Bibles and Guns: Should Christians Carry?
**Opinions contained in this blogs are solely those of the author, and do not nessecarily reflect the views of the entire organization**
In a global climate that has seen what seems to be a rise in violence against Christians, and in the wake of the tragic church shooting in South Carolina, many of my friends (both Christians and non-Christians alike) who know that I am an advocate of the Second Amendment and a minister, have asked me if I am scared, and if I think that churches should allow staff and/or congregants to carry concealed weapons at church.
Now, this topic is a minefield of emotional viewpoints, popular vs un-popular opinions, questions of legality and morality, differences in doctrinal viewpoints, and any number of other “politically insensitive” rabbit trails one could chase off into oblivion. So I figured: “Why not make this topic my first blog article?!”
That being said, as a magical blue wisp of smoke from one of my favorite childhood movies once said: “…There are a few, uh, provisos. Ah, a couple of quid pro quo.” 1) This is my opinion. It’s based on what I believe is an accurate study of God’s word. Don’t like it? Respectfully show me where the Bible says I’m wrong, and if you’re right, I’ll change my mind. 2) To avoid some of those rabbit trails I mentioned earlier, I’ll be discussing MY OPINION on whether or not I think churches should allow concealed carry, and the biblical perspective I get it from. Not politics, not 2nd amendment rights, not specific action plans, or what specific policies churches should implement. Just whether or not churches biblically have the option. Ok? Good. Let’s do this.
It is no secret that our world --and at times our nation-- is hostile toward the Christian faith and those who choose to adhere to it. While it is important, so as not to fall victim to unjust fear, to remember that The Church has constantly known persecution since the crucifixion of our Savior Jesus Christ, I believe that it is equally as important to recognize that as acts of violence towards Christians become increasingly prevalent, inaction, complacency, or an attitude of “It’s in God’s hands”, should never be considered responsible options for church leadership.
I believe that every church should have an emergency action plan, and a team of staff and volunteers that serve the congregation by considering and making provisions for the safety of the church. And in case you’re confused: God’s people are the church, not the building. I believe that having a designated person, or a designated team of persons that carry concealed firearms at a church can be an important part of an overall security plan.
Now, before you go painting a crazy picture in your head about militant churches turning themselves into survival compounds, I’m not saying that people should go all jungle commando. Having armed personnel in a church isn’t the only way to have a good security plan, and it may not be right for every church. If it’s going to distract people from Jesus, don’t do it. Though this is a good reason to limit the “people in the know” to only essential personnel. But FYI: I’m often very uncomfortable when in a church that doesn’t have a qualified person carrying a concealed firearm.
This is not a point of view that I have come to without Biblical justification, and I know that some who read this might (and probably will) disagree with me. But I encourage those who do to ask themselves this: Why do I disagree? Is it because I’m uncomfortable with an idea, or because I find Biblical fault in the notion?
Even a cursory read through the Bible will show that it records many accounts of fighting and warfare. God is displayed in the Bible as the omnipotent, all powerful, vengeful, wrathful, loving and gracious Warrior-Leader of the Israelites. We see over and over where God raised up warriors among the Israelites. Samson, Deborah, Gideon, and others were anointed by the Spirit of God to conduct war in the progression or defense of God’s people.
The New Testament applauds Old Testament warriors for their military acts of faith (Hebrews 11:30-40), and remember that although given the opportunity to do so, none of the New Testament saints--or even Jesus for that matter--are ever seen encouraging a military convert to resign from his profession. (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 3:14).
Before the crucifixion, Jesus explained to His disciples the aggressions they would face in the future and (in a hotly debated passage of scripture) told them to sell their outer garments to buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38). While there has been much debate as to what Christ “meant to refer to” in the passage, I feel that it is always best to take Christ at His Word.
Here the "sword" (Greek: maxairan) is a dagger or short sword that was included in a Jewish traveler's equipment as protection against bandits, animals, and those who would seek to cause them harm. A plain reading of the passage indicates that Jesus approved of the carrying of a weapon for defense.
Christ Himself said, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13). When protecting another person, a Christian is selflessly endangering his or her life for the sake of others. Among other things, when protecting themselves, a Christian may be ending a trail of violence mid-stream or before it progresses.
In an attempt to make sure that I am always using good exegesis as opposed to eisegesis, I often challenge myself to “argue the other side”. Now, I need you to understand that when I say “argue the other side”, I mean it. I literally have an argument with myself from opposite sides of the topic to try to punch holes in my own logic.
