Armed with Love
I’m not a fan of guns. I guess they just aren’t my thing. Growing up, I played with pellet guns in my backyard using soda cans as target practice. My only memory of using a “real” gun was when I was a freshman or sophomore in high school. My uncle and cousin took me out to a field and let me shoot one of their handguns (Glock 9mm, I believe) at a book of upholstery samples, believe it or not. I can’t deny that was loads of fun for thirteen-year-old me. But with that being one of my few experiences with guns, they certainly never became important to my life. On the contrary, since they cause so much destruction in our society, I’d prefer to steer clear of them all together.
My coworker, Aaron (name changed), on the other hand, loves guns. Not only does he own half a dozen himself, but he is also a licensed gun dealer in the state of Illinois. This means he has a legit operation selling guns out of his home for some side income, mostly to friends and family. We have worked together for about six months now, but it didn’t take long for me to see that our politics were pretty far afield from each other. There is no doubt that he is a hard worker with a good attitude, and is an overall nice guy. But I figured I knew his “type,” so the less we talked about politics, the better.
Living as a person of privilege in a privileged society, it can be hard to identify enemies in the typical sense of the word. In the Luke 6 sermon where Jesus tells his followers to love their enemies, he says, “Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” I’m not persecuted or mistreated or the victim of injustice. But I also cannot pretend that the radical message here doesn’t apply to me because I don’t want the burden of confronting those who hold viewpoints with which I disagree or make me uncomfortable.
Gun control is a hot-button issue that easily separates us into “pro-” and “anti-” categories that immediately dehumanize those on the other side. We divide and entrench and spew hatred on social media. It’s easy to convince myself that I have the right answers and “they” are the problem. But truthfully, when I treat someone else as my enemy because they disagree with me, I am making my world a pretty small place. In order to better understand God, I have to start by understanding all of his people.
I decided to try to understand Aaron’s perspective. I offered to buy him lunch if he would teach me more about guns and why they are important to him. I was little bit surprised when he without hesitation responded, “I’m in.” We sat down for Mexican food and I mostly asked questions and listened. I learned a lot about Aaron, about his childhood, his hobbies, and his family. I was surprised to find he wasn’t as opposed to certain gun control measures as I had guessed. He taught me some things about background checks and we shared a mutual resentment for the NRA for peddling fear for their own gain.
We still probably disagreed more than we agreed. But next time I’m tempted to think that gun owners are fanatical or selfish or heartless, I’ll remember Aaron. In that same Luke 6 sermon, Jesus also says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” As much as I want to be heard and understood, I should listen to and understand others. Whether it’s across the political party line, across our neighborhood streets or across the church pew, loving our enemies can start with something as simple as the Golden Rule.
David Hensold is 30 and spends most of his days playing in the dirt as an Engineer at Caterpillar. He likes ethnic food and yummy coffees, mostly when enjoyed in the company of his wife, Elizabeth and son, Ezra.