The subject of guns is a touchy one for Christians. Our feelings about them are often wrapped up with a love for hunting, concern about second amendment rights, as well as personal security. So, let’s take two of the three off the table. I believe in the constitutional right to bear arms and in the hunting of animals that are eaten, or are hazardous to humans or farm animals. (Frankly, I can’t imagine Jesus would think killing living things, just for the fun of it, acceptable.) But, I can’t prove that by the Bible.
But, the question before us today is, would Jesus own a handgun for personal protection? Setting aside the fact that he was, and is God and needed no protection, it’s more helpful to ask this question, “Would Jesus condone followers of his, owning a gun for the protection of one’s family?”
I also want to say upfront, that I have friends who are serious followers of Jesus, loving, kind and deeply spiritual who own handguns for personal protection. This is an issue on which serious Christians can disagree. But, I do not own a gun for personal protection and never have and I’ll tell you why shortly. (I do own a shotgun to shoot skeet occasionally, but it’s locked away and I don’t hunt.) The biblical case for owning a weapon to defend one’s self Most of the arguments I’ve read supporting a Christian’s right to own a handgun draws from two portions of the Bible. The Old Testament is most often cited because Israel was constantly being attacked by their enemies. However, almost all those examples refer to national defense, not personal protection.
However, God does say this about the right to protect one’s self against an intruder;
“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed. Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.” Exodus 22:2,3
“There you go!” say the gun owners. However, when Jesus came, he issued in a new covenant and with it a new way we ought to live.
He taught us not to repay evil for evil, but to bless our enemies and turn the other cheek. At one point as Jesus was being arrested, a disciple tried to protect him by cutting off a soldiers ear with a sword. Jesus healed the soldier, then chided the disciple, saying that those who live by the sword, will die by the sword. Jesus didn’t carry a weapon. And he firmly taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He didn’t mean peacemakers who were packing!
But, for those who seek certainty on this issue, then he confounds us with this teaching. Near the end of his ministry, being one of his disciples had become a dangerous vocation. So, he told them to carry a sword for personal protection while spreading the gospel. In fact, if they didn’t have one, they were told to sell their cloak and buy one! (Luke 22:35-39)
However, it’s important to note that Jesus’ statement condoned having a weapon only because they were being persecuted for being Christians, not for general personal protection or to prevent theft.
After Jesus’ execution, the Christian norm shifted to living unarmed. We are told both in scripture and Christian tradition that the apostles became more like Jesus, not carrying weapons. All of them were beaten, arrested, tortured and killed (except John) as they offered little resistance. Since then, Christians from the Quakers to the Franciscans to the Mennonites to Martin Luther King Jr., have provided a strong, non-violent, non weapon-bearing Christian, witness.
Let’s get personal “But Clare, if someone entered your home to kill your family, don’t’ you have the right to stop them and protect your family?”
The short answer to that question is “yes,” of course I do. Who wouldn’t desire to have their family safe? But, I do that with good locks, an alarm system and leaving lights on during the night. One friend in security recommends buying a pump shotgun, sawing off the barrel and removing any shells and the trigger mechanism. “Clare, no intruder in his right mind will enter a room, once he hears the metallic warning of a pump shotgun racked up and loud verbal warning that I have a shotgun, so leave!”
Statistically, only 7% of home break-ins involve violence and almost all of them are because homeowners tried to stop them. Our “stuff” isn’t that important. We told our children, if an intruder enters the house, remain still and silent. Let them take what they want and let them leave.
The fact that we have a right to have a weapon doesn’t mean it is wise to own one. At the risk of sounding overly spiritual, my wife and I believe God is our protector. He’s sovereign over all of life. If he allows us to be robbed or killed, then that was his will for us and we accept it. Furthermore, I don’t want to put myself in a position of possibly taking the life of another person. I’m quite certain Jesus would prefer his followers foster a culture of peace, rather than one of violence.
One of our children and four of our grandchildren lived in the inner-city for many years, where gun shots could be heard and assaults were common. They had no gun. They too, believed God was their protector – and he did and still does.
“He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.” Psalm 144:2
So, before you go out and buy a gun, just because a guy in your Bible Study has one, pray deeply for God’s wisdom. The decisions you make, will affect your children and grandchildren’s attitudes about faith and guns. Be prepared to explain to them why you’ve made the choice you have – biblically.
“Trust in the Lord and not on your own understanding…”
How following Jesus works in real life.
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