By Ed McAteer
Like most of America, I am saddened with the recent school shootings across America. Loss of life is never good, and we can only wonder how those who commit such atrocities can do so.
Tragic as the shootings are, do we, as a people need to heed President Obama's gun control concerns? As a believer in Christ, is it right to own a gun? Debates over whether to control guns or how much to control them depend largely on political and philosophical arguments, not moral ones. This is not to say there is no moral component to the issue. The gun itself is amoral, an object that can be used for good or for evil.
More important is the morality of the person wielding the gun, and that is often the missing consideration in the gun-control argument. The fact that someone may use guns to commit a crime does not mean guns are the problem. Sin is the problem, and that is a moral and spiritual issue. Since the beginning of humanity, people have been killing other people, with and without weapons. Taking a weapon out of circulation might make murder more difficult but not impossible.
The recent shootings across the United States have caused much heartache. The senseless and tragic incidents also renewed the intensity of discussion about American gun laws. Politicians, athletes, and theologians have all weighed in on the issue of gun control. Guns are readily available in America, and ownership is protected by the Constitution. So, how should a Christian view gun control? Does the Bible have anything to say that applies?
Written before the invention of any gun, the phrase “gun control” is not found in Scripture. However, the Bible records many accounts of wars, battles, and the use of weapons. Warfare is presented as an unavoidable part of living in a fallen world, and weaponry is a necessary part of warfare.
Weapons in the Bible were also used for personal protection. In parts of Israel, robbers were common and people carried weapons when they traveled. Carrying a weapon for self-defense is never condemned in the Bible. In fact, Luke 22:35-38 mentions it in a positive light by Jesus Himself.
Christians are called to submit to governing authorities, and they are to obey the laws of the land. This would have to apply to gun laws, too. If American gun laws change, Christians should submit to these changes and work through democratic means toward any desired alternatives.
The Bible does not forbid possessing weapons, and neither does it command such possession. Laws may come and go, but the goal of the believer in Jesus Christ remains the same: to glorify the Lord.
Another biblical principle to consider is that “all who draw the sword will die by the sword." Jesus said this to Peter when Peter tried to mount a reckless “defense” of Jesus against the mob that had come to arrest Him. Peter’s actions were not only useless against such a “large crowd armed with swords and clubs," but his foolish behavior also refuted Jesus’ submissive attitude and worked against fulfilling Scripture. There is “a time for war and a time for peace," and Peter confused the two.
Christianity supports personal freedom. When Scripture does not clearly address a particular issue, there is freedom for individual choice. America has historically embraced personal freedom that resonates with this principle, and the founding documents guarantee wide freedoms regarding firearms.
Some may point to Mathew 5:9 in which Jesus pronounces a blessing on the peacemakers, and apply it to the issue of gun control. The idea is that guns are opposing to peace. This may be more of a philosophical or political idea than a theological one. There is nothing theologically, or even logically, that links guns to a lack of peace; sometimes, guns help keep civil peace.
As I see it, the use of guns is a matter of personal conviction. I believe the Bible supports this train of thought. There is nothing unspiritual about owning a gun or knowing how to use one. There is nothing wrong with protecting oneself or loved ones, even if it involves the use of weapons. We need not pretend there is never a need for guns, but pointing a gun at a person should always be a last resort. We should seek to defuse threats without violence whenever possible.
With the authority God has entrusted to it; the government has the right to allow or disallow gun ownership to whatever degree it considers right. We, as citizens, are called to submit to whatever gun control laws the government institutes. This is not, however, a statement on the wisdom of gun control. There are good reasons to allow law-abiding citizens to own guns. Ultimately, guns are not the problem. Sinful people are the problem.