Recently George Zimmerman has put up for auction the gun that he describes as a “piece of American history,” and which is notable for its role in the loss of Trayvon Martin’s life. The auction is currently being handled by the United Gun Group, owned by Todd Underwood (who I am told may have formerly been a student at Calvary – the school where I now serve as President). Underwood confirmed to the Washington Post that United Gun Group would host the auction, though he added “I don’t support it, I don’t condone it, I don’t have anything against it. It’s his property, it’s his decision.”
Previously the gun was listed on Gun Broker’s website, but apparently the auction was deleted, and the administrators of the website posted a statement saying, “We want no part in the listing on our web site or in any of the publicity it is receiving.”
Having written on the Zimmerman/Martin tragedy before, I was especially saddened to hear of the auction, knowing it would open up wounds that still have not yet had time to heal. Certainly, Zimmerman has the right to auction his personal property. Certainly Gun Broker has the right not to post the auction. Certainly United Gun Group has the right to post the auction. And certainly, those who believe this gun’s trigger was pulled in an act of murder have a right to be angry, just as those who celebrate the gun as an icon of self-defense have a right to be resolute.
Still, as I think on these things, Paul’s words echo in my mind: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body” (1 Cor 6:12-13).
In this context, Paul is describing how the body should be used to honor God, and how we have many freedoms with our bodies, but not every use of them is beneficial. Paul adds, “You have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God with your bodies” (1 Cor 6:20). If we are not glorifying God with our bodies, then we are not using them right. The same is said of our possessions and every other resource we steward, for in whatever we are doing we should be doing it in His name and for His glory (Col 3:17).
I don’t know if George Zimmerman knows the Lord. I hope and pray that if he doesn’t, that he will come to know Christ. I pray the same for Trayvon Martin’s family. I would wish for them the hope and strength that can be found only in Christ. This is the kind of hope and strength that allows us to cry out “forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
As Christians, we have the opportunity to focus less on making use of our own rights, and more on the wellbeing of others. We have the need to recall Paul’s familiar phrase that reminds us of our priorities: “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.” (1 Cor 10:23-24).
I cannot imagine walking in George Zimmerman’s shoes – or the Martin family’s, for that matter, and for that reason I am unwilling to make judgments on any of the parties involved in this most recent controversy.
But if I were simply talking to a brother in Christ, I would encourage him – even if it results in his own financial hardship – to put the gun away for now. Certainly, he has a constitutional right to bear that weapon and to use it as necessary. Still, a family weeps because their son died, and a nation’s splintering deepens because of the perception (accurate or not) of injustice. Regardless of whether the killing of Trayvon Martin was justified or not, this seems not to be a moment for celebrating “a piece of American history,” but a time for weeping with those who weep (Rom 12:15), and for seeking the good of our neighbor (1 Cor 10:24).