If this sounds a bit crazy, so be it, it probably is. As long as I never get louder than me in my own head, I’ll always be listening to myself….. yep. Anyway, by engaging in this argument I can only come up with a few sections of scripture that I can see might offer a contrary point of view to my own…..when improperly viewed.
The “The Bible says ‘thou shalt not kill’, man.” argument.
Ok. Let me clear something up : THAT IS NOT WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS!!! This has got to be one of the pieces of scripture most often misquoted in our generation, and yet another of many reasons I firmly dislike the King James Version of the bible.
Look, I’m not going to dive into an exhaustive word study or history lesson that points out all the reasons that this is so often misinterpreted, but when we look at the original Hebrew (the language that Exodus was written in), Exodus 20:13 says: Lo tirtzach! Which in much more accurately translated “Do no Murder”. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Here, I’ll even help: http://jpfo.org/rabbi/6th-commandment.htm
The “Jesus said ‘turn the other cheek’ and stuff like that” argument.
Setting aside that that isn’t even the best part of the verse that you could use, Yes. In Matthew 5:39 Jesus says “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
But that’s not quite right in this instance is it? In verse 38 Jesus says: “You have heard it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH’.” This passage is about not seeking vengeance or participating in acts of retaliation. The whole passage goes like this: 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."
It has nothing to do with criminal offenses or military aggressions. This is all about non-retaliation during affronts to one’s dignity (v.39), lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (v.40), infringements on one’s freedom of choice (v.41), and violations of property rights (v.42). Jesus is calling for a lessening of one’s perceived personal importance, not a surrendering of one’s physical life.
The “Jesus said ‘those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword.’ argument”
Well, you may not know it, but (misquote aside) this is actually the only one of the three counterpoints suggested that even comes close to proving me wrong…… at least until you put some thought into it.
In this particularly exciting and tense section of scripture found in each of the gospels, we see a group of slaves with swords and clubs, sent by the high priests to unjustly take Jesus into custody. Peter draws his sword/dagger and cuts off the ear of a slave named Malchus. Jesus then says in Matthew 26:52 “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.”
Jesus then goes on to heal Malchus’ ear and talk about how if He wanted to, He could call on more than twelve legions of angels to protect Him. But that this was the fulfillment of prophecy. **Fun Fact: a Roman legion was about 6,000 soldiers. That multiplied by twelve makes 72,000, and in 2 Kings 19, a SINGLE angel killed 185,000 men in one night.**
Ok, so before you naysayers start feeling all good about yourselves, check this out: what Peter was doing was vigilantism. No matter how unjust the arrest of Jesus was, it wasn’t technically illegal. Under Roman law, the Sanhedrin had the right to arrest, try, convict, and “administratively” discipline other Jews (btw, Jesus was a Jew). However; their authority was mainly limited to “civil” and “religious” crimes, and the punishments that they could administer were also limited. You see, Peter had no right to “take the law into his own hands” because no crime was technically being committed.
The “live by the sword, die by the sword” argument falls apart once you realize that Jesus was actually doing 2 things: First, He was telling us that the commission of a crime to stop injustice isn’t ok. There is no “lesser of two evils”. He was also restating the principle laid out in Genesis 9:6 that states, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.” Which is actually affirmation that capital punishment is an appropriate penalty for murder! Seriously, I’m not making this up, go look it up.
So, I see over and over where God tells me that I should protect His children, and I see nothing in the Bible to suggest otherwise. Believe it or not, Christian men far more wise than I have actually agreed with this notion for a long time.
Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that "to permit 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."
I think it is the duty and responsibility of those who can, to defend those that cannot defend themselves. We do the same thing without hesitation if we see a Christian Brother or Sister struggling with sin, or if they have a financial need, or if they are in a place of spiritual weakness. And we do those things after equipping ourselves to the best of our ability for the task at hand. Why wouldn’t a Christian want to adequately equip themselves for the defense of God’s people? Christians should carry.
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weakness of those without strength and not just please ourselves.” Romans 15:1
So in conclusion of this my first, and possibly last blog post, I say this: To my like-minded Sheep Dogs, dedicated fence sitters, and committed pacifists: Read your Bible, Love God’s People, Keep Calm and Carry On.
**As previously stated: THIS IS MY OPINION. This isn’t a legal commentary, and I’m not a lawyer. Some states, including the one I live in, have very restrictive laws governing weapons in public or in houses of worship. Consult someone who knows the laws in your area, make a plan, and get some training.**