(NOTE: The following transcript has not been fully edited yet)
Should Christians be vocally pro-gun? This is the Deep Questions podcast, and I’m your host Chase Thompson, a pastor, and writer from parts unknown. Normally I give my location there, but for this episode, I think I’ll just leave it out because I think this may be one of the more controversial topics I’ve tackled in quite some time. Before we dive into that topic, As I’ve mentioned in the last couple of episodes, the church I pastor, Valley Baptist Church in sunny Salinas, California, is hosting a Reasons to Believe weekend June 24-26 with Dr. Mike Licona, author of several books on the resurrection of Jesus, and debater of atheists, agnostics and skeptics on Youtube and in colleges and universities. We’d love to have you join us for that conference, and a link to sign up is over on our website: CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP! I’m also delighted to let you know that Dr. Licona will be joining us on an episode of this podcast in the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that!
When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men. It is men, not God, who have produced racks, whips, prisons, slavery, guns, bayonets, and bombs; it is by human avarice or human stupidity, not by the churlishness of nature, that we have poverty and overwork
C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HarperOne, 2001), 86.
Today we are going to wrestle with a very important and very timely question regarding guns and firearms: Should Christians be vocal proponents of gun ownership? Should Christians loudly and obviously support the cause of guns? I’m going to ahead and give you my thesis right up front, but then after that will have to unpack it a bit before we get into the real meat of the topic. Please don’t rage-quit this episode/article right after you hear my perspective, please allow me to encourage you to listen throughout the episode because I am going to be arguing from Scripture – clear Bible teaching – and I’ll try to avoid arguing from my opinion. If you want to disagree with me, then I’d ask you to do the same – disagree based on clear Bible passages, and not based on so-called common sense, political issues, or anything like that. This isn’t a political podcast, and I’m not really going to make a political argument, but rather a biblical one, and you might be surprised that the Bible has a lot to say to Christians about, well – not about guns, but about weapons, at least.
My thesis: In light of the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament as a whole, it is incongruous that Christians should advocate for guns.
And, before we dive too deep, I need to tell you that I’ve been working on this episode/article for about five days now, May 29-June 2nd. In that time, there have been TWENTY-NINE mass-shooting events in the United States, not including a tragedy today involving three shooting deaths at a church in Ames, Iowa. By my count, we have had 269 mass shooting events in the United States – defined as a single event where four or more are shot at the same incident at roughly the same time. (So the Ames shooting, though tragic, isn’t an official “mass shooting event” according to some reckonings.) 269. Let that number sink in. We are currently at day 152 of the year, so we are averaging WELL above 1 mass shooting incident per day in the U.S. in 2022. Wikipedia lists 22 mass shooting incidents for ALL of the 1980s and 30 for ALL of the 1990s. It is certainly possible that we are documenting mass shootings more carefully today, but nevertheless, it is quite glaringly obvious that the incidences of mass shootings are dramatically on the rise in the U.S.
