Christians and Guns
By Stephen Terry
“Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28, NIV
In the wake of what I call the “Newtown Massacre of the Innocents,” our country has been abruptly awakened to the true cost of American idolatry and worship of guns. As the bodies of so many small children violently riddled with bullets were laid prematurely in the cold darkness of the grave, some began to ask when is enough, enough?
According to the Centers for Disease Control, an average of 87 people die each day from guns. This means that as of the date of this writing, January 18, 2013, over 3,000 more have been shot to death since Newtown. Our streets are literally running red with the blood of our citizens. This means that more than 30,000 die each year from guns. I served in Vietnam during that war, and in eight years of conflict if we add up the names on the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington, D.C., we find we had fewer American casualties than we currently have in two years on the streets here at home. If our young soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen were suffering such a high casualty rate, we would immediately begin questioning whether or not such a conflict was worth the price. But when the corpses are piling up on the streets of our cities, we don’t. Why?
Could it be because of a neutered Christianity that no longer speaks out against such atrocities? We have gotten in bed with the Devil so many times over single-issue politics that we find we can no longer speak with moral power about right and wrong. We align ourselves with politicians who are against abortion while turning a blind eye to their oppression of the poor families that have to raise those children. We support those politicians who are against gay marriage, but refuse to recognize that those same politicians support serial polygamy and adultery. Because we as Christians are willing to remain blind to everything else so long as our “one button” issue is addressed, we set ourselves up for demagogic manipulation. Perhaps nowhere have we fallen into the trap as readily as on the issue of gun violence.
Because we want to encourage political leaders who are against some single issue we cherish, we willingly accept their stance on so many other things as a “necessary evil.” Hence if a political party is against gay marriage, but accepts the gun violence on our streets as that “necessary evil,” we jump in bed with that evil to get what we want. How is this different from the temptation the Devil offered Jesus? “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Matthew 4:8-9, NIV
The Devil offered Jesus the easy way out. His plan required no faith in God the Father and no cross. Jesus came to save the world, so Satan offered Him exactly what He came for without the sacrifice. But Jesus knew that without faith in God, the world would be lost, not saved. He responded to the Devil, ““Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Matthew 4:10, NIV
You see Jesus recognized that taking the road without faith was a matter of worship. He knew that trusting Satan would be worshipping him rather than God. But do we understand that in the choices we make, today? Getting in bed with the Devil offers us solution without sacrifice, and results without having to trust in God’s timetable. However, as we do this, faith becomes harder and harder to come by. As with exercise of our muscles, so it is with using our faith. If it is not utilized it atrophies, but when it is exercised it becomes stronger.
With this principle in tow, we can look at the question of gun violence. While some may have legitimate sporting uses for guns, for many others the desire for guns is based in large part on fear. They may believe that an apocalypse is headed straight for us. They look around at the chaos in the world and fear the worst is about to happen to them and their families. Some find an answer in stock-piling in preparation for that apocalypse, and many in order to protect those stockpiles or their families look to guns as an answer. Even those who do not have an apocalyptic view want to protect their goods and well-being and find an answer in guns and ammunition. But is this the answer to the chaos we face? Will guns be the answer that gets us through the end times?
When the disciples were on the Sea of Galilee in a boat, Jesus came walking on the water to them during a storm. You can read the story in Matthew, chapter 14. Peter seeing what seemed to be impossible wanted to do it, also. Jesus called him and he, too, began to walk on the water, but soon he became distracted by the violence of the storm around him and took his eyes off of Jesus. When that happened, he began to sink. His own strength could not save him. Only by direct, divine intervention was Peter saved. The same thing happens to us when we begin to look to solutions in our own strength rather than trusting in God and staying focused on our relationship with Him.
As Christians it makes little sense to say that we are saved by faith but actually trusting the strength of our own hands holding guns to protect us, our families, and our property rather than God. Some misguided souls might quote to us, “God helps them that help themselves,” but this is not found in the Bible. It is found instead as a pithy saying in Benjamin Franklin’s “Poor Richard’s Almanac.” If we want to trust in such a belief for our protection and salvation we should be aware that it is not God we are putting our faith in, but long-deceased Mr. Franklin.
At this point, some might appeal to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution as somehow justifying their trust in guns rather than God. But is this any defense for a lack of faith in God? Some might be surprised to learn that heaven does not appear to be a democracy or even a republic. This does not mean that the principles which have governed the United States have not been a blessing in many ways. But it is important to remember that we should ultimately be placing our faith in God rather than in any man-made system of laws or governments. Truly those governments are “ordained of God”[i] and should be obeyed, but they are not God.
By the same principle, The United States Constitution is the law of the land and should be obeyed, but we must be careful not to overrule on matters of trust and faith in God. When that choice must be made, “we ought to obey God rather than men.”[ii] The Second Amendment was crafted at a time when a young republic needed to stand ready to defend itself against the various world powers. Even the one the country had recently freed itself from continued to push its might until finally the War of 1812 broke out. The burning of the White House demonstrated how tenuous the thread of life was for this fledgling democracy and how important was the foresight of those who drafted the amendment. One could readily see the importance of an armed citizenry as a defense not against our own government but against the tyranny that Britain sought to impose with two wars. The idea that the framers of the Bill of Rights intended it as a defense against our own government is a fiction not found in the text, or in any of the various texts proposed before the final version. The idea of Christians supporting an insurrection against their own government is also spurious.
Perhaps no government was as hostile to Christianity as Imperial Rome. Yet, in spite of that hostility, we find no occasions in the New Testament where armed overthrow of the government by Christians is advocated or even hinted at. Those who advocate such actions are misguided and delusional. Today it is popular in some circles to vilify governments and advance conspiracy theories as proof of demonic intent on the part of elected leaders. We sometimes act as though God were not in control, and we need to set things right for Him. But this is nothing short of the age old conflict between faith and works. Will we have faith in God’s control, or do we only appeal to Him as a lesser adjunct to our own strength?
It is time that Christians stand with Joshua. Some would have us make an idol of guns and our own strength, but Joshua said, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15, NIV
Along with the Israelites, let us respond, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods!” vs. 16 Let us return again to our rightful state as a people of faith. Let us not be swept along by the fears of the lost who are seeking salvation in their own strength and power. Let us once again discover the spirit-filled faith of those who willingly faced the Coliseum and death rather than gather arms to themselves to seek their own deliverance. That faith, unlike the anemic Christianity of today, set the world on fire. It can do so again.
[i] Romans 13:1
[ii] Acts 5:29
This Article is a Service of Still Waters Ministry
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