One week ago, today, in Newtown, Connecticut, a horrific tragedy occurred that took the innocent lives to 26 individuals, who were created in the image and likeness of God. In the last seven days, this massacre has sparked a debate across the nation from people on all sides of gun control. However, more importantly for this pastor, it has sparked a debate amongst the body of Christ. It’s pretty obvious that the Bible does not speak about guns, because the first gun wasn’t even made until more than a 1000 years after the Bible’s completion. However, just because the Bible doesn’t speak about it directly doesn’t mean it remains silent about it’s essence or usage. I don’t think I need to remind anyone that the Bible also remains silent about television, phones, or the internet, yet they too can be used for good and evil. So, what does the Bible have to say about it? Should Christians own guns? And if so, how does the “right to bear arms” line up with the commandment to “love our neighbor”?
Firstly, I want to point out what the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Now, I realize there are those who when reading this will try to assert that the sole purpose to keep and bear arms is to form a militia, and due to our standing Army we no longer need that. Well, those people would be wrong. If you read through our founding documents you will come to the same conclusion that the Supreme Court has. In 2008, they deemed Washington D.C.’s gun ban unconstitutional and just this year they found the same with Illinois. These courts have rejected this view and have upheld the protection of ownership and path to carry as a right.
But that still raises questions within Christianity about gun ownership and self-defense. As, I address these I’ll point to scriptures so that you do not take my word for it, but rather take God’s Word for it. So, here are a few of the questions posed.
Q: “What about the 10 commandments? Doesn't the Bible say, 'thou shalt not kill'?”
A: The King James Version of the Bible as well as a few translations do us the word, kill in Exodus 20. However a literal translation of the Hebrew word רצח (râtsach), as found in many more translations (Amplified, Complete Jewish, English Standard, Message, New International, New King James, New Living, etc.) define the word as murder. This remains consistent with what we see two chapters later in Exodus 22:2-3
Exodus 22:2-3 Complete Jewish Bible
(2) “If a thief caught in the act of breaking in is beaten to death, it is not murder; (3) unless it happens after sunrise, in which case it is murder.
The difference between verses 2 and 3 is premeditation. The principle this clearly states is that defending your self, family or property from a threat, even with lethal force is not considered murder, but rather a justifiable homicide.
Q: “What about Romans 12:17, that says we are to ‘repay no one evil for evil’?
A: Well, try reading the rest of the chapter so it is in context and we get a more complete picture.
Romans 12:17-21 New King James Version
(17) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. (20) Therefore “IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM; IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP COALS OF FIRE ON HIS HEAD.” (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
First, we don’t repay evil with evil. Again, as we just saw in Exodus it is only considered “evil” if God says it is evil. Using lethal force as a means for protection is not considered evil by God. If you want more proof, check out Genesis 14 where Abram used lethal force to protect his nephew and Exodus 2 when Moses did the same for a Hebrew man. Vengeance is also another question brought up, but if we look at Romans 13:4 and 1 Peter 2:14 we see that God uses government for that purpose, which is why Exodus 22:3 considers seeking revenge murder. That job is left to government, but immediate defense is left to one’s self. Also notice that the last two verses paint an image of enemies who have a need that we should sustain, not a murderous or evil desire that we should facilitate.
Q: “Well, Jesus never used a gun.”
A: You’re right, because they didn’t exist. But, Jesus did use a whip to defend His Father’s house from those who were violating it. (John 2:14-16)
Q: “Didn’t Jesus rebuke Peter for using a sword?”
A: Yes, Jesus did rebuke Peter, for HOW he used the sword, not for the use in general. You see, again this takes some right dividing. First off, before this event even took place, as they were getting ready to depart for Gethsemane, Jesus instructed his disciples that if they did not have a sword they should sell garments to buy one (Luke 22:36). He said this because of the trials and persecutions they were about to endure may require the need of them. But when this event took place notice what Matthew 26:50-54 says. Really read this thoroughly. First Jesus is just questioning them and then Peter jumps in to defend Jesus. **Side note: a band of troops consisted of somewhere between 500 and 1000 troops** So, Peter decides to strike one of the 500+ soldiers and Jesus, immediately told him to “put (his) sword in its place”. He did not tell him to get rid of it, but to return it to his side. The mention of those who live by the sword dying by the sword was not in regard to self defense, because that is not what Peter was doing, Peter was looking for a fight and it was that desire of his heart that Jesus was correcting. He finishes this rebuke off by reminding Peter who He is and that He didn’t need protection because this “must happen”.
Q: “What about turning the other cheek?”
A: Again, this will require you to read the remainder of the chapter (Matthew 5:38-48). This is really something so subtle, but often overlooked. Most people are right handed, so how do you slap someone on their right cheek, if you are right handed? That’s right, it’s a back handed slap, which is not meant for injury, but disrespect and humiliation. The remainder of this chapter backs up the sentiment that when people are trying to humiliate you, take advantage of you or disrespect you, get out of yourself and try to go that ‘extra mile’ to help out those who have wronged you. This is not advocating people to line up like sheep to the slaughter, but instead to train followers of Christ to display the same grace and mercy that was given to us.
So, what can we draw from these scriptures? Well, just like there is a thin line between faith and foolishness, there is a thin line between being a martyr and a moron. God has commanded His children to promote His Gospel. We are no good to anyone if we are dead. As a father, how can I provide for my family, if I first don’t provide defense and protection for them. The scriptures seem pretty clear to me, when reading them in context, we must protect that which God has given us, because it ultimately belongs to Him. When Jesus, told the Disciples to take up swords, they were using the weapons of the day as a form of protection. Today, instead of placing at our sides swords, guns are the new side arm. Jesus was always teaching us to get to the heart of the problems rather than on the surface. Mass shootings like what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary should not cause Christians to look at the surface and be opposed to the tool used (surface), but rather the evil that led a deranged individual to commit murder (heart).
There will always be debates and discussions, but I challenge you to examine the Scriptures and see what God’s Word says about it, rather than what any politician, pundit or political party has to say.
Enjoy God’s best,