“To be or not to be: That is the question…” thus begins Hamlet’s soliloquy from William Shakespeare’s tragedy, “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.”
It is suggested that Shakespeare wrote these words in the early 1600’s and that they were first published in 1604. Since their birth they have echoed the halls of many a theater and have followed us home to become a cliche used often within our daily lives. It has stood the test of time and I dare say still applicable here in the 21st Century.
A couple thousand years ago, John the Baptist, another character from history, spoke very different words but they infer the same meaning of Shakespeare’s, “To be or not to be.”
John was a rugged man clothed in camel’s hair and dined on locusts and wild honey. He described himself as “the voice crying in the wilderness, (to) make straight the way of the Lord!” John had heard of Jesus and God had placed within his heart to tell others about Jesus; to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. John was earnest in his calling. I believe he felt a fire of urgency within his soul that caused him to cry with a loud voice his message of Jesus.
He had no patience for religious hypocrites that professed their righteousness, but did little to prove a true change of heart. John, never eloquent in his speech, bluntly told the pious religious crowd, ““You are all snakes! …Change your hearts! And show by your lives that you have changed. I know what you are about to say—‘but Abraham is our father!’ That means nothing!” John, in Shakespearean “To be or not to be,” language was saying, “To truly be a Christian you must truly act like a Christian.”
Well, of course this didn’t go over too well with the religious zealots. I’m sure they surmised that they had done all the “right” things by adhering to every letter of Moses’ law. And so they stood piously, cloaked within their finest robes and with indignation, asked of the wild-man standing before them, “What shall we do then?” I’m sure they were confident within themselves that they had all ready done everything the law required.
John, without hesitation, tells them to clothe the poor, feed the hungry, treat others with kindness and never seek to make a profit at the expense of others. (Read Luke 3: 7-14)
How often this same scenario has played out over and over throughout the history of the church! My friends, I tell you, it is happening today; laid bare for all, believers and non-believers, to witness by means of television and social media.
Religious leaders like Reverend Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, joins the ranks of Donald Trump, with such statements as,
“We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized — and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad,”
And then there’s Jerry Falwell Jr, president of Liberty University, further fanning the flames of xenophobia with these words spoken before the university’s student body,
“If more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims…”
He continues by urging over 13,000 students to obtain a permit to carry concealed handguns.
Also during his speech, Falwell pats his rear pocket as if to say, there’s a gun “in my back pocket right now,” and at the conclusion Falwell acts as cheerleader by adding, “Let’s teach them a lesson if they every show up here.
I’m not going to call Falwell or Graham, vipers and snakes, I just don’t have the balls the wild-man possessed; but let me tell you, John’s finger is pointing straight at them.
How can I say that?
Because true followers of Christ (Christians) adhere to his words that he spoke thousands of years ago…here…take a listen:
• For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ (Matthew 25:25-36)
• “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? … (Matthew 5:43-48)
• Listen to Christ’s reprimand to Peter after Peter had taken a sword and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers who came to crucify Jesus: Then Jesus said to him,“Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”
• “I give you a new command: Love each other. You must love each other just as I loved you. All people will know that you are my followers if you love each other.” (John 13:34-35)
Friends, I am not against guns and I’m a firm supporter of the second amendment. I’ll go so far as to say, I love guns. I really do. I remember, a pig-tailed, barefoot kid, playing “cowboys and Indians” with a pair of cap pistols strapped to her hips. That happy-go-lucky kid was me during an age of innocence that’s almost non-existent in our world today. I still love to shoot, but as much as I enjoy guns, I firmly believe we as a country need to put in place common sense, gun control laws. Laws that would demand background checks and that would ban military style assault weapons.
More Americans have lost their lives to guns than the sum total of those killed in all of the wars we’ve fought. People, this should not be the case. I believe the NRA is one of the most evil intuitions in America. They do not care about human life they only care about the money they can make. They have, literally, made a profit at the expense of others. Literally…
It’s high time for TRUE Christians to stand up! Stand up….stand up wherever you are! We live in a world that is literally dying to hear your voice! Now, more than any time in our lives we need to SPEAK UP! If you disagree with the bigotry and hate that’s running rampant within our land then SPEAK UP! If you don’t…if you remain silent… then I say you are just as guilty as those spewing the hate.
Remember, Shakespeare’s words, “To be or not to be.” Take these words to heart, chew on them awhile, and then answer the question: Will you take a stand? OR Will you not take a stand?
To be or not to be…there is no middle ground…
Get off the fence!