Does Jesus forbid self-defense? That’s a question pro-gun Christians are quick to throw out, sooner or later, any time there’s talk of gun control. It’s a simple question with a complicated answer.
One of the most disturbing things I hear from Christians who also happen to love their guns isn’t so much a message of owning guns to defend their families but rather owning firearms to protect their stuff. None of them, it should come as little surprise, comes right out and says it quite that way. But at the same time, the undercurrent is there.
“Just let someone set one foot onto my property,” is usually how it begins. Somewhere in their little tirade, they refer, directly or indirectly, to the Second Amendment as if it were part of the Bible rather than part of the Constitution.
Someone “setting foot on your property” is not, in and of itself, a threat to your family. And it’s certainly not cause to use lethal force. It seems easy to forget — far too easy — as these folks pound their chests, that there is indeed a Commandment, one of the ten, that reminds us that we shall not kill. That type of killing, one could argue, refers to premeditated murder, not necessarily self-defense. But shooting someone who looks threatening (before you even know whether they are) isn’t exactly self-defense.
Some like to parrot the old line about a “good guy” with a gun being the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun. They quickly discount (or ignore) stories like the one out of North Carolina where a pastor — an unarmed pastor — was able to talk an armed man out of his. The pastor walked right up to the rifle-toting man, asking if he could help him. He didn’t run. He didn’t shout to the congregation to hide.
It sounds to me like this pastor was familiar with Matthew 10:28: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Then there’s the sword verse.
That verse in which Jesus instructs his disciples to buy swords. (There was no mention of guns, of course, but then gun powder wouldn’t be invented until the 9th century.)
But that verse, taken in context and as part of the entire narrative, is not a call to arm oneself to fight a war. Christ was focused on His mission, looking the part that would get Him arrested, tried and crucified. When one of his disciples actually used a sword, Christ healed the victim, rather than sitting back with a satisfied smile and muttering, “He got what he deserved.”
Indeed, Jesus admonished his disciple, saying, (in Matthew 26:52), “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
Is that an argument against owning guns for self-defense? No. But it does sound like a warning for those who attempt to use them if other options are available. The disciple, after all, was defending Christ Himself and that’s the response Christ gave him.
In Psalm 144:1, David writes, “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.” But this was David offering praise to the Lord for giving him the military skills he needed as King. The Lord’s “training” had nothing to do with David being able to sit in his Barcalounger watch his big-screen television with a shotgun across his lap and one eye watching his yard for anyone who might show up without an invite.
I have always found it curious that there are so many Christians who oppose anyone having the right to have an abortion on the grounds that “all life is sacred,” yet also oppose any measure involving gun control. All life is either sacred or it isn’t. If God was truly pro-life, He must have been pro-life across the board. This is to say, if he were dedicated to making sure the child was born, his concern for that child wouldn’t have ended at the point the child was born.
When the Newtown shooting happened in Connecticut, Mike Huckabee suggested the shooting happened because God had been “removed” from our schools and Fred Phelps said God “sent” the shooter. If you honestly believe either of those points of view, I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise if you want to stock up on all the guns and ammo you can pack into your arsenal. But I have to wonder if, in your zeal to build your own armory, you’re teaching your kids the values God intended we all learn and that folks like Huckabee complain are being missed in school.
What kind of message could children receive about faith and trusting in God, after all, when a parent’s focus is more about firearms?
Some Christians look at passages like Christ’s example of the Good Samaritan, which deals with helping and loving our enemies, and suggest that the Good Samaritan story is focused on how to help the victim of a crime, not how to deal with the criminal. They point out that the world has changed and that there are so many people with guns, we have to do everything we can to make sure we’re protected.
But if you’re going to use the argument that the world is a different place today than it was at the time Scriptures were written, then you have to accept that this same argument can be applied to other hot-button topics we face in today’s society, like the question of women as leaders in the church or LGBT rights in our society; society’s views on those topics have shifted since God’s Word was written as well. If you aren’t willing to budge on those issues because of what the Bible says, at least be consistent enough to not to play games with the Bible just so you can have your guns.
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 5:8, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” But if you start at 1 Timothy 5:1 and read the passage rather than cherry-picking a single verse that fits your point of view, it quickly becomes clear Providing for one’s own, in this case, referred to widows who were left with nothing. Paul was saying that one needed to look out for his family members, especially when they fall on hard times for which they lack the ability to rise above.
It would be nice — depending on what He said — if Christ would have spoken about the guns He surely knew would come long after His death. It would be great if we had that, in black and white (or red and white, depending on your Bible), so we could stop the endless and unnecessarily heated debate on gun control with respect to Christ’s point of view.
But we don’t have that. We have a set of versus and Christ’s teaching, which tells us, among other things, to love your neighbor as you love yourself and to not return evil with evil.
Is self-defense against the Bible? No. Is owning a gun for protection against the Bible? No.
Is the smugness and zeal of gun ownership of people who claim to be ready to kill in an instant just to protect their stuff against the Bible? It sure seems like it is.
This is one of those cases, I think, where attitude and intent have to be reviewed very carefully. What your attitude or intent happens to be with regard to guns and gun control might just speak volumes about how closely to Christ’s teachings you happen to stand.