Jesus & Guns: What Might the Lord Have to Say About Gun Ownership?

by Vern Evans
Art Courtesy of PeaceDude/NightCafe

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As today marks Good Friday for the Christians among us (and simply Friday for everyone else as I was reminded by one irate Jewish coworker years ago at NRA when I mistakenly wished her a Happy Easter), I thought despite our diverse audience, it might be interesting to see what the chattering class has to say about Jesus’ stance on firearms ownership and gun laws, since his name is so often invoked.

A basic web search surprisingly turned up quite a bit on the topic. Most of it, as you probably already guessed, focuses on since Jesus was for peace, certainly he wouldn’t want us to have guns or at the very least use them, which makes for a more violent society, or at the very least, a more efficiently violent society.

Now, I may be going out on a limb here, but I do believe Jesus, most definitely would not want us going around harming each other with—well, really with anything—fists, swords, whips, knives, nuclear weapons, and certainly, I have to be fair and add guns to that list. But in my loose interpretation from a spotty life of church attendance, I also can’t imagine he’d have us pitched into the fiery pits of hell for defending ourselves or other innocents who are unfairly or unjustly attacked by an aggressor bent on serious harm or death. I mean a shepherd must protect his flock after all.

I think good people must be prepared to protect a good society from bad people bent on doing evil to others for their own enjoyment or gain. Peace in this world has never been achieved or maintained through weakness. Never in history. And guns are the best equalizer between good and bad, strong and weak, that mankind has ever created.

But, regardless of what my personal thoughts and beliefs may be, some of the arguments for and against the whole Jesus and guns argument were interesting. At the very least they are thought-provoking. So, I thought I’d share some short passages of the more interesting ones, whether I agreed or not, along with links so you could read the full article if you’d like.

Truth and Meaning: Jesus and Guns – The Midland Daily News

My blog last week generated enthusiastic response from ardent supporters of the right to keep and bear arms without a mandatory background check. At one point, one of these strident advocates cited Luke 22:36 as a defense of the position of his “God-given” right to own firearms. The verse describes Jesus talking to his apostles and reads,  “He said to them, ‘But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.’”

Since this verse comes up frequently in discussions of gun control, let’s destroy this argument once and for all. First, let us examine the full context of the verse by including the following two verses. “He said to them, ‘But now, let him who has a purse take it, and likewise a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one. For I tell you that this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was reckoned with transgressors’; for what is written about me has its fulfillment.’ And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’”

The New Oxford Annotated Bible has this to say about the passage. “An example of Jesus’ fondness for striking metaphors, but the disciples take it literally. The sword apparently meant to Jesus a preparation to live by one’s own resources against hostility. The natural meaning of verse 38 is that the disciples supposed he spoke of an actual sword, only to learn that two swords were sufficient for the whole enterprise, that is, were not to be used at all.”…

… Jesus frequently used physical objects (seeds, lamps, vineyards, coins, lost sheep, etc.) to teach universal truths, and the same is true of the two swords. This interpretation is supported by Matthew 10:34: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword,” (another verse often misquoted by gun advocates). In proper context, Jesus did not mean a physical sword that cuts up and bloodies the family, but a spiritual and moral one that may divide families nonphysically…

… Therefore, the words of Jesus in Luke 22:36 are not to be understood literally, that he would have his disciples furnish themselves with swords. His meaning is that, wherever they went and a door was opened for the preaching of the Gospel, they would have many adversaries. They would be met with violence, followed by rage and persecution. The phrase expresses the danger they will be exposed to.

When gun advocates use this verse to justify the purchase of guns without background checks for self-defense, they not only pervert the meaning of the statement, but the purpose for the warning. The disciples are entering hostile religious territory to preach a message, not to protect themselves from criminals. And the message they are preaching is one of love and peace, not “stand your ground” violence.

There are rational and compelling arguments on both sides of the gun control debate. Arguing that the Prince of Peace would have supported the right to keep and bear arms is not one of them. – Rev. Jeff Liebmann

What Does the Bible Say About the Right to Bear Arms? Should a Christian Practice Self-Defense – Learn Religions

According to conservative leader and Wall Builders founder David Barton, the original intent of the Founding Fathers when writing the Second Amendment was to guarantee citizens “the biblical right of self-defense.”

Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794), a signer of the Declaration of Independence who helped frame the Second Amendment in the First Congress, wrote, “… to preserve liberty, it is essential that the whole body of the people always possess arms, and be taught alike, especially when young, how to use them…”

As many of the Founding Fathers recognized, Barton believes that “the ultimate goal of the Second Amendment is to make sure you can defend yourself against any kind of illegal force that comes against you, whether that is from a neighbor, whether that is from an outsider or whether that is from your own government.”

Obviously, the Bible does not specifically address the issue of gun control, since firearms, like we use today, were not manufactured in ancient times. But accounts of warfare and the use of weaponry, such as swords, spears, bows, and arrows, darts and slings were well-documented in the pages of the Bible.

As I began researching biblical perspectives on the right to bear arms, I decided to speak with Mike Wilsbach, the manager of security at my church. Wilsbach is a retired combat veteran who also teaches personal defense classes. “To me, the Bible couldn’t be clearer on the right, even the duty, we have as believers to self-defense,” said Wilsbach.

He reminded me that in the Old Testament ”the Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons. Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. They didn’t send in the Marines. The people defended themselves.”

We see this clearly in passages like 1 Samuel 25:13:

And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage. (ESV)

So, each man had a sword ready to be holstered and used when required.

