Guns or the Jesus Way
There was a predictable spike in gun sales after the Aurora Colorado shootings. While perusing the news, I stumbled upon an interesting article on this subject in a Christian publication. The writer of the article favored gun ownership as the last line of self-defense when other options have been unsuccessful. The comments about the article generally fell into two camps: (1) Those who believe it is acceptable for Christians to own a gun for self-defense and to protect the weak. (2) Those who detest guns, or fear guns, and see no place for the them in the life of any Christian who follows the instructions of Christ that we are not to resist evil people (the turn-the-other-cheek doctrine). This debate has been going on for a long time.
In Matthew 26:51-52 Jesus is being arrested in the garden when one of his followers pulls a sword and hacks off the ear of a servant of the high priest. (That had to hurt.) Anyhow, Jesus immediately tells his followers to stand down. This is where Jesus utters those famous words that whoever lives by the sword will die by the sword.
But hop over to the same story in Luke 22 and check out something that can be easily overlooked in this scene. In Luke 22:36, a short time before Jesus was arrested, he was talking to his disciples about the travel supplies they would need on their journeys to spread the gospel. He told them to pack a sword.
A team of theologians could write an exhaustive commentary on the apparent conflict between Jesus advising his disciples to take a sword on their journeys and, almost in the same breath, telling them that those who live by the sword will perish by the sword. Permit me to throw in my two cents worth. I notice in Luke 22 that Jesus is trying to tell his disciples deep truths about himself and the fulfillment of Scriptures. His ministry is almost over and his disciples, after years of instruction, do not fully comprehend all that Jesus has taught them. When he tells them to take a sword as part of their travel supplies, they quickly and enthusiastically respond that they already have two swords. Jesus tells them that’s enough swords. I can almost hear Jesus’ sigh of exasperation. His disciples understand the purpose of taking swords on their journey but they don’t seem to understand what Jesus is about to do on the cross for humanity.
Christ knows that his followers live in a dangerous, often lethal, and irrational world. Self-defense against criminals and defending the weak are not the same as enduring persecution for following Christ. However, relying too much on the sword (i.e. the gun) for protection in this life puts us in even greater danger because the gun can lure us into a false feeling of security, or exacerbate our fears. In other words, genuine peace of mind must first come from God.
In the interest of full disclosure, I own a gun. But the gun doesn’t give me as much peace when I put my head on the pillow at night as verses like Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.”
Here’s my point: The gun is a tool that deals with symptoms, not the cause of evil. If we want to impact the root cause of humanity’s ills, we need to apply the majority of our efforts at wielding tools like the word of God and living a genuine Christian life. Ultimately, it’s Christ who transforms hearts from evil to good.