As time goes on, I have been more diligently and more earnestly aware of the assumptions we tend to make as Americans, and as American Christians, that may not supportable biblically. We tend to make certain assumptions, but we don’t question those assumptions or test them against Scripture. If anything, we work to make Scripture support our assumptions, rather than subject our assumptions to Scripture.
This is a human tendency, of course. I am not picking on Americans. I am one. I just know more about how Americans think than other people, so I can speak to it more definitely.
On the issue of gun control, I am finding a distinct disconnect between the popular Christian responses, the realities and what Scripture suggests. The popular Christian responses, at least among white evangelicals, of which I am a member, is something like this: guns don’t kill people. We don’t need more gun control; people need God (among other things).
That is a truism of course. People do need God, but that doesn’t really help to address an obvious issue that is utterly unique to our country of all the countries in the western world. We have a problem, and we should be able to acknowledge it.
As Christians, we could also say that it isn’t a gun problem; it’s a sin problem. That is right as well, but that also doesn’t help us. Does that mean we should ignore it? Condemn it but do nothing about it? (After all, people are getting what they deserve because all have sinned.) Do these responses seem right to you?
They shouldn’t! Yes, people need God, and the root of all human problems is sin, but we can set back offering nothing but sayings and platitudes and be considered followers of Jesus who had a reputation of getting into right into the place where people lived, right in the middle of the ugliness of sin, and engaged people where they were, healing and delivering people as He went. If Jesus is our example, we can’t sit on sidelines without doing something.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
To echo James, what good is it to pontificate that guns don’t kill people; people need God; and to write it off as a sin problem? Sin is rampant all around the world, but our country stands out, head and shoulders above all the rest, in the incidence of mass shootings. Children are more apt to end up lying in a pool of blood on a playground in America than anywhere else in the world.
As Christians, we should love the truth more than other people. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Of course, the truth is much greater than the bare facts, but we shouldn’t discount the bare facts.
The bare facts are pretty stark and compelling. We have a gun problem in the USA. The numbers don’t lie. They are covered very well in this NY Times article: What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer. The number of mass gun shootings correlate directly and clearly with the amount of guns available.
“More gun ownership corresponds with more gun murders across virtually every axis: among developed countries, among American states, among American towns and cities and when controlling for crime rates. And gun control legislation tends to reduce gun murders, according to a recent analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries.”
As a lawyer, I get the issue with the 2nd Amendment, and I understand why it is so sacred in our country. The USA was formed on the backs of militiamen who fought back the British tyranny with guns. We don’t want to risk going back to tyranny. Unique to every other country, but Mexico and Guatemala, the United States began with the assumption that gun ownership is an inherent right. All other countries in the world treat gun ownership as a privilege to be earned.
Our assumption that we have held for over 200 years is that guns are necessary to ward off tyranny, and gun ownership is an inherent right of citizens. This is where we, as Christians, need to assess our own assumptions based, not on cultural and societal notions akin to patriotism, but based on Scripture and the example of Christ.
If we are to be followers of Christ, we need to follow His example. Paul urged the Corinthians to imitate him as he imitated Jesus. This should be our attitude. “Whoever says he abides in [Christ] ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” Our imitation of Jesus should be what defines us – not the cultural and societal and historical influences, but the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who renews our minds and conforms us to the image of Christ.
Jesus urged us to love others as we love ourselves and to love even our enemies. We need to apply this invocation to love others to the the gun issue. I have heard people say that we aren’t being loving to our neighbors if we don’t protect them, and allowing good people to have guns so they can protect their neighbors is, therefore, what Jesus would have us do. Frankly, I don’t get that out of anything that Jesus said. This is imposing our own cultural assumptions on the text, in my opinion.
In the same passage, Jesus told His followers to turn the other cheek. Paul said, “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all…. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In other words, we shouldn’t fight fire with fire.
Jesus told Peter to put his sword away when the Roman soldiers came to take Jesus away. Someone might counter that this is because Jesus came to die for us, and it wasn’t the right time to be drawing swords. The instruction to put the sword down applied to that particular instance, and we should not draw larger conclusions from it. Those things are true, but the event is not uncharacteristic of Jesus.
