Author: Rev. Rob Schenck
- Death and killing have their origin in evil, but the gospel of Christ is about God’s gift of life: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
- The law and purposes of God are directed toward fostering life, not the taking of life: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
- When asked what were the greatest of God’s commandments, Jesus said there were two, “Love God,” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Using a firearm defensively requires the user to focus on killing a fellow human being, presenting the temptation to treat others with suspicion and contempt, and to mete out revenge on them.
- God limits the use of deadly force to a relative few in order to restrain and contain violence: “For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience” (Romans 13:3-5).
- Fear should not be a motivator to take up lethal arms. The Bible is replete with commands not to fear: “[F]ear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10). “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). “Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe” (Proverbs 29:25).
- Fear can indicate a failure of faith and, therefore, can be a precursor to sin: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:39-40) “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23b).
- We are not to fear human beings, even if they intend on doing us bodily harm. Fear implies external control and we are only to be controlled by God: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).
- Even if we intend to carry a weapon defensively, we can easily slip into an internal attitude that puts us on the offense and deludes us into falsely thinking we are more powerful than others, or, even the most powerful person in any encounter: “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, ‘The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves’” (Luke 22:24-27).
- Ethically and morally, taking the overwhelmingly dominant role—especially a deadly one—in any human encounter is problematic for a Christian and is therefore a great concern in healthy Christian discipleship:” Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
- The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution has been consistently interpreted to guarantee the legal right for U.S. Citizens to “bear arms.” (At times interpreted to mean even a God-given right.) Yet, rights and laws, even if consistent with the Law of God, are not always the best course for Christians to follow:
- “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
- From the Book of Matthew 5:37b-38:
- “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. If someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also; if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well; and if someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
- “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?”
- “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
For these ten reasons and more, I believe it is urgent for Christians, especially pastors, Bible college and seminary professors, moral theologians, and others, to prayerfully, carefully, and biblically wrestle with the question of whether arming up is consistent with a life of discipleship and Christ-like witness to the world.