Christians and Guns, Part 2
By Stephen Terry
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God“ Ephesians 2:8, NIV
The relationship between a Christian and fear-based gun ownership is one that is hard to understand without examining the difference between a righteousness based even in part on works and one based on faith. Fear-based gun ownership is the result of an individual’s fear of the evil they see in the world around them. They feel that they have a responsibility to protect themselves and their families from that evil, and failing to surrender totally to God’s will for their lives and move forward in faith, they instead place greater trust in the strength of their own right arm, preferably holding a gun with massive firepower in their right hand. But is this God’s will for His people? Does He say “You are on your own now, so you better start stockpiling weapons and ammo?” Far from it.
Those who believe such things tend to have a works-based religion focusing more on an Old Testament concept of self-regulated obedience than on a New Testament faith based on God’s grace and enabling love-based righteousness. They will often point to the battles fought by Israel as a justification for continuing to fight and slay, today. Yet they overlook that this was not God’s plan for his people. According to the Bible, that plan was for God Himself to drive out the inhabitants of the Promised Land gradually, even using hornets.[i] However, rather than trust in God’s provision for their safety and well-being, they looked to their own strength, and finding it lacking, their hearts were filled with fear. At Kadesh Barnea, they were to go up and begin possessing the land, but because they had chosen to rely on their own strength they refused to go forward in faith.[ii]
When Moses pointed out their lack of faith and its consequences, they then decided to go up and possess the land. But strapping on their weapons, they did so relying on their own strength and were defeated. They failed to learn the lesson God had taught them at the Red Sea. Feeling that it was their own strength of arms that would deliver them, they had not learned that salvation comes by faith, not by works.[iii] With their backs to the Red Sea and the might of Pharaoh’s army bearing down on them, they trembled in fear. Armed with swords, spears and bows, the Egyptian host must have been terrifying for the poorly armed Israelites to behold. But they had been placed in this position for a purpose. Often God places us in a position where we have little choice but to lose faith in our own ability to rescue ourselves, so that we can learn to have faith in His ability to deliver us.
When the people appealed to Moses in the face of the wrath of the Egyptians, he told them they needed only to be still and move forward in faith.[iv] This has always been God’s will for His people. It continues to be God’s will for us, today. We are saved by our faith in God, not by the strength of our own right arm, even if it is embracing an automatic weapon. If we fail to understand that, we may be faced with a continued “wandering in the wilderness” until we grasp the concept. We talk continually about Jesus coming to take us home, but we have not yet learned the lesson of abandoning faith in our own strength and depending wholly upon God. How then can we expect Jesus to come in this generation?[v]
When the Israelites stood on the shore of the Red Sea, God stood between them and the Egyptians, protecting them from harm.[vi] Yet, in spite of this very visible indication of God’s protection, they continued to cry out in fear, not trusting in God to protect and deliver them. When the waters parted in front of them, Moses urged them forward to the other side. The Lord continued to hold back the Egyptian army all that night. With the Israelites safe on the other side, He allowed the Egyptians to pursue, and the entire assembly of Israelites witnessed the destruction of the pursuing army, without their lifting a single finger in self-defense.
In spite of this powerful lesson in faith-based protection from God, they failed to move forward in faith at Kadesh Barnea and that generation could not receive the promise. How can we then, when looking toward the promised Parousia, fail to learn the same lesson? How can we then stockpile weapons and ammunition, trusting in our own strength to protect ourselves and our families, especially when we see the high spiritual cost of doing so? Do we want to continue to wander in the wilderness for yet another generation?
But what do we do if we do not have faith to give up our dependence on guns and our own strength? Like the man with the afflicted son, we need only ask God. When Jesus came down from the Mount of Transfiguration, He was confronted by a man who sought healing for his son. The disciples had been unable to heal him. Jesus pointed out that the man’s lack of faith prevented healing. The man admitted his lack of faith and asked Jesus to give him what he lacked. When that happened, Jesus was able to provide the necessary healing.[vii]
Today, we place a great deal of faith in ourselves to provide for all our needs. We trust in a medical establishment funded by health insurance to keep us healthy. We trust in filled pantries, refrigerators and freezers backed up by well-stocked grocery stores to keep us fed. We trust in home security systems and powerful weapons to keep ourselves, our families and our property protected. So much of our daily lives can be founded upon our own ability to provide for our needs that there is little opportunity to learn the lessons of surrendering all to faith in God. Like the rich, young ruler who could not surrender his possession,[viii] we find it difficult to surrender our trust in these things and replace it with a surrendered trust in God. Though this may seem impossible, with God impossibilities become realities.[ix]
We have a choice to make. We can continue to fear evil and trust in our own strength to protect us from it. In which case, God may send us lessons in the futility of that kind of trust as He did for the Israelites. On the other hand, we can choose to cross the Red Sea and move straight to the Promised Land without wandering through the wilderness of self-reliance, unable to fully trust in God. If we choose the path of faith, God will grow that faith, and He will see us home. We need only be still and move forward.
[i] Exodus 23:27-30, Deuteronomy 7:20, Joshua 24:12
[ii] Deuteronomy 1:26-46
[iii] Ephesians 2:8-9
[iv] Exodus 14:13-15
[v] Deuteronomy 1:34-35
[vi] Exodus 14:19-20
[vii] Mark 9:17-27
[viii] Matthew 19:16-22
[ix] Matthew 19:26
This Article is a Service of Still Waters Ministry
Scripture marked (NIV) taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.
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