As you may already know, it’s a fact that some Christians own guns. Some own multiple guns — handguns, shotguns and rifles. Does that make them bad Christians?
A Facebook post I stumbled across the other day made me think about the notion of whether it’s acceptable when Christians own guns.
I’ve written before about John Pavlovitz, a progressive Christian I follow on social media. I respect a lot of what John says. Even more, I respect how he views the world and how traditional Christianity seems to have strayed from Jesus.
In a recent Facebook post, John wrote, “Guns are not Christian.”
Well, they’re not Christian in and of themselves because they’re inanimate objects and therefore can’t have faith in anything. So, yes, technically, from that standpoint, his argument is sound.
But since I assume he means that gun ownership is anti-Christian, that raises bigger questions.
I grew up in a family that has guns. I don’t remember how old I was when I fired my first gun, but I imagine I was about six or seven.
Some of my relatives love hunting. I do not. I find no desire whatsoever in going out and killing an animal and posing with its corpse. (In fact, I wish Facebook would automatically blur such images and ask people who want to see them to opt-in.)
I don’t think hunters are wrong for hunting, assuming, of course, that they’re following the law.
It’s just not something I find attractive or appealing.
Yes, I eat meat. I realize animals have to die because of that. But some plants have to be killed so I can eat vegetables, too. And no matter how “anti-kill” you are, at some point, a good deal of wildlife had to die so your home could be built.
No one is guiltless in the concept of slaughter.
But recent shootings — and no-so-recent ones — constantly bring up the question about whether it’s right when Christians own guns.
The simple faith argument doesn’t hold up.
One of the commenters on John’s post said Christians owning guns has never made sense to her.
“If one has faith, why have a gun?” she wrote in part. “If one has faith in Jesus, then all will go as it should. Why is it necessary to have a gun? And would one use it? Thou shall not kill. Just never understood this concept.”
On the surface, this may seem like a perfectly valid argument to the anti-gun movement.
But there’s a major problem here, as I pointed out in a comment of my own:
But where does the faith argument stop? If one has faith in Jesus, why does one exercise or go to a doctor for checkups? Why do people of faith lock their doors at night? Why do they wear seat belts?
I’m not arguing for or against guns…but I think the “faith” argument could shoot down a lot of actions Christians reasonably take. I’m not sure where the line is supposed to be there.
I have faith. But my door is locked at all times. My car doors are locked at all times. I’ve lost count of how many news stories I’ve written over the years about people who were burglarized because they left their property unsecure.
I have faith. But earlier this year, I had a colonoscopy because medical science said it was time for me to do so. (In fact, medical science suggested it was past time.) I could have relied on faith alone. But my doctor found three polyps, two of which lab tests called precancerous. That doesn’t mean I had cancer. I does mean there’s a fairly good chance that they would have become cancer if I’d done nothing.
God doesn’t protect Christians from everything.
Another commenter to John’s post said this: “And why do Christians need guns to begin with when they have God to protect them.”
I’ve yet to find a Bible verse that even implies Christians won’t suffer. They suffer whether they are burglarized of whether suffer a health crisis.
Some crimes are crimes of opportunity. An unlocked door can provide just such an opportunity. The criminals who take advantage of such a chance don’t first determine whether their would-be victim believes in God.
Anyone, believers or not, suffer illnesses. I once wrote about one of the sweetest, kindest, most dedicated Christians I know who died from complications of multiple sclerosis. As her body wasted away in her final years, she continued to do her own personal ministry. Once, while hospitalized with two broken legs and barely in a condition to write a letter, she called people she’d heard missed church because of illness to let them know she was thinking about them.
In case you haven’t figured it out, let me be clear: People of faith suffer just like everyone else.
And in my book, Christians who wish only non-believers would suffer such losses aren’t being Christians themselves.
While the Bible may not document such a remark from the Almighty, as he expelled Adam and Eve from Eden, God may well have said something along the lines of, “I never promised you a rose garden.”
‘Would Christ own a gun?’
A popular argument from side stating Christian owning guns isn’t acceptable asks the old standby, “What would Jesus do?” Specifically, they ask if Christ would have armed himself.
The first recorded use of a firearm happened in 1364. So Jesus had no opportunity to own a gun.
He did have the opportunity to carry a sword. As far as we know, he didn’t.
Gun supporters often refer to Christ’s instructions to his disciples shortly before the Last Supper. In Luke 22:36, he says: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
This quote alone, they say, proves even Christ believed in being armed and encouraged His followers to do so.
Conveniently, those who use that verse in such a manner stop reading right there.
If they continue for two more verses, they find He also says this:
It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied.”
Two swords for 12 disciples are enough? That shows He wasn’t looking to build a “militia.”
Jacque Ellul interprets it this way: “The swords are enough, however, to justify the accusation that Jesus is the head of a band of brigands.”
I don’t think Christ said those who arm themselves are criminals. But He knew prophecy could only be fulfilled if it appeared Christ led a gang of bandits.
The swords He prescribed were not for self-defense. Two swords couldn’t have been enough for that. Christ wanted the prophecy fulfilled, and the appearance of just a couple of weapons would be enough to support the notion that Christ led the “troublemakers.”
Then when Peter cut off the ear of the soldier who’d come to arrest Christ, it was Christ who ordered Peter to “put the sword back in its place.” He then healed the injured soldier.
‘Live by the sword, die by the sword’
At that same moment, Christ also said, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”
The most common interpretation of this is that those who engage in violence are most likely to become victims of it themselves. Christ, some are quick to point out, violently overturned the tables in the temple where thieves were cheating people. He didn’t hurt anyone, but he took the bold action out of wanting to protect the reverence of His Father’s temple.
But some of the vitriol in the ongoing gun debate might well make people wonder about some of the pro-gun Christians. Some, not all by any means, seem to lash out against any attempt designed to limit how “bad guys” might get a gun. The manner in which some of that criticism comes makes me wonder if their master might be the Second Amendment, not Christ.
Matthew 6:24 points out the problem.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money,” it states.
Doesn’t that mean you can’t serve both God and politics? Or God and guns? Or God and your own pride?
I don’t think there’s an automatic problem when Christians own guns. I do think, however, that their position on the matter might well reveal, whether they realize it or not, which of the two — their right to bear arms and their desire to follow Christ — happens to be their master.