In the days after the Sandy Hook Massacre, Gun Control advocates have pushed their agenda to center stage in the national debate. Or, maybe the whole issue about what we do with guns, why we have so many, and whether or not we even should have them took center stage all on its own in the wake of such a horror. The argument goes that since the mass murders that take place on occasion in America almost always involve semi-automatic "assault" rifles with high magazine clips, then those guns should be outlawed. Gun-rights supporters speak to the way that guns can be used to protect lives and defend people. They also bring up the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution and the "right to bear arms" noted there. Who is right? Apparently, President Obama is about to roll out a list of actions limiting access to guns and ammunition today that he plans to carry out via Executive Order. The fear that Federal power is encroaching on the rights of citizens is also growing to a fever pitch at this point. You throw guns and and kids and safety and the Constitution into an argument, and passions on all sides are sure to be heated.
But, how should Christians see this? Some say that Christians should not own guns, that when Jesus told Peter to put away his sword he was speaking to all of us at all times, and that we are to be strict pacifists. I have heard some go so far as to say that if you are walking down a street with your family and someone attacks them, that you are to let them do so because Jesus said to "turn the other cheek." Others say that owning guns is a right that we have as Americans and that we should affirm and defend our rights and that any limit placed on those rights is an evil act. I have not heard many strong Christian arguments for gun ownership from a Biblical perspective as most arguments proceed from the 2nd Amendment and just assume that the Constitution was God's idea. No one says that directly, but that is the impression I get.
Here is a perspective that might be both Biblical and workable. I firmly believe that the weak should be protected. God is our Protector and Provider. In the Bible, He says that He hates evil and injustice. When we pray for protection, we are praying according to God's character and will and we see many prayers in Scripture along those lines. When a father or mother seeks to protect their family and their livelihood and they own a gun as a means of self-defense to do so, I believe that they are within the scope of Biblical morality. I do not believe that the gun should be used to assert your rights or to gain power over others. That would be an unjust act. But, if someone is breaking into your home and is attacking your children or placing their lives in danger, to sit idly by and do nothing when you could do something to save them does not seem to reflect the heart of God. God works through people and we are given charge over the weak and helpless. We are to turn the other cheek, but it is to our cheek and not the cheeks of our children who God has entrusted to us for care. Also, if someone attacks you to rob and kill you, I am not certain that the Biblical mandate is that you just lay down and let them. Life is precious and is given by God and this includes your own life. Turning the other cheek involves a slap on the face as a sign of disrespect and insult, which is different from someone trying to kill you. At the same time, we are not to always defend ourselves and strike back as we see Jesus and the Apostles submitting to arrest, torture, and execution. But, there are differences between that and a criminal breaking into your home, I think. So, I do believe that it can be Godly for someone to own a firearm that he/she would use in self-defense under extreme duress or when their family is in danger.
That said, a lot of the chatter that is going on about guns has to do with being armed so that one might resist the government. On the Conservative end of things, I am hearing a lot of talk about the purpose of the 2nd Amendment being that citizens would be armed to keep the power of the Federal Government at bay. For one thing, if the American Government decides to rain pain upon your house, your AR-15 is not going to stop them. Things will just be a lot messier. Two, when are Christians ever commanded to resist the government? Romans 13 tells us that we are to submit to the government because it has been instituted by God to keep order:
Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. (Romans 13:1-6 NIV84)
Of course, we live in a Constitutional Republic which means that the government should hold to the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution on this issue. As citizens of the United States, we have the means and ability to remind our elected officials as to how our government is to operate according to its own governing documents. That is valid. But, beware the calls to participate in opposition to the government on the basis of defending your rights to keep and bear arms so that you can keep the government in check. That is not our job. That is God's job and the greatest weapons that we have are spiritual weapons: prayer, sacrificial love, and even martyrdom if need be. We should not live in fear of what the power of man can do to us, but instead, we should fear God and trust Him. Siding with those who are giving in to fear over what the government might do in regard to firearms is siding with those who place their hope in the things of this world. That is what the Pagans do.
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34 NIV84)
We should also be aware of the arguments against total proliferation of armament of all kinds by Americans. Some have legitimate concerns about this and attempts to keep guns in check and keep them out of the hands of people who would use them for evil could actually be seen as part of the Biblically mandated role of the government. We understand that man is born into sin and is evil and does evil continuously - there is none good, no not one. Since we understand that, Christians should see the wisdom in some forms of regulation. But, we are also wise enough to understand that the government can embody evil as well, so we do not place our trust in it. Our trust is only in God.
Through a great number of challenges and changes in our country, Christians have a renewed chance to point to the Kingdom of God as our real allegiance even as our way of life is under attack here. We have a chance to hold out the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ as we lay down our lives and our rights for the sake of giving witness to Jesus as our great reward through sacrificial love for others. Let's not get sidetracked on how the world wants to organize itself. Yes, it is justified to defend your family and even yourself against malicious attack and a gun is a legitimate way to do that. But, beyond that, let's be careful not to engage in distractions that seek to define us according to the categories of the world, i.e. "pro-gun," "anti-gun," etc. We are to be pro-gospel and pro-Christ. We are to give witness to the Prince of Peace and our mandate is to find ways to do that faithfully and sacrificially. Representing Christ as HIS ambassadors must remain our top priority despite what happens.