have been embellished to force action although the past twenty years of American history have shown a remarkable decrease in gun violence.
All of us were once little children in need of the protection of a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt, a grandparent, a teacher, a trusted friend, or a caring ally. We see the value God places on the lives of little children in that in sending God’s own Son, God chose to send Jesus, the Savior of the World, as a child borne of an ordinary woman under less than ideal circumstances. God sent a baby, born into the care of two human parents who could not even find appropriate lodging for Him for the night of His birth. Although they could not provide material goods for their child, Mary and Joseph recognized that in their child lay the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven and they did all they could to protect His life. Are we treating our children with such value?
According to Scripture, in the Kingdom of Heaven when one of God’s own is lost, God searches day and night until that lost one has been found and restored. The question for us is whether or not we seek to bring the Kingdom of Heaven here to Earth. Do we become caught up in statistics or do we care about the one little one whose life has been touched by gun violence. Can the little children come unto us?