Monday, January 21, 2013

God and Guns (part 2)

1213609What does the Bible tell us about guns?  This is the second part of my study.  Part one dealt with the role of government to use the sword (or by extension, gun) in warfare, as well as in administering justice and protecting the innocent. But what about disciples of Jesus personally.  Does the Bible tell us if and how we should use guns? I have discovered, we can not separate the use of guns form the greater issues of peace and violence.

When it comes to guns and violence, the most important consideration is love. Now by love, I don't mean gushy sentimentalism and disregard for real life problems like murder and hate.  I am not some hippy, dancing around with my eyes closed to the world at large.  True love is not blind.  It is not passive. True love "always protects," (1 Cor 13:7). If I love my wife and kids, would I not kill in order to protect them? This is in fact exactly what God does for those he loves. God said to Israel, "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life." (Isaiah 43:4). God's love for Israel is so intense, he would kill for them. He would kill for you too.

Biblical love does not preclude violence.  Biblical love does preclude most of the reasons we use violence.  Love "is not self-seeking." (1 Cor 13:5). The old "eye for an eye" rational is not compatible with love. Jesus set a new standard for nonviolence, or rather non-retaliation. Not only are we to love our neighbor, but Jesus told us, "love your enemies and do good to those who hate you." (Luke 6:27). If someone takes our shirt, Jesus tells us to give him our coat as well (Matt 5:40) I do not see Jesus justifying killing someone for our own protection, or to protect any of our "things."

So what does the Bible actually say about having a weapon like a gun? It is interesting to keep in mind that Jesus once told his disciples to buy swords. On the night before Jesus died, he was talking about how things will be different after he is no longer with them, how they will be on their own.  Then he said, "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. (Luke 22:36)  Many scholars have pointed out that this sword, was really more of a large knife. It  was used for slaughtering animals more than self defense, although, it could be used for both. I believe Jesus main point was this: be prepared. Jesus was telling his disciples that they will be responsible for their own well-being on their next assignment.

When Peter actually drew one of the swords in an apparent act of defending Jesus, Jesus rebuked him. "'Put your sword back in it's place,' Jesus said, 'For all who draw the sword die by the sword.'" (Matthew 26:52) Then he added, "Shall I not drink the cup my Father has given me?" Jesus possessed a power far greater than a sword or a gun. Had he wielded it, he could have wiped the soldiers that arrested him into oblivion -eternally. We can not ignore the power Jesus refused to use. The way of Jesus is a way of suffering not fighting. Rather than fight for their rights, Jesus instructed his disciples to humbly "take up the cross."  Not only did Jesus willingly suffer when he could have defended himself, but he gave his followers and example to, "follow in his steps." (1 Peter 2:21). This Peter who drew the sword, would one day willingly lay down his life as a messenger of Jesus.

I can see Peter
putting away his sword
He won't fight no more
Love has come

So now comes the conclusion, where I am supposed to sum up, and by extension take a side in this rigorous debate. I can not see a strong biblical argument against owning a gun.  I certainly have no desire to take away someone's hunting rifle, nor can I say there is never a time to use the gun against another person. But I can say that guns are not the end, they are a tool that may be necessary in the present age, soon to become obsolete. I can say that the heart of everyone who has been transformed by Jesus does not rejoice in weapons or violence. God's Spirit leads us to long for the day when,

‎They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.  (Isaiah 2:4)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

God and Guns (part 1)

1213609It seems that in the wake of the Newtown, CT school shooting, everyone is chiming in on the gun thing. I have seen a number of very passionate and strongly worded posts in the last few of weeks both in favor of and against gun control. I've sen some very enlightening writing form both sides of the issue, and a of of biased, inflammatory writing from both sides as well. It looks like this is the next big dividing issue we are facing in America.  A lot of Christians fall on either side of the debate.  My study is not intended to be exhaustive of all arguments, but simply to answer the question, "Does the Bible have anything to say about guns?"  Part one will deal with the government's role in using and regulating weapons according to Scripture.  Part two will deal with the follower of Jesus in particular, and what the Bible has to tell that person about the use of weapons and violence.

Guns are not specifically mentioned in any of the Scriptures, not even the Apocrypha. According to Wikipedia, the first functional handgun was made in Pistoia Italy in 1540. But hate certainly existed in Jesus' time. People carried weapons and people killed others. Jesus pointed out that murder is merely acting out on hate.  The two are the same to him (Matt 5:21-22) Guns did not create hate. Guns only speed up the rate at which we can act out that hate, and the volume of people our hate can effect.