And in Psalm 144:1, David wrote: “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle…”

Besides instruments of warfare, weapons were used in the Bible for the purpose of self-defense; nowhere in Scripture is this forbidden.

In the Old Testament, we find this example of God sanctioning self-defense:

“If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder.” (Exodus 22:2, NLT)

In the New Testament, Jesus sanctioned the use of weapons for self-defense. While giving his farewell discourse to the disciples before going to the cross, he instructed the apostles to purchase side arms to carry for self-protection. He was preparing them for the extreme opposition and persecution they would face in future missions:

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:35-38, ESV)

Conversely, as soldiers seized Jesus at his arrest, our Lord warned Peter (in Matthew 26:52-54 and John 18:11) to put away his sword: “For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Some scholars believe this statement was a call to Christian pacifism, while others understand it simply to mean in a general sense that “violence breeds more violence.”…

… Scripture, we know, does not promote vengeance (Romans 12:17-19) or vigilantism, but it does allow believers to engage in self-defense, to resist evil, and to defend the defenseless.

Wilsbach put it like this: “I believe I have the responsibility to defend myself, my family, and my home. For every verse that I have used as a case for defense, there are verses that teach peace and harmony. I agree with those verses; however, when there is no other alternative, I believe I am charged with the responsibility to defend.”

Another clear basis for this idea is found in the book of Nehemiah. When exiled Jews returned to Israel to rebuild the Temple walls, their leader Nehemiah wrote:

From that day on, half of my men did the work, while the other half were equipped with spears, shields, bows and armor. The officers posted themselves behind all the people of Judah who were building the wall. Those who carried materials did their work with one hand and held a weapon in the other, and each of the builders wore his sword at his side as he worked. (Nehemiah 4:16-18, NIV)

Weapons, we can conclude, are not the problem. Nowhere does the Bible forbid Christians from bearing arms. But wisdom and caution are of the utmost importance if one does choose to bear a lethal weapon. Anyone who owns and carries a firearm should be properly trained and know and carefully follow all safety rules and laws pertaining to such a responsibility.

Ultimately, the decision to bear arms is a personal choice determined by one’s own convictions. As a believer, the use of deadly force would be applied only as a last resort, when no other option is available, to prevent an evil from being committed and to protect human life. – Mary Fairchild

A Christian Perspective on Guns – Surrendered and Free

In respect of the gun control debate, there are both common goods and competing goods. The common goods are safety, a decrease in violence, and death reduction. The competing good is protecting the Second Amendment rights of the United States Constitution. However, I do not think these goods ought to be competing. In this post, I will defend a middle ground for gun control. I believe in the ability to enforce stricter regulations to help prevent guns and excessive weapons from getting in the hands of those they do not belong, as well as keeping the Second Amendment rights while simultaneously not punishing the masses of gun owners who are mentally healthy and law-abiding citizens.

Two years ago, I bought my first handgun and had to analyze the positives and negatives of this sensitive topic myself. There were several motivating factors for me, starting with safety. Over the last few years, I have had increasing chronic back pain. It turns out I have a back of a sixty-year-old and had a handful of significant issues. This news made me reevaluate my physical strength and health. Add on top the social unrest and getting married, and I felt as though if I needed to, I would not be able to defend myself or my wife in a physical altercation. So, I resorted to buying a handgun. As Maj. L. Caudill USMC (Ret) put it:

The gun is the only personal weapon that puts a 100-pound woman on equal footing with a 220-pound mugger, a 75-year-old retiree on equal footing with a 19-year-old gang banger, and a single guy on equal footing with a carload of drunk guys with baseball bats. The gun removes the disparity in physical strength, size, or numbers between a potential attacker and a defender.[1]

With a handgun, I have the confidence that I stand an excellent chance of ending any threat to my life or my wife’s if needed…

… An important question to ask, especially as a Christian, is “Is it moral to own and use guns?” My answer is yes, especially in the defense of oneself and others. Exodus 22:2 supports self-defense by allowing a person to kill someone who breaks into their home. Furthermore, I think you can love your neighbor by keeping them alive; even if that means you take the life of a demonic person trying to murder your neighbor. That said, I would have no problem explaining my choice to God to shoot someone if, for example, my action saved my classmates or church members from being innocently murdered. Owning a gun does come with an obviously massive responsibility. Thus, we need to seek out the best instruction and stewardship of safety for ourselves and others. Furthermore, I do believe guns should be used in a God-glorifying and moderate way in our contexts. We should never own guns to abuse power and control, or feed pride. We should not go out and look for trouble. We should practice wisdom, peace, and edification in all circumstances (James 3:17-18).

A second question to consider is, “What does the Bible say about guns?” While the Bible does not speak specifically to guns, there are applicable principles. Genesis 1:26 says that humans are created in the image of God. The Bible also tells us in Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12-14, and 1 John 3:15 that there are severe consequences for taking one’s life. Thus, if you put the two together, the Biblical principle is human life is priceless and worth safeguarding because we are created in God’s image.

The Bible does mention weapons. In fact, there are examples of people using weapons for self-defense. In Nehemiah 4:13-14, the people of Jerusalem defended the city with their own personal weapons. We have the instance of the apostles, who had weapons. On the evening Jesus was betrayed, He invited His disciples to bring swords. They took two, which Jesus said was plenty (Luke 22:37-39). At a different time, soldiers (who would carry weapons) came to be baptized by John the Baptist. When they inquired what to do to live for God, John said, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14). John did not say to give up their weapons. The bottom line here is these are examples of a case where personal weapons are not condemned and are also used for protection. – T.S. Weaver

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