Now, before we dive into the Scripture to see how we can apply the New Testament to guns, and how the Bible might inform our gun position, allow me to share:
5 Building Blocks and Clarifications That Led to My Thesis:
- I am not making a political argument, a legal argument, or a pragmatic kind of crime argument. I do not intend to debate the merits of the Second Amendment or anything like that. Politics are important, but that is not where this piece is coming from. My own politics are pretty simple: I am firmly pro-life and opposed to abortion, and will do my best to make a case for that in an upcoming episode. I will not vote for a pro-choice candidate. This does not mean I will vote for any old pro-life candidate, however. Character matters. Behavior matters. Honor matters. Temperament matters. Wisdom matters. I expect a lot out of a leader and haven’t been overly impressed with our national leaders of late. Being pro-life is not enough to earn my vote. All of that is immaterial to what I am discussing today – this is neither a political nor legal argument. I’m not particularly in favor of abolishing the 2nd Amendment, nor do I trust the government to be the only ones having guns. I myself am a gun owner, and the first gun I bought was in 1991 at a gun store in Hoover, Alabama that had a sign up in the window that said, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I think there might be some truth to that argument, considering that there are approximately 400 million guns in the United States. Some of those guns are in the hands of good, legal and law-abiding people, and some are in the hands of people who consider themselves outside of the law. If the government spent the next 25 years trying to confiscate ALL guns, I suspect that they would gather a much higher percentage of the guns belonging to the law-abiding crowd over the outlaw crowd, and I’m not sure that changing that ratio would be a great idea. That said, I’m not making that kind of argument here, and I know other countries have seen real and genuine drops in gun-related homides when various programs were enacted to get less guns off of the street – this seems statistically inarguable. I further understand that the United Kingdom passed some stringent gun-control laws in 1996 after a horrible school shooting at Dunblane primary school in 1996. THEY HAVE NOT HAD A SCHOOL SHOOTING IN THE UK SINCE 1996, and there have been SIXTY multi-fatality school shootings in the United States since then, and hundreds of total school shootings. This is an astounding statistic that more Americans should be well aware of, and it is very difficult to argue against. By the way, did you know that school shootings in the U.S. didn’t start with Columbine in 1999? There were TWENTY-TWO multi-fatality school shootings in the United States in the 1990s BEFORE Columbine. There were FIFTEEN in the 1980s, SIX in the 1970s, and FIVE in the 1960s, including the University of Texas rampage where 18 were killed and 31 inured by a sniper firing from the observation tower of the main building at UT. There were only one multi-fatality school shooting in the 1950s, one in the 1940s, and one in the 1930s. People in the United States should be aware of our long history of gun-violence, especially in our schools, and consider how much of an outlier we are in the world. It does NOT have to be this way. In fact, the 2nd Amendment can be kept quite intact, and I’m quite sure that the U.S. can pass wise laws that will ultimately curb gun-violence, but again – that is NOT the argument I’m making here in this article and its accompanying podcast. One little sidenote: I do believe that the police and military should be armed, and that passages like Romans 13:4 indicate this, “For it [the governing authority] is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. “
- Many Christians in America tend to confuse conservative politics with Christianity. The two are not the same. Many conservatives have a war cry of “God, Guns and Country,” or “God, Guns and Family,” Something along those lines. Georgia gubanatorial candidate Kandiss Taylor ran her campaign with the slogan, “Jesus, guns and babies,” presumably indicating that she supports Jesus and is pro-life and pro-gun, three sentiments that many conservatives would heartily agree with. Ms. Taylor promised, “Elect me Governor of Georgia, and I will bring the Satanic Regime to its knees— and DEMOLISH the Georgia Guidestones.” While I agree with her that the Georgia Guidestones are sus, as the kids say, I do wonder how she will bring any sort of satanic regime to its knees, especially given that she won only 3 percent, or so, of the vote. Interestingly, a March 2016 Pooler magazine cover story on Marty Daniel, founder of Daniel Defense (who made the DD4 rifle used by S. Ramos in the Uvaldi massacre,) was titled, “Faith, Family and Firearms.”Here is the big question: Do United States Republican values, or U.S. conservative values always line up with biblical values? The answer is a quite resounding “no!” they do not, and it is dangerous to conflate the two. Of course, Democratic/liberal values do not line up with biblical values either, and though I agree that the Repubuplican party positions on social issues tend to align closer with biblical values than do the Democratic positions on the same, this still does not mean that Republican values are Christian values. Specifically, I intend to make the case, from Scripture, that gun advocacy and New Testament teaching, are incongruous with each other.This might be a good time to mention that Democratic