One of you sent me a note. We’ve never met, but the writer takes care of a few hundred people. He takes care of their comfort. They talk about spirituality, so he cares for their souls. He also wants to keep the group physically safe when they gather together. To do that, there are a few armed men and women in the group. From time to time, one of the group finds out that they are protected by people with guns. Sometimes, the Questioner objects.
They Questioner asks, ‘Why do they have guns in this place where we come together?’
The Writer takes them aside and gives them a simple exercise.
The first rule of the exercise is that you can’t change the rules.
‘In this exercise, there are three people. The Questioner, the Innocent, and the Bad Guy. Pretend that you are the Questioner. The Innocent is one of the kids that you know in the larger group. The Bad Guy is going to kill the Innocent unless the Questioner shoots the Bad Guy.
Now, the Writer poses this unpleasant problem,
‘Which person would Jesus want protected, the Bad Guy or the Innocent?’
The first thing that usually happens is the Questioner says this isn’t a fair problem and wants to change the rules.
‘But the bad guy shouldn’t come to church.. and if he does, he shouldn’t want to hurt anyone.. and if he does want to hurt the people here, then he shouldn’t have a club, or a knife, or a car or a gun.. and if he does, then the police should stop him before someone is hurt.. and if the police stop him, then the police shouldn’t hurt him.. and that is why I don’t have to defend the Innocent.’
And that isn’t what the Writer asked.
‘Who would Jesus protect? The bad guy, or the Innocent?’
The question is simple, but unpleasant. It isn’t a particularly hard choice to make. I think the difficulty with the question goes deeper than the use of force, deeper than the use of violence against another person, deeper than using a gun. I’m amazed that people are willing to sacrifice the innocent so that they don’t have to face the existence of evil.
Perhaps I understand a bit of how the Questioner might feel. I’ve met many men and women who are the Certified Good Guys who used violence to save others. I see a little bit of what it cost them. They know that there are monsters among us because they have seen the monsters. They have grabbed the monsters. These Good Guys are better men and women than I am. Their character is stronger than mine. They have looked into the soul of people who look like us but are not like us.
Some people want to hurt the innocent, and we don’t get to change the rules. We try to be a light, but there are still dark places in the world. As long as there is evil, then we should protect the innocent from it. We should not leave that burden of protection on our brother’s shoulders. I should do it. You should do it. It is our duty.
You have done amazing things and thank you for sharing what you’ve learned.
It is our calling if we love the innocent.