There’s one thing that could easily have prevented Trayvon Martin’s death. It trumps the racism discussion. It goes beyond the conversation about a corrupt police department. I’m not saying who should be found guilty of what, but there’s one thing that is certain: If there’d been no gun there that evening, young Martin would be alive today. Before I get comments about the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, be assured that the right to bear arms isn’t my point either.
Zimmerman had a permit for his weapon, but he brought a gun to a Skittle fight. Yes, there had been a series of thefts in the area and Zimmerman had a right to protect his neighborhood. However, in his zeal for justice (if that was his motivation) he overshot the mark. He either forgot or never knew his role in the process. The nature of the Neighborhood Watch organization isn’t to enforce the law but to protect their communities by alerting the authorities about law breakers. The recording of the 911 call made by Zimmerman makes it clear that he was advised by the professional not to engage with the young man he had suspected might break the law. If the gunman had been there just to watch, the gun would not have been necessary.
I’ve found that my approach to protecting the name of Jesus Christ has often overshot the mark. Yes, it is my right (and obligation) to not shy away from making clear the Good News to everyone. In the past, though, my zeal was the equivalent of bringing a gun to a Skittle fight. My role as a Christian isn’t to watch for sinners so that I can bring down the gauntlet of eternal judgment, it’s to make people aware of the awesome mercy of a God who loves them beyond their wildest dreams.
We miss the opportunity to give greater insight to people wondering about the real Jesus because we consider their actions or beliefs about him to be an ultimate rejection of the truth. We’re always ready for a faith brawl when, more often than not, people aren’t looking for trouble. If Jesus could hang out with “sinners” without condemning them – and he had a right to – then we must follow his lead. But, they’re just going about life and we drag them into a spiritual gun fight. When that happens, spiritual casualties are the result.
In Matthew 10:34 Jesus says ““Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. (NIV)” The sword he’s speaking of is division among people who have heard the truth. Luke’s use of the word “division” instead of Matthew’s word “sword” helps make the point. Before we take up the sword, let’s first be sure those we’re protecting ourselves from have at least had the opportunity to reject the real Jesus, instead of a misinformed picture of the Messiah that we may have given them.
And, let’s be absolutely sure we know our role in God’s plan of salvation for the world: to be his witnesses, not his judges.