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hope for churches in stress

Rivers of Tears

I have lost family members to gun violence—a coup d’état, assassinations, and civil war in Liberia. I have lost friends to gun violence in Philadelphia. I have wept with families of acquaintances buried due to suicide. In the past five years, our congregation in Harrisburg (Pa.) has lost eight sons, all murdered in cold blood.

Gun violence is a national nightmare—erupting all across the country, experienced locally, and felt personally by many. Like Jeremiah, we cry out in grief: “panic and pitfall have come upon us, devastation and destruction; my eyes flow with rivers of tears . . .” (Lamentations 3:47-48).

Nevertheless, in faith, we press on. By prayer vigils, interfaith coalitions, and political action, we are working to overturn loose gun laws. We can fight gun violence. In these ways, we heed the call of God: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

If Jesus is, indeed, the Way, the Truth, and the Life, working to curb and end gun violence gives more of our sisters and brothers the chance to breathe and walk, and live and love. It is a journey we must take. It is a challenge we have to meet.

This is my appeal: Walk in the light of Christ Jesus. Draw on the power of the Holy Spirit. Please God, our Father, by working for life over death in our country, states, cities, and homes. Choose life!

Hank Johnson is senior pastor of Harrisburg Brethren in Christ Church, a diverse, urban church of Christ-followers actively sharing Christ’s love and serving the needs of their local community and global neighbors. This is the third of three posts by Hank Johnson. To go to the first post, click on "Mrs. Petruzzeli's Class."

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