liberals in the U.S. seem to consider convervatives hated enemies, instead of merely ideaological opponents. The same is true, perhaps moreso, with conservatives and their views of liberals. If you are a Christian, who is also politically conservative, let me challenge you: liberals/Democrats are NOT your enemy from a biblical perspective – THEY ARE YOUR MISSION FIELD – your job isn’t to win them to the Republican party, your job is to winsomly and truthfully share the good news of Jesus with them. The Bible says that Christians do NOT fight against flesh and blood. That said, if I haven’t convinced you, and you are ardent in your view that Democrats are the enemy, then allow me to remind us all that Jesus tells Christians in Matthew 5 to LOVE their enemies and to pray for their enemies, in Luke 6, Jesus tells Christians to do good to those who hate us. Yeah. I guess I’m a little preachie, but my day job is that of a preacher, so sometimes it bleeds through. The main point is simply: conservative politics and positions don’t always line up with what the Bible teaches and Christians who are conservative politically should not view other people as the enemy. I suspect that I will lose podcast subscribers, receive a lot of criticism, have people unfollow me on social media and possibly even lose real life friends because of the position I will be articulating today. Initially, that has made me hesitant to write/record a podcast on this issue. Though I have addressed this issue in the past – tentatively – I believe it is time to be much bolder and louder, and I regret it has taken me this long. More Christians should speak out against gun violence. I am firmly convinced that the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of the New Testament of the Bible are incompatible with the “Jesus, Guns, Babies” mindset. I’m convinced by Scripture that Christians should NOT be advocating for guns. If you choose to unfriend me, or attack this position – that’s fine, just do so with a scriptural argument, not a smear such as: “So, do you want the robbers to be able to come in and kill our families, OR, do you want the government to come and kill us all? OR, do you want the Russians to invade our country?” NO! I don’t want any of those things – I just do not believe Christians should put their faith in guns or swords to prevent all of them, and honestly, you simply cannot articulate an argument from the Bible that a Christian should rely on their gun (or swords!) for protection from thieves, tyrannical government, or foreign invasion, because such thinking is absolutely not in the Bible at all.
3. The Bible does not talk about guns, but I believe we can still develop a good theology about guns regardless. The last book of the Bible was written in the first century, and the first thing that could even be remotely called a gun, which was a fire lance, appeared in China roughly 1000 years after the last book of the Bible was written. Hand held guns, called hand-cannons, appeared in the 1200s, but they still weren’t anything much like what we think of as a gun. (See below) It wasn’t until the early 1400s that the arquebus was invented, which kind of looks like a primitive Revolutionary War rifle. This time-descrepency obviously means that there is nothing at all in the Bible that specifically mentions guns. In much the same way, the Bible also does not directly and specifically address cocaine or heroin, nor does it directly address drunk-driving, nor speeding, presidents, prime ministers, pornography, or just-war theory, or use the words “abortion,” “homosexuality,” or “racism.” And yet, though these specific words don’t appear in the Bible, God’s position on heroin and cocain, meth, etc., is quite clear. When Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit,” it is right and proper to understand that passage as applying to whisky, vodka, beer, heroin, cocaine, etc. One may not say, “I know that getting drunk is wrong, but snorting heroin is just fine, because the Bible does not say, ‘thou shalt not snort heroin.’ ” The prohibition on getting drunk on wine applies to other ways of getting into an intoxicated/drug altered state also. As such, 1 Corinthians 6:12 can be seen as addressing not only alcohol and drug addiction, but also things like pornography, “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.” Similarly, Bible passages like Proverbs 21:1, “A king’s heart is like channeled water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever he chooses.” also apply to presidents, prime ministers, governors and mayors, so we can rightly say that the president’s heart, whether Democratic or Republican, is “like channeled water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever He chooses.” Finally, though the Bible does not use the exact words “abortion,” “homosexuality,” or “racism,” the Bible very clearly speaks to all three of those issues. In that light, I believe it is fair and right and responsible exegesis/interpretation of the Bible to take what the Bible says about weapons in general, and swords in particular, and apply that to guns. For instance, if the Bible said, “thou shalt not stab thine brother with a sword,” it would be appropriate and accurate to extend that teaching to also say, “thou shalt not shoot thine brother with a gun.” If we are agreed on this premise, then I believe we will agree on my conclusions – because the New Testament is really quite clear about swords, as they relate to Christians, and thus the New Testament is also quite clear about guns, as they relate to Christians.
