On Sandy Hook and Luther’s Second Use of the Law

(When I posted on Calvin’s third use of the Law and Santa Claus, I really had no intention of another “use of the law post”; and certainly not for this reason…but, here we go)

As I watch the Christian social media reactions to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I’m seeing some posts along these lines:

“If we just had God in the schools, this wouldn’t happen.”

“There is no solution but the return of Christ.”

The first sentiment is simply a theological error. God is in the schools, whether we have separation of Church and State or not. God is there because God is omnipresent. God is there because there are God-following children and teachers and administrators there. And when horrible things happen, God is especially there, because God is present with the brokenhearted. (And, yes, I know, too, that there is the question, “How could God be there an let this happen?” That’s an issue for another post. And it is a serious question.)

The second one I agree with…to a point.

I agree: sin and suffering in our world will not end without the full presence of Jesus. This is the point of Advent. We recall the waiting for the birth of Jesus. We celebrate that coming of Christ. But in the meantime, we also are waiting for the second coming of Christ.

Some Christians disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think humans are capable of fixing everything before that return.

However, this does not mean we just give up and let the world go down the path to utter destruction. God calls to be make the world better. God works through us to make the world better.

So, here’s where I get to Martin Luther. My friend Elizabeth (Lutheran pastor extraordinaire) pointed out, a better simple version of Luther’s second use would be this:

“The Law helps us create an ordered, civil society.”

Luther felt that it was actually part of the government’s God-given responsibility to help with this. (Even if we wouldn’t be able to get it perfect in time for the return of Christ.)

There’s obviously nothing in the Bible about guns. But, there’s plenty about how to live together as a society. And that includes taking care of each other, and taking measures to curb violence.

As Christians, we are not called to vote for a specific political party or platform. But we are called to look for ways to help and support our society and our government use the Law to curb our tendency toward sin, as individuals and as a group.

As far as I can tell, that means that we need to do some work, as Christians, to look at the myriad of things we could do make it harder for people to obtain weapons that are clearly designed for killing human beings, quickly and efficiently. How we can make sure that those who do own guns are prepared to be safe and wise about how they use them. And how we can take care of people who have spiralled so deep into mental illness that they would be able to contemplate doing something like this. How we function as a communities that look out for each other. There are so many sides of this, and the actions we need to take involve our government, our schools, our community organizations, our churches.

And, yes, as imperfect human beings, we won’t get the whole thing sorted out perfectly. But we can do better.