God and guns
TULSA, Okla. — God and guns. After a string of…
Buffalo, N.Y. Uvalde, Texas. Tulsa, Okla.
As the death toll from mass shootings grows, the gun control debate once again consumes our attention.
Related: God and guns
God-fearing people on both sides of the argument claim divine approval for their position, perceiving divine disapproval toward the opposition.
With intense passion, both sides cite Scripture to support their view:
In the interest of full disclosure, I am a gun owner. I have the rifle I received as a 12-year-old boy and used while making memories on family hunting trips. After our father’s death, my brothers and I divided his guns and shared the memories they held.
Many faithful Christians view guns as spiritually neutral. Guns are about family traditions: sporting, hunting and collecting. For other faithful Christians, guns represent pain, suffering and evil.
Neutrality ends when the trigger is pulled, when evil people use guns as tools to accomplish their evil intentions. Guns are the instrument of choice for some of Satan’s most destructive purposes: intimidation, suicide and shattering innocent lives.
What is the “Christian” position on guns? While God’s people wrestle with that question, believers and nonbelievers beg the church to use what little remaining influence we have to impact community leaders and policymakers.
We can’t answer that question without addressing the foundational arguments and assumptions used in reaching our conclusion, whatever it may be. How we justify our position reveals far more about our faith than any conclusion we reach.
Regardless of our position, there are at least three fundamental truths that we must not compromise:
1. Human life is sacred. Care and concern for our neighbors, especially for “the least of these,” trump political posturing every time. Sincere people can and will disagree on the best way to reflect that care, but this concern is nonnegotiable for believers.
It’s a despicable act of partisanship when, before parents can identify the mangled remains of their children, politicians run to the nearest microphone to gain a political advantage. Seeking solutions is noble, but our first response to tragedy is typically the most revealing. Our language and actions must always reflect and honor the sacredness of life.
2. The kingdom of God is not now and never has been dependent on the aggressive use of force. Whatever our conclusion about guns, we must not deceive ourselves into thinking the survival of God’s kingdom hangs in the balance.
Jesus rejected Peter’s aggressive use of force. Establishing a kingdom using such means would only replicate the already failing kingdoms of men. Instead, Jesus built a different kind of kingdom — a kingdom “not of this world” and not advanced by traditional means of battle.
Remarkably, that kingdom grew in the face of Roman swords, wielding nothing more than the Spirit of God and the confession that Jesus is Lord.
3. Individual rights are not the church’s greatest concern. Living in a culture where “inalienable rights” are recognized as God-given is undoubtedly a blessing and a curse: Righteousness is neither established nor reliant on any of these “rights.”
For most of Christian history, faithful followers of Jesus lived in cultures that failed to recognize any such rights.
Then and now, faithfulness even requires us to forgo certain rights for the sake of others. Honest, God-fearing people can and will disagree on the merits of guns.
“As our conversations unfold, we cannot compromise the clear teachings of Scripture en route to any conclusion on any issue. And loyalty to Christ must exceed all else.”
The issue is complex. But as our conversations unfold, we cannot compromise the clear teachings of Scripture en route to any conclusion on any issue. And loyalty to Christ must exceed all else.
God’s kingdom will one day be redeemed in a reality in which swords are beaten into plowshares, and spears are used for pruning hooks (Isaiah 2:4). As his people, we long for such a day. — Jeremie Beller, for the Editorial Board
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