4. I am making a NEW Testament argument. If you object to my argument, object from the Bible. There’s a great article over at The Gospel Coalition called, “How Should Christians Think About Gun Control?” and it is basically a moderated debate between Andrew Wilson and Bob Thune. If you disagree with my position, I suspect you will find a kindred spirit in Thune’s pro-gun and pro-self defense argument. The biggest issue I have with Thune’s argument is that it is grounded in the Old Testament. Let me be clear – the Old Testament is the Word of God, it is God-breathed, and it is useful, as Paul says, for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. However, are we as Christians under the Old Testament laws? I believe it is the clear teaching of Jesus and the apostles in the New Testament that we are NOT under the law anymore, but under grace. This is too large of a theological issue to fully unpack here, so I’m going to share five foundational Scriptures on this issue, have a brief discussion, and then point you to three other articles/podcast episodes I’ve done in the past on the same issue.
Five Scriptures on whether or not Christians are obliged to follow the law of the Old Testament:
- “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. ” Ephesians 2:13-16
- “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” Hebrews 8:13
- “For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.” Romans 6:14
- “Why, then, was the law given? It was added for the sake of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise was made would come. The law was put into effect through angels by means of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator is not just for one person alone, but God is one. 21 Is the law therefore contrary to God’s promises? Absolutely not! For if the law had been granted with the ability to give life, then righteousness would certainly be on the basis of the law. 22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin’s power, so that the promise might be given on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe. 23 Before this faith came, we were confined under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith was revealed. 24 The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. 25 But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:19-26
- “18 So the previous command is annulled because it was weak and unprofitable 19 (for the law perfected nothing), but a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18-19
Finally, you will find in Acts 15 that the apostles met to discuss this very issue: Should non-Jewish Christians follow the Old Testament law? They concluded that no, they should not, apart from 4 commands that remain binding. 1. Don’t eat food offered to idols. 2. Don’t eat blood. 3. Don’t eat strangled animals and 4. Abstain from sexual immorality. We’ll do an episode in the future on those four commands, and try and answer why strangled animals were forbidden, but for now, I will simply note that these were the only four commands of the Old Testament that the Holy Spirit led the apostles to impose on non-Jewish Christians at the first apostolic council.
You might disagree with me on this, but let me demonstrate specifically how this applies. Bob Thune bases his pro-gun argument most firmly on Exodus 22:2, which says, “2 If a thief is caught in the act of breaking in, and he is beaten to death, no one is guilty of bloodshed.” So, a Jewish person could beat a home-invader to death and not be guilty of murder. In this command, Thune rightly sees a basis for self-defense, though I note that vs. 3 says that if you kill a thief in daylight, you will be guilty of murder. “3 But if this happens after sunrise, the householder is guilty of bloodshed.” From Exodus 22:2, Thune concludes, “the Torah teaches if someone comes to kill you, kill him first.” This is a few steps too far from what the Torah actually teaches. Exodus 22:2 does not say you must kill somebody that comes to your home, it says that you are NOT guilty of murder if you do kill somebody in your home AND they come at night. If we keep reading in Exodus 22, we discover some other interesting verses. Vs 16 commands that, if a man sleeps with a woman outside of marriage, he must pay her father money and be married to her (or, if the father says no, the offending man must still pay a bridal price. Vs. 18 says that all female sorceresses, which I believe would include psychics and such, must be put to death. Vs. 20 commands that all who sacrifice to other gods must be put to death. Going back one chapter to Exodus 21:10, we find that a man is permitted to have more than one wife, and in Exodus 21:17, it is commanded that whomever curses their father or mother must be put to death. Are we obligated to live under these commands? Most appropos for our conversation now is Exodus 21:23, where we find this command, centered around payback for one injured in a fight, “23 If there is an injury, then you must give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, bruise for bruise, wound for wound.” One way that we know that we are NOT under all of the commands of the Old Testament is the fact that Jesus directly supersedes this command in Matthew 5:38-39, “38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
