Should Christians Own Guns?
So I was challenged with a great question:
Should Christians own Weapons (Guns), or rely solely on on prayer?
I consider myself to be a Christian, I also happen to own a gun shop. The person that challenged my thought process made it seem like it was a dichotomy, mutually exclusive, I couldn’t have it both ways. I could not be a Christian and believe in owning guns for self defense. Was this true? Was I misguided somehow? I din’t think so, but I needed to know. What I learned as I researched the subject was that it wasn’t a dichotomy at all. In fact Jesus even told his Disciples to go and sell their clothing to purchase swords. (The equivalent sidearm as compared to today’s handguns) Swords weren’t used for hunting, they were simply used to kill people, as are handguns. In fact after careful consideration, prayerful reading of scripture, I believe that it is not only our choice to defend ourselves but in actuality we are called by God to do so. If we fail to protect our family we fail morally. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission.
Read on to see what I learned.
First the subject reminded me of the story of the river flood: http://epistle.us/inspiration/godwillsaveme.html (a short and worthy read) In short God sends a warning, a car, a canoe, a motorboat and a helicopter. We are being sent warnings today to protect ourselves. Are we listening?
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.
Defending the Defenseless:
Not only are we to take care of our bodies and the life contained. We have an obligation to preserve the body and life of other people. Psalm 82:4 even cites an obligation to protect those who are in danger:
- Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
- Consider also Proverbs 24:11, which indicates we have a duty to preserve the lives of those who are harming themselves:
- Proverbs 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.
- Ezekiel 33 “… 6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’
If you know danger is coming to others, and you deliberately fail to warn the others of the danger, you are guilty of harming the victims. This is not to say that you can make people heed your warning. The surrounding verses also say that if the people refuse to heed the warning of the watchmen, the watchman is not guilty if they are harmed.
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)
The Mosaic Law, established by God for the nation of Israel, provided for family defense by stating that if a thief is killed during a nighttime theft, the homeowner is not liable for his death. If he was breaking in during the daytime and the homeowner killed him, a murder has taken place, and the homeowner is guilty. This shows us that the Bible does not support the use of deadly force by individuals to defend property. It does support the use of deadly force by individuals to protect the lives of family members.
Jesus assumed the right of a man to defend him family by the use of his arms in this quotation from Him in Luke 11:21-22: “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils.”
Peace in a man’s palace or home is the result of being armed, not disarmed.
Law abiding citizens, trained in the proper use of firearms, can only enhance the peace of our communities. Armed homes are a deterrent to violent crime.
Defending Ourselves Legally:
Esther 8-9 , In this account, the Jews are under threat of racial violence. The civil authority, King Ahasuerus, grants them legal permission to use lethal force in self-defense:
Esther 8:11-12 11 By these letters the king permitted the Jews who were in every city to gather together and protect their lives — to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them, both little children and women, and to plunder their possessions…
So they have legal sanction to “protect their lives” using ultimate force, much as we do in most parts of this country. They are allowed to “kill and annihilate” in order to “protect their lives.” Now, as people under obligation to obey God, not just stay within the civil laws of Ahasuerus, what do the Jews do with this legal freedom?
Esther 9:1-5 …the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them. 2 The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people…. 5 Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction,
We see that given legal sanction to defend their lives with lethal force, they do not choose non-violence. Rather, as it says in verse 11, to “protect their lives”, they use the “sword” (verse 5). Here is another example of widespread use of weapons in self-defense—a non-wartime, non-law enforcement scenario.
Jesus Tells the Disciples to arm themselves
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 Jesus did not prohibit his disciples from having lethal weapons, but instead made sure that at least some of His disciples had them. He even suggested the method of funding for the purchase of weapons. “Sell your garment” implies the fairly basic necessity of them being armed during their travels.
35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. 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’[a]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” 38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” he replied. (Luke 22:35-38, )
Rendered in the English Standard Version, Jesus told Peter to “put your sword back in its place.” That place would be at his side. Jesus didn’t say, ‘Throw it away.’ After all, he had just ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason … was obvious—to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God. Jesus was saying ‘Peter, this is not the right time for a fight.'”
It’s interesting to note that Peter openly carried his sword, a weapon similar to the type Roman soldiers employed at the time. Jesus knew Peter was carrying a sword. He allowed this, but forbid him to use it aggressively. Most importantly, Jesus did not want Peter to resist the inevitable will of God the Father, which our Savior knew would be fulfilled by his arrest and eventual death on the cross.
Scripture is quite clear that Christians are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), and to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40). Thus, any aggressive or offensive violence was not the purpose for which Jesus had instructed them to carry a sidearm just hours earlier.
A sword, as with a handgun or any firearm, in and of itself is not aggressive or violent. It is simply an object; it can be used either for good or for evil. Any weapon in the hands of someone intent on evil can be used for violent or wicked purposes.
Do not admire the “man of violence”:
Proverbs 3:31-32 Do not envy a man of violence, And do not choose any of his ways. 32 For the crooked man is an abomination to the LORD; But He is intimate with the upright.
Those who resort to violence rather than Godliness are not to be admired. There are many similarities between David and Joab. Both were skilled at killing men, and both had killed many men. Were they both men of violence? Here is the difference: David, first and foremost, sought the Lord, trusted the Lord, and loved the Lord. Why didn’t he do violence against Saul? It wasn’t because Saul was his father-in-law. Rather, it was because Saul was the Lord’s anointed. It was because of David’s regard first for the Lord that he would not resort to violence.
On the other hand, Joab, over and over, resorted to the sword to deal with problems. Joab was a man of violence.
- Proverbs 1:16 For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood.
- Romans 3:15 Their feet are swift to shed blood;
Earth was destroyed in the day of Noah because “the earth was filled with violence” (Gen 6:11). God hates violence. There is a narrow scope in which it is applied righteously, but it is only because of sin that such skill is necessary.
We have Choices:
While Christian people are authorized to defend their families, there is no Biblical basis for personal revenge, hatred or political persuasion by means of arms. Christianity was never meant to be spread by means of the sword. And while we do have a right to self defense, we must decide when it is proper to use it. Difficult choices exist in this evil world. I hope that I never have to use deadly force to protect my family.
But I tend to agree with this way of looking at the subject:
In The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Time, Authors James Porter Moreland and Norman L. Geisler wrote:
To permit a murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong.
To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil.
To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable.
In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission.
Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally.
Read the actual text here
I believe that we are called by God to defend the defenseless, to protect our families, and if you don’t have a gun (sword), to do what you need to do (sell your cloak) and buy one. We have a responsibility to protect ourselves and others from evil, and to fail to do so is just as evil. To the person who challenged me I say Thank you! because you have strengthened my convictions, your question caused me to break out the Bible which draws me closer to the Lord and for that I am always thankful. All of that said, we each have our own choices to make and we each have our own beliefs. I am always thankful to live in a nation that allows everyone the right to their own opinions, belief, and religion, and I would lay down my life to defend those rights for anyone.