Jesus never talked about defending ourselves or our neighbors. The only time Jesus mentioned a sword (the ancient equivalent to a gun), He told Peter to put it away. There were many zealots in 1st Century who advocated using force to initiate the kingdom of God on earth, but Jesus wasn’t one of them. In fact, the disillusionment the zealots had about Jesus may have been a primary reason why the Jews turned against Him and demanded that Pontius Pilate condemn Him to death.
I don’t see anywhere in the teaching of Jesus or of the apostles the principle of defending each other by force. The focus on loving our neighbors has a much different focus. It anything, it is a self-sacrificial love is defenseless. The message was counter-cultural then, and it is counter-cultural now.
Are we being influenced by our culture to advocate for gun rights? Or are we imitating Christ?
I want to end with this. Paul said, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others….”
When I see people defending gun rights, even Christians, I see people defending their own right to bear arms, more often than not. The argument about protecting others comes up, of course, but it is really an afterthought. The thrust of the position is “my constitutional right to bear arms”.
I dare say that this is not a firm biblical foundation.
The statistics are abundantly clear that the availability of guns has a direct correlation to the incidents of gun violence and mass shootings. The greater the availability of guns, the higher the incidence of gun violence. It’s pretty irrefutable. It doesn’t matter that most people who own guns are law abiding citizens who would never shoot anybody.
The truth is that we are all capable of evil. That is the consequence of sin. If anything, Christians ought to be more conscious of that reality than the population at large.
No, it isn’t guns that kill people; people kill people; and the more guns that are available, the more likely it is that people will kill more people! It really is as simple as math.
That doesn’t mean that guns should be banned altogether. The 2nd Amendment does make some sense, but it isn’t sacred. It isn’t a biblical mandate. Guns should be more restricted than they are, and more gun restrictions (that are enforced) will help to curb gun violence. Christians should be for that, in my opinion. I can’t fund a good, biblical defense for another view, especially in the wake of the horrible mass shootings that have become sickly routine in the United States.
 James 2:14-17
 1 Corinthians 11:1 (“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”);
 1 John2:6
 Romans 12:2 (“do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind, for you to prove what is the good and well-pleasing and perfect will of God.”); Ephesians 4:23 (“]B]e renewed in the spirit of your minds, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”); Colossians 3:10 (“[P]ut on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”); and Romans 8:29 (“[T]hose whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son….”)
 Matthew 5:43-45 (”You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”)
 Matthew 5:29
 Romans 12:17, 21
 John 18:10-11
 Philippians 2:2
6 thoughts on “God Talk about Guns”
Great insight Kevin. I am starting to see this side of the picture. I have always been a big supporter of the 2nd Amendment and always will be. The problem we have is that people already have these guns, and will not give them up very easily. How do we lessen the gun ownership without causing a great civil uprising? That’s the biggest dilemma in my mind.
The other side of the coin is the lack of accountability and responsibility that is running rampant in our society today. Schools can do nothing to discipline children who are now running the schools, and the kids don’t respect the system at all in many cases. When the administrators do discipline them, the parents think their child can do no wrong because there is no accountability at home. It’s a vicious cycle and I see it only getting worse. I would love to see how this stacks up against other countries!
Love your writing. keep it coming – you always make me think!
If you ONLY read the Gospels, it is hard NOT to conclude that Jesus was a pacifist. However, most pastors I see, while acknowledging “love your enemy”, when it comes to actually practicing it, they instead gravitate toward “eye for an eye” verses in the old testament…. and there you WILL find consistency between the 2nd amendment and the bible.
I agree with you here, something can be done.
Problem is, as I see it, rational discussion about what we, as Americans can do, is not possible.
Every time gun control or what we can do comes up, both sides dog in and go on offense.
How this problem will ever be solved I have no idea.
Good and thoughtful post, I am glad I stopped by.
I enjoy reading other’s thoughts on this issue. Thank you for posting.
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Thank you for saying so
Well-written and I totally agree.
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