Why is this important for discussing guns? Because the Old Testament was written to the Jewish people – people who lived in Israel ruled by kings and priests that were supposed to follow God’s laws. Old Testament Israel was to be a theocracy – completely following God. The New Testament, however, was written to Christians living in a Jerusalem that was not at all governed by God’s laws, but by the traditions of man, according to Jesus. AND, the New Testament was written to converted Jews and Gentiles all across the Roman empire who were living under a pagan government that was anything but a theocracy, much like the situation 99.9 percent of the world finds itself in today. We are not living in a theocracy, but a democracy. We are not living under the Old Testament commands (which say that circumcision is neccessary to please God, which forbid certain forms of contact between Jews and Gentiles, and which forbid things like wearing mixed fabrics), but rather, we are living under New Testament commands, which demonstrate that those who trust in circumcison to draw close to God are under a curse – those who withdraw from Gentiles – like Peter did (see Galatians) – are acting like hypocrites and doing what is contrarfy to the gospel. And, there’s nothing at all said about what kind of fabrics Christians can wear. Thus I am firmly convinced that, while the WHOLE Bible – Old and New Testament – is the Word of God – Christians are only under the New Testament/New Covenant – and that has a huge bearing on our discussion of guns. For further reading:
Three articles/podcasts I’ve done on this issue:
#1 Are non Jewish Christians obligated to follow all of the commands of the Old Testament?
2. Is the Old Testament Law Obsolete?
3. Are Christians still under Old Testament Commands?
5. I am fully aware that ultimately, the gun violence problem doesn’t lie in an inanimate object, but in the wicked and twisted hearts of human beings. Even if there was a magic way to vacuum ALL of the world’s guns up, we know that humans will still murder each other, and do violence to each without guns. I do not lay the blame for gun violence at the feet of guns. That said, guns are undoubtably and indisputably a force multiplier, and if you aren’t familiar with the term, a force multiplier is an amplifier – a tool or factor that enables one to get more done with that tool or factor than without it. In digging a hole, a shovel is a force multiplier over just using your hands. A grocery cart is a force multiplier in terms of how much you can carry at a store. A Daniel Defense DDM4 AR 15 style rifle is a force multiplier over a longbow, or a 1763 Charleville musket rifle. An angry man with a grenade is far more dangerous than an angry man with an egg. Though I currently live in an undisclosed part of California now, I spent the first 46 years of my life right in the middle of gun country, Alabama. Roll Tide. I was recently talking to a good friend who is a pastor in Alabama, and a gun-owner. He too is concerned about the epidemic of gun violence in this country, and if you dispute that it is an epidemic, consider that there have been more than 3,500 mass shootings in the United States in the LESS THAN TEN YEARS since the Sandy Hook maniac killed 20 children and six teachers. That is to say that, over the past ten years, we have had an AVERAGE OF MORE THAN ONE MASS SHOOTING EVENT PER DAY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and that NUMBER IS INCREASING IN 2022!! “Evil people are the issue,” said my Alabama pastor friend, before quoting Proverbs 17:12, “Better for a person to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his foolishness.” He then asked a very insightful question, “Why are we wanting the fools to be armed?” In other words, why is it so easy for fools in the United States to get a gun? Or, to expand the question: why is it so easy for fools, and abusers, and those with mental health issues, and those with anger issues, and stalkers, and yes – even criminals – why is it so easy to get a gun in the United States of America? We shouldn’t be arming our fools, nor should we be arming our people with anger problems. Putting force multipliers in the hands of fools, ragers, abusers and mentally ill people is itself foolish, and we are reaping the rewards of that foolishness. (And yes, I realize that a car, truck, knife, bow, and other things can be deadly weapons also, and when this country goes ten years, averaging one mass killing by car, knife, bow, truck, or whatever per day, then it will be time to talk about what to do in order to keep those things out of the hands of people with ill intent. Charles Spurgeon is one of my heroes, and in a sermon preached in the 19th century, he compared loaded guns with quick-tempered people, concluding that it is best to avoid both. He said:
Make no friends with an angry man: as well make a bed of stinging nettles or wear a viper for a necklace. Perhaps the fellow is just now very fond of you, but beware of him, for he who barks at others today without a cause will one day howl at you for nothing. Don’t offer him a kennel down your yard unless he will let you chain him up. When you see that a man has a bitter spirit, and gives nobody a good word, quietly walk away and keep out of his track if you can. Loaded guns and quick tempered people are dangerous pieces of furniture; they don’t mean any hurt, but they are very apt to go off and do mischief before you dream of it. Better go a mile round than get into a fight; better sit down on a dozen tacks with the points up than get into a dispute with an angry neighbour.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Sword and Trowel: 1876 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1876), 419.
