In Scripture we find numerous places where people use weapons for self-defense. Jesus even commissions his followers to purchase swords for that very purpose. In the historical context of his words, he was sending the disciples to share the Gospel and knew they would be traveling through mountainous areas where there were known robbers and travel could be dangerous. Jesus makes the statement during the Last Supper after telling Peter he will deny him and shortly before he is arrested. Luke 22:36-27 reads:
36 He said to them, “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. 37 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.”
While Jesus approved of self-defense, he also taught that it was important to aid those who had been attacked. In the parable of the Good Samaritan a man is robbed and beaten and left for dead. In this story the religious leaders who were supposedly more spiritual than the common people neglected the man who had been robbed, but a person of another ethnicity and who was regarded as religiously inferior helped the man. Jesus told his listeners that this person was the good neighbor. The man even used his own funds to pay for the medical (and other) expenses of the man who had been robbed.
In the ancient world war was customary. Many communities went to war annually as a way of expanding their territory. In the Jewish world most people were farmers or ranchers. Those who worked in the fields often carried weapons for protection not just for themselves but for their livestock. David used a sling. He became quite good with it and used it to protect his sheep from lions, bears, and wolves.
In our context today, we rarely need to carry weapons for protection against wild animals or robbers, but in some states like Texas we do have the ability to carry for personal protection. In order to carry, it is necessary to take a course on gun safety and the legal rules of being allowed to carry in public places. Additionally, FBI background checks are required and one must prove that he or she has the ability to fire a gun properly and with a high degree of accuracy.
The purpose of being able to carry is that in the event someone is trying to harm you and you fear for your life, you can defend yourself. Those who carry know that you are never supposed to shoot to kill another person, you are simply allowed to shoot to stop the threat.
As Christians we should never strive to take a life but being able to defend a life is clearly permitted in Scripture.
Today we are faced with an ever-increasing number of Mass shootings. Many of these are in public places. We are now left asking questions about whether guns, access to guns, mental illness, religious extremism, or simple hatred is the problem.
Our country is becoming more divided on the issue and these shootings have become a major concern for national politics.
Christians can and will disagree about the right solution to gun violence in our country. They will disagree about which types of guns should be legal for private ownership. They will even disagree as to what the standard should be for determining who should be allowed to own firearms. And that is ok, because no solution will ever satisfy everyone, but sharing ideas on the issue leads to progress, solutions, and a safer country.
In all reality, the world is not a safe place and it has not been safe since the fall in Genesis 3. We live in a world tainted with sin. A world where bad things happen. A world where people make choices that are immoral. A world where innocence is lost before its time.
People have a sin problem and because of this they do things that our not good for humanity, not good for our country, our states, our cities, or our neighborhoods. But there is a solution. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel changes us. Finding Jesus helps us remove our anger hate, and our desire to bring harm to others.
As Christians, we have an opportunity to be lights in a dark world. We have an opportunity to show the love of Christ in the midst of great evil. We have an opportunity to be the neighbor that the Samaritan was in Jesus’ parable.
We do not have to act like the religious elite in Jesus’ day. Instead we can choose to care for the broken and help those who have been beaten, robbed, abused, and faced great loss. We can share God’s kingdom with our world.
Here are several ways we can share God’s Kingdom in light of gun violence in our country today:
- We can promote the use of safe gun ownership practices such as keeping guns locked inside gun safes. This is especially helpful for keeping guns away from minors and children. Locking guns away helps prevent accidental deaths. It also helps prevent those with mental health issues from gaining easy access if others in a family own guns.
- We can support laws that seek to keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous or mentally unstable people.
- We can promote services in our communities to help people who are struggling to fit in, connect, or contribute to society. Many people who lash out feel abandoned. As a church we should be all about helping people connect as we are all about community.
- We can help people in our churches learn to recognize when friends, family members, or co-workers are struggling with mental health concerns such as depression. Recognizing the warning signs may help people connect with the help they need before there are detrimental results for themselves or others.
- We can pray for our children, their friends, teachers, and school board. Prayer aligns our will with the will of God, but it also moves God to intervene.
- We can pray for our government leaders. Pray that they will be wise in addressing concerns regarding gun violence and mental health in our country, states, and cities.
- If you have the aptitude and calling to work in government use your gifts and talents to be a voice of reason, hope, and change to better your community.
- If you have the aptitude and calling to work in education, do what you can to encourage students, show them love, give them hope, and help them connect with their peers.
- As a good citizen, if you see something, say something. Often good leads help prevent acts of violence.
- Be kind to everyone. As Christians we are called to love our neighbors and Jesus makes clear that everyone is our neighbor regardless of race, religion, economic status, education, etc. Showing people love and treating them with kindness, dignity, and respect goes a long way. Treating others well is good for the soul – yours and theirs.
To end this post, I will leave you with a quote from Mr. Rogers:
“Everyone longs to be loved. And the greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of loving.”
For more info on how Christians should think about gun control check out this article at Got Questions.
Recently a shooting took place in my home town where I happen to know a number of people affected by the actions of a lone gunman. My heart still hurts for their families and their community. #TexasStrong