In the Old Testament, there are countless examples of people using weapons in military campaigns. God provided military victory for his chosen people Israel that involved them killing their enemies. God commanded the Israelite to use warfare on several occasions. The Isrealites were commanded to be courageous in their fight against the Canaanites (Joshua 10:25).  Clearly, killing another human being is not always wrong, and in some cases may be the just thing to do

David is an interesting study on the use of violence. David, the man after God's own heart, was commended for his faith in fighting Goliath and killing him (1 Sam 17, Heb 11:32). But the same David who killed Goliath without a thought to defend his nation and the honor of God, refused to kill Saul in order to save his own life and achieve his rightful place as king. David was also rewarded for his restraint, in letting God perform justice on David's behalf (1 Sam 24:19-20). Interesting.

The New Testament also says some things about the government and military. Some soldiers asked John the Baptist what they should do. John did not say give up soldiering because they might kill someone and that would be sin.  He told them not to extort money or accuse people falsely (Luke 3:14),  in other words, to be honest soldiers. He saw nothing inherently sinful about bearing the sword (or gun) of justice in the name of a government.

The New Testament also tells us that Government is established by God (Rom 13:1).  This is easy to forget in a democracy.  We feel we are somehow responsible for the government - that it is answerable to us.  Perhaps it is on a large scale, but it is not answerable to you and me personally. The Bible tells us the opposite, that we are each answerable to the government.  The primary role of government is to bring justice and peace, especially justice to those who are unable to defend themselves. This is done with the sword of punishment to those who would do wrong (Romans 13:4).  

If it is the government's job to protect the innocent and promote peace and justice, what measures may it take to do so? The question moves from a moral issue of inalienable rights and government authority to one of expedience. God gave the government a job to do. How might the government best perform its God-given duty?

The Bible is full of principles and mandates, but is often surprisingly sparse on the details.  It is up to those who govern to determine how to best bring justice and peace. They must decide what to do about weapons in the hands of their citizenry and determine what limits are reasonable. The Bible does not guarantee a freedom to carry weapons, nor does it oppose carrying them. There are a number of popular philosophies about weapons, based on various aspects of humanly wisdom. All of them have merit, but all are limited in their ability to combat the real issues of hate and violence.

Ultimately, a government can not make people stop hating and killing each other. A different kind of kingdom will put an end to violence and war. It is the members of that kingdom that I will try to address in the next installment.

In the meantime, I hope this moves dialog forward.  I have left my personal feelings about guns out of this, because I want us to engage God through His Word, and see where He leads us.  Did any of these scriptures move you?  Did any of them clarify our own thoughts on the subject.  Are there any other scriptues that you have thought of that shed light on the issues of guns and gun control?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Peace is Better

I am not a pacifist. I do believe violence has a place in certain situations. If someone attacks my family, I would use violence to defend them. A government's primary responsibility is to defend and protect it's citizens, especially those who can not defend themselves. This often requires the sword (or gun) of the law (see Romans 13:1-5)

But if given the choice, I would have to say peace is better than war. Even more, peace is better than nonpeace. I know it sounds so basic, but the world is saying peace will never happen.  Every time we make a breakthrough, hate rears it's ugly head again.  Murder and hate seem to be on the rise. Revenge is the way of people and nations. Every time someone or some group is persecuted, they turn around and become the next generation of persecutors toward others. But something deep within us longs for real and lasting peace. We long for a world where neighbors of different religious, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds live together in harmony.  It is not a fanciful whim, it is a glimpse of what we were created to be, God's holy image stamped in our subconscious.

When Jesus came to the earth, he set a framework for a world without violence. He called it the "kingdom." The kingdom, is not governed by "rights", as in "I have a right to compensations because someone hurt me."  The kingdom is not governed by revenge, or honor, or guilt and punishment, the way the kingdoms of the world are governed. Rather the rule of this kingdom is grace, love, and mercy. Citizens of the kingdom are told to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. They are told to forgive, because they have been forgiven. The cycle of violence and revenge is broken.

Recently I have been touched by some people that still think peace is possible. Check out  and watch the video. They are also on facebook. I don't know if these few voices will make any difference in the grand scheme of things. I don't know if they can impact elections or keep bombs from falling. But I know this: wherever the Kingdom advances, peace advances. When I hear the stories of people advancing peace, something awakens in my soul, something that reflects the image of God. And at that moment, I do not hope, but I know that one day there will be a final and lasting peace on earth.

Come, Lord Jesus, Come!