And, more specifically, should Christians own guns?
This has been coming up a lot recently for me, and so I want to share with you some of my responses when a very dear Christian friend recommended a documentary that is against Christians owning guns. If Christians are pro-life, shouldn’t they be anti-gun?
The premise of a new documentary “The Armor of Light” is that if people are living in fear then they are not living in faith. After all, God has not given us a spirit of fear (2 Tim. 1:7). It in essence states that if you own a gun then you may be not trusting God for deliverance and purports that doing so is theologically impermissible in light of the Gospel. An infamous Facebook discussion ensued; however, being fellow Christians, I believe we kept it civil.
Here is most of my response:
I think at the heart of this is whether or not a Christian has the Biblical right to defend their-self, or if they can also defend others. If they can, then how they do so is really a side issue.
It’s important to discuss because ideas have consequences, especially in a democracy. And it might even affect God’s judgment on you. While you are covered by the grace of God, He still holds us accountable in the end and you may miss out on rewards in heaven for not fulfilling a duty to defend others or yourself.
And let me first say I understand this from both sides. When I was in Bible College I took the exact opposite stance that I take now. But I was wrong. I took the verse to “turn the other cheek” out of context and to the extreme.
While it is true that fear is the opposite of faith, merely owning a gun does not mean you are afraid. In fact, it could mean you are courageous. Is a police officer who is trained to use a gun, and does use one acting in only fear? Did King David act in fear, or in faith, when he used his sling (the ancient equivalent of a pistol) to bring down Goliath?
A gun is just a tool. And it can be used in faith or in fear, no more so than a sling or a sword. You should not have your faith in any tool, but that does not mean that God will not use your faith in a practical way with the tool. Sure, God can deliver by an angel, and He has, but more often than not He has used people in much more normal ways.
The person in the video said “Are you saying you need Jesus, the gospel, and a sidearm?” That is the equivalent of saying do I need Jesus, the gospel, and to wear clothes every day? Obviously I do not need clothes to go to heaven, but that does not mean I should not wear clothes. It’s comparing apples to oranges. No one who believes in the Biblical right to self-defense believes it is necessary for salvation. But they do believe they have that right, at least temporarily until Christ returns to bring peace on earth.
The Old Testament is for instruction in righteousness and as an example for Christians today. Besides the many Old Testament accounts which certainly advocate at least a right to defend others, (and by extension then the right to defend one’s self in order to be able to defend others [although I think there is also a good case for self-defense as a primary right on its own]) Jesus Himself implied that you may need to defend yourself once He ascended to heaven.
In Matthew 5, Jesus said to “turn the other cheek.” But the context was to be merciful in the application of the law of retribution. He could have said “when someone turns to you one eye to gouge it out, turn to them the other one as well.” After all, he had just quoted “an eye for an eye” a breath before. But he teaches the concept of mercy in turning your cheek. He teaches that in applying the law do not forget the Spirit of the law, which is mercy, justice and humility. A slap on the cheek doesn’t hurt very much, except your pride. To use it as evidence that you should not defend yourself is a contortion of the rest of the scriptures.
In Luke 22, Matthew 26, and John 18 Jesus said to “sell your cloak and buy a sword” as they were headed to the garden where he would be arrested. They had two, which was enough. When asked if they should use them, Peter didn’t wait for the answer. He attacked and cut off the ear of one of the servants of the temple. Jesus commanded his disciples to stop, and told them he could call down a legion of angels. By saying this Jesus appealed to the right of self-defense. That he had this right, but that for the divine purpose of salvation he would forego this right at this time and in this way.
In the words of Solomon, “there is a time for war, and a time for peace.” There is a time to fight, and a time not to fight. In the garden was not the time to fight, because Jesus had to lay his life down. But, by the fact that Jesus told his disciples to sell their garments implies that it is important to own a sword, and that the time to have to be able to protect themselves was close. Jesus would soon be leaving the earth, and they, like children, would be expected to start acting like grown up Christian adults. This would include the obligation to defend themselves and others, but following in the example of Christ it would have to be done at the right time and in the right way.
Not only do you have a right to self-defense, but you may have an obligation before God to defend others.
Psalm 82:4 says “rescue the weak and needy, deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” This is addressed to the reader. That means you. Not just the police, but you. Not just the military, but you.
In Ezekiel 33 God actually requires the blood of the watchman who does not warn his fellow citizen of an oncoming sword blow.
So you have a duty to defend others, and not just a right. That means to not do so is sin.
What you use to defend yourself or others is much less important than how you do so. You should only do so if it is right, and just. That’s another discussion, but I think this is sufficient to say that the person who made that video is very sadly mistaken about this theology. I understand the appeal to pacifism. But it is actually sin to be a pacifist in all circumstances. On the rare occasion that God is doing a redemptive work for mankind, God called His son to lay down His life like a lamb lead to the slaughter. And He might call you to do the same, but that is not the general principle that the Bible teaches as a whole.
The first response should be to defend yourself and defend others. If there is a way where you can reach someone for the gospel and not do so, and it will not in any way cause harm to those in your care (Jesus still protected the life of His disciples when He submitted to going to the cross, even knocking all those who had come to arrest Him to their feet by His mere words), then you may be able to forego that right to self-defense for the gospel. Just be sure you don’t sin in not defending others though.
But what about people like Nate Saint and Jim Elliot who as missionaries in the jungles of South America had guns but did not use them, and while they were martyred the entire village later accepted Christ due to not using them?
Jim Elliot and Nate Saint are some of my heroes. Reading about them inspired me to go to the very country where they gave their lives and served as missionaries. It was through reading “Shadows of the Almighty” that God confirmed to me to go.
But you might ask yourself why did they have guns in the first place?
Jim Eliot and Nate Saint and the other missionaries who decided to forego their right to self-defense in furtherance of the gospel fit into the narrow exception that I discussed above.
They specifically did not let their wives go with them to that part of the jungle when they would preach, from the river, with a mega-phone, because bringing the women along could mean their deaths. They did not put anyone else in harms way by being there, and took steps to make sure that if they were to give their lives (and they agreed ahead of time to do so) that their wives would be safe. They gave up their right to self-defense in that very controlled environment, and kept their family safe by not letting them near that area while they preached. They brought the guns to scare the natives if need be, or if they had to defend their families. But they brought guns.
You have a Biblical right to self-defense. It is not unqualified, and can depend on the circumstances. You may, at times, lay down that right for the sake of the gospel. But you must do so in a way that does not put others in danger, or else you may commit the sin of omission to defend others.
This is an important question, and one that I have given a lot of thought and prayer to, which is why I feel called to talk about it. It’s why I originally did not join the military when I was 18 and became a complete pacifist. It’s why I realized that that was wrong while a missionary in Ecuador and began studying martial arts (to be able to defend myself and others in a place where I was constantly in very real danger). And its why I feel compelled to talk about it.