In sum, I don’t blame the gun, I blame the gun-owner, but it seems to me quite foolish to have a society where it is very, very easy, relatively speaking, to obtain a gun. When I say very easy, let me give you an example: The man who killed four and wounded several others in the Warren Clinic shooting in Tulsa, Oklahoma bought his Ar-15 style rifle at 2pm on the day of the shooting, which began to unfold LESS THAN THREE HOURS AFTER THE PURCHASE OF THE GUN. Even so, though I’m touching on political arguments here, at this point we will move into a discussion of the primary Scriptural reasons for my thesis , which is, “In light of the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament as a whole, it is incongruous that Christians should advocate for guns.” Stated another way, the New Testament teaching seems to lead Christians away from gun advocacy, rather than towards it.
So, those are five clarifications and building blocks that led me to my primary thesis or point here in this article/podcast, which, again, is: In light of the teachings of Jesus and the New Testament as a whole, it is incongruous that Christians should advocate for guns.
Here’s the plan: Since I’ve been fairly long-winded so far, I’d like to make a beginning scriptural argument AGAINST gun-advocacy, finish this episode, and then in part two, go much deeper into what the New Testament teaches Christians about swords, weapons, and self-defense. But, before we close, let’s look at what I believe to be the most prominent passage in the New Testament that speaks to guns, which – as mentioned earlier – will on the surface be about swords, which were contemporary with the first century A.D., rather than guns, which weren’t invented for another 1200 or so years after the writing of the New Testament.
The word “sword” appears in the Bible approximately 400 times. (392 in the Christian Standard Bible and 408 in the ESV) In the Old Testament, a sword is quite often a sword – a bladed weapon that is used for stabbing and slicing. In the New Testament, a sword can be a sword, but it can also be a metaphor, such as in Hebrews 4:12:
For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
These metaphorical uses of the word sword won’t be as instructive for us in building a theology of swords, weapons, and – ultimately – guns. There are, however, several non-metaphorical uses of the word sword, and I’d like to close out today’s episode by looking at one. In Luke 22, a very curious exchange happens between Jesus and His disciples:
35 He also said to them, “When I sent you out without money-bag, traveling bag, or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Not a thing,” they said. 36 Then he said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one. 37 For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in me: And he was counted among the lawless. Yes, what is written about me is coming to its fulfillment.” 38 “Lord,” they said, “look, here are two swords.” “That is enough!” he told them.
