This Summer, I will have the opportunity to fire a gun for the first time. Our family is going to a “Dude Ranch” for my mom and dad’s 80th birthday party. I’m imagining myself putting a rifle to my shoulder – and possibly changing my mind! Oh the loud bang!
The idea of learning to target shoot is fun! Skeet shooting, hunting, target shooting, collecting antique guns… these reasons to own or use a gun seem completely acceptable and even important rights. Yet, we Americans are paying a tremendous price in lives lost because of the availability, abuse and right to use guns.
Guns + Bible = Sword
Since the gun did not exist during Biblical times, the best equivalent is the sword. Interestingly, the sword makes its appearance most often in three ways:
1. Jesus’ arrest (Matthew 26:47-56, Mark 14:43-50, Luke 22:47-53, and John 18:11)
2. As a metaphor for faith in Jesus and its divisive power (Matthew 10:28-39, Hebrews 4:12, Ephesians 6:17)
3. Literal use (Romans 8:35, Revelation 13:10)
I understand these scriptures to mean: weapons and acts of violence are always with us, but they are not a part of the Christian life. Jesus never condoned the taking of a life – not even for criminals (ie. woman caught in adultery). Read these texts and consider them for yourself.
Christians in the first three hundred years after Jesus, were persecuted in large part because they were pacifists. They refused to join the military, they refused to pick up a weapon even to defend themselves against an attacker. They died in large numbers in the Roman Coliseum because they wouldn’t fight the gladiators. Instead, they were fed to the lions instead. Their relinquishment and faith in the face of a violent death in front of literally thousands of witnesses did more to evangelize the Roman Empire than almost anything else. Hence, eventually, Emperor Constantine in 312 CE decided, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
Christians only became militant as Christianity became a part of the empire. Scripture is replete with reminders that those who live by the sword, die by the sword. A country that lives by the gun, dies by it. Over and over. This is not a simple issue. People feel deeply about it. I, personally, do not. So, from my place, it looks obvious that gun control should take precedence over access. But you may feel differently.
I think we all know that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. We all agree in theory that giving a depressed person a gun is a horrible idea. But what if that person is your brother? You know him, he’s complicated, and he wants a gun for his birthday. What if your friends is a hunter and has guns? When she starts getting paranoid and ranting about a government conspiracy to take her guns, what is your obligation? It all gets murky really fast.
As your pastor, I beg you, bring your passion and ideas about gun ownership and legislation to God. Ask your higher power, Jesus Christ, what God’s will is for you in this area? Prayerfully place your position about guns before God. Ask that trivial but incredibly deep question, “what would Jesus do?” and listen for the answer. Then, go and do likewise.
--- Pastor Rebecca