On the surface, it APPEARS that Jesus is telling His disciples to arm themselves. Indeed, I have recently read an article from a police clergyman that made the case that Jesus’ commanding of His disciples to sell their robes in order to buy a sword was a mandate for a Christian to carry a self-defense weapon. Jerry Falwell Jr., the somewhat disgraced former president of Liberty University called for students at his school to carry guns in a 2015 address that was prompted after a gunman killed 14 in San Bernadino, California. Falwell spoke to the students at a gathering, urging them to be quick to shoot any school shooters that might show up on the campus of Liberty. When asked about his comments later, Falwell Jr. said:
It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:36. He told them if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it because he knew danger was coming, and he wanted them to defend themselves. SOURCE: https://www.liberty.edu/news/2015/12/09/president-thanks-students-for-support-during-semesters-last-convocation/
Other Christians, such as Charles Spurgeon, disagree, seeing Jesus’ mandate to buy swords as somewhat metaphorical. Of this, Spurgeon writes:
Now all was changed, no one would entertain them, every one would harm them, and they would be as men needing defence against deadly foes. He did not, however, mean that they should fight with carnal weapons, as we shall see immediately. It was only an intimation that they were now to be assailed by force. If they were literally to fight, two swords were not enough, but they were enough to express the Saviour’s idea. They were now to go out as warriors to conquer the world, and the swords represented their militant condition. One sword was rashly used by Peter, and his Lord bade him put it away, to show that armed force is not to be employed; there was another sword not then wielded, which typified the Word of God, with which nations are subdued.)…
They would need to be on their guard against those who in killing them would think that they were doing God service. They took his language literally, and therefore replied, “Lord, behold, here are two swords.” Methinks he must have smiled sadly at their blunder as he answered, “It is enough.” He could never have thought of their fighting that he might not be delivered unto the Jews, since for that purpose two swords were simply ridiculous. They had missed his meaning, which was simply to warn them of the changed circumstances of his cause: but they caught at the words which he had used, and exhibited their two swords….
A smile must have passed over the Saviour’s face as he saw how egregiously they had misunderstood him. He did not mean that they should literally carry swords, but that they should now have to go through an alien world, and to meet with no friends or helpers. He evidently did not mean that they were to defend him with the sword, for two such weapons would not have been “enough” against the Roman legionaries who were sent to seize him. How apt they were to misconstrue, and take literally that which he was accustomed to speak in figures, just as, to this day, some will have it that the bread on the communion table is Christ’s body and the juice of the vine is his blood.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Christ and His Table-Companions,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 54 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1908), 419–420.
C. H. Spurgeon, “Jesus Declining the Legions,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 33 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1887), 181–182.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 597.
I completely agree with Spurgeon here, not simply because he makes a good case, but because of what happened shortly after this exchange. As you are probably remember, the Romans, led by the traitor Judas, did indeed come to arrest Jesus. Upon seeing them arrive, Jesus said, ““Have you come out with swords and clubs as if I were a criminal? 53 Every day while I was with you in the temple, you never laid a hand on me. But this is your hour —and the dominion of darkness.” Luke 22:52-53
I also note that a careful reading of Luke 22:36-37 shows something interesting. DIRECTLY after Jesus says, “whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one,” He gives what appears to be the reason why He said what He said, “FOR, I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in me, “And he was counted among the lawless.” It appears that somehow, someway – the disciples carrying swords, and perhaps Peter’s act of slicing off the ear of the high priest’s servant, somehow made the disciples lawless.
*And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe and buy one. 37 For I tell you, what is written must be fulfilled in me: And he was counted among the lawless.” (Luke 22:36-37)
As the mob approached, the disciples cried out to Jesus, “Lord, should we strike with the sword?” And impetuous Peter, without waiting for an answer, reaches out and whacks Malchus, the servant of the high priest, on the side of the head – literally severing his ear.
Now, I imagine that this was really quite unexpected. What is going to happen now? Will the eleven remaining disciples – armed with only TWO swords – stand and fight against a large mob armed with clubs and swords? In this moment, I imagine everybody but Jesus is stunned, looking at Malchus bleeding, and looking at his severed ear laying on the ground. In a couple of seconds, the mob is going to react to Peter’s rash act, and likely pounce…so what is Jesus going to do? What is Jesus going to say?
IF it is correct that Jesus was literally telling His disciples to buy swords for self-defense, as some allege, then Jesus will likely praise Peter for his bravery, and call the disciples to fight, right? Think about it: in all of the history of false arrests and false imprisonments, the single most false arrest in history is about to happen. Phrased another way, the most innocent man that every walked the face of the Earth is about to be arressted, tried and killed – which will constitute the single greatest injustice every committed by humans. If there was ever a just cause to fight for, this is it. Does Jesus commend Peter and call His disciples to fight? NO. He does ONE important thing, and says TWO important things. First, before anybody could move and escalate the violence, Jesus commands, “NO MORE OF THIS! (Luke 22:51) “Put your sword away! Am I not to drink the cup the Father has given me?” And then, Jesus directly says something profound to Peter, according to Matthew:
52 Then Jesus told him, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and he will provide me here and now with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How, then, would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen this way?” Matthew 26:52-53
And after saying that, Jesus touches the ear of Malchus, and completely heals him.
Here we have a self-defense situation if there ever was one. A corrupt mob – not sure they were legally deputized, but we do know they were sent by the governing authorities – arrives to unjustly arrest Jesus. Peter, defending his master, strikes out at one of the members of the mob….and Jesus quickly and powerfully stops the fight before it happens. NO more of this, He says. Put your sword away, He says. Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? He says. And then, He says something very profound: “All who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52)
Let that sink in. ALL who take up the sword will perish by the sword. As we discussed earlier, I believe that, in the same we can apply Ephesians 5:18 to say, “Don’t get stoned on cocaine, but be filled with the Spirit,” and be absolutely faithful to the Word of God, we can also apply Matthew 26:52 and say, “All who live by the gun, will die by the gun.”
Now, I realize that Jesus did NOT tell Peter to get rid of His sword, nor did Jesus or Paul, or any apostle ever forbid the owning of a sword. But, how do you think Peter felt about His sword after seeing what Jesus did and hearing what Jesus said. Do you think Peter is likely to go home and post, “Jesus, Guns and Babies” on his first century Facebook page? I’m being tongue in cheek, but seriously – what kind of impression do you think the disciples got about weapons from Jesus’ Words and actions at His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. I would argue that all four Gospels conclusively demonstrate that Jesus was NOT pro-sword, and therefore I conclude that He would not be pro-gun either, and nor would He want us to be pro-gun.
And that, is a good place to finish this episode, and I will go ahead and grant that I have not proven my thesis yet. There are many other teachings of Jesus and the disciples that I believe will apply to swords, guns and weapons, and will ultimately demonstrate beyond a doubt that Christians should not be pro-gun, nor should we advocate in favor of guns.
Before you send to many barbed words my way, please do listen to the second episode where we continue this discussion, and do remember that I am arguing a quite narrow thesis. I am not stating that I believe Christians should never own guns. I own guns. I am not stating that I believe the Second Amendment should be abolished. I am not a pacificist suggesting pacificism. I subscribe to just war theory. I am simply seeing a stunning problem in my home country – the problem of horrific violence perpetrated by evil people using guns – and I am stating that the thrust of New Testament teaching indicates that Christians should not be vocal gun advocates. Given that Jesus said, “All who live by the sword will die by the sword,” do you disagree with me? I’d love to hear from you, and you can leave your comments on a post on www.Deepquestionspod.com, or you can message me there, or you can find me on social media, where I am Chaseathompson on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
I’ll close with a portion of John Piper’s remarks on responding to mass shootings, and the question of whether or not Christians should arm themselves with deadly weapons for self defense. Piper writes:
Jesus says that the moment of life-threatening danger “will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:13). It will be a moment for fearless stepping into heaven (Matthew 10:28). A moment for enduring to the end and being saved (Matthew 10:22).
If we teach our students that they should carry guns, and then challenge them, “Let’s teach them a lesson if they ever show up here,” do we really think that when the opportunity to lay down their lives comes, they will do what Jim Elliot and his friends did in Ecuador, and refuse to fire their pistols at their killers, while the spears plunged through their chests? Source: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/should-christians-be-encouraged-to-arm-themselves
Good day to you, and godspeed.
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