Pastor John, is it necessary for a Christian man — in his divine calling to protect his wife and children — to own and be willing to use a gun? “Yes” or “No”?
“Yes” or “No.” That would be a short, “No.” Are we done?
Oh no, you’re not done.
Four Discouragements Against Owning Firearms
No, we are not done. I have a lot of thoughts about this. There are at least four reasons I would discourage people from owning firearms for the purpose of self-defense. I am not talking about hunters here. Leave that for another issue. The conclusion I come to here I don’t put on everyone else. I am bearing testimony here, not prescribing. I am telling people why I do what I do, and they can see whether it commends itself to them. Here are the reasons.
1. The Human Heart is Quick to Anger.
My human heart — or I could say the human heart — is vengeful and quick to anger. James 1:19 tells me this is really bad: “Be quick to hear . . . slow to anger.” I don’t think I am holy enough to own a gun and use it in a Christ-honoring way. I am really quick to think payback, and that is unbiblical and un-Christian, and I have to subdue it. And I don’t want a gun in my hand while I am engaging in that battle.
2. The Surrounding Culture Commends Dangerous Arrogance.
The culture around me with movies and TV shows and humorists and literature is shot through with the glorification of cool, hard, tough-talking, tough-acting women and men who have a kind of unflappable, cocky swagger that gets the last word and has the last shot. It is ubiquitous. This is a ubiquitous hero in our culture and is anything but child-like, anything but humbly reliant on the grace of God and the rescue of a Savior.
That is the air we breathe in the media, and it is not the spirit of Christ. When that is the attitude breaking in on my soul every day, the last thing I need is a gun in my hand.
3. God’s Word Discourages Repaying Evil for Evil.
Jesus and the apostles discourage us from preparing ourselves to return evil for evil. Instead, they push us towards being wronged, rather than being violent:
Matthew 5:39–41, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
In Matthew 10:16 Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves” — not, “I send you out as packing sheep.” Jesus continues, “So be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Romans 12:17, “Repay no one evil for evil.”
1 Thessalonians 5:15, “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil.”
1 Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil for evil.”
Now I know that these same texts would be used to say you shouldn’t use your fists either as just the same as using them as applying them to guns. So the person would ask me, “Are you saying don’t do anything to protect yourself or your family?” And my answer is, These texts describe a real way of loving people and glorifying the all-satisfying, all-sufficient Christ. They are one form that love takes — a very powerful form, a form that Jesus chose, almost all the time, a form of love that we don’t have enough of — that I don’t have enough of in my heart, and we don’t have enough of in the world. Our flesh is all wired and hair-triggered to go the other direction from these texts. But these texts are not the only form of love. Love may protect a child — it may protect a wife — with a physical struggle.
Here is what I am saying in quoting those texts: It is the spirit of those texts that disinclines me from arming myself so that I can do the quickest and most deadly harm in self-defense. These passages don’t sound like an arming spirit.
4. To Save a Life by Killing Does Not Invite the Protection of God.
And here is the last one: When Peter pulled his gun on the high priest in the garden of Gethsemane and shot off the ear of the high priest’s servant, Jesus picked up the ear and put it back on. What did Jesus say at that point? Because I think what he says really matters. He didn’t say, “Hey, Peter, we have been through this before. I am here to die, and you are missing the whole point. Get behind me, Satan.” He didn’t say that. He said that earlier (see Matthew 16:23; Mark 8:33). What he said was a proverb — a maxim that he applies in this situation. He said, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” That is a little proverb. And proverbs have a general truth. They are not absolute. Not everybody to the last man, but it is a general truth: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.”
“The mindset that plans to save its life by killing is not inviting the protection of God, but the violence of man.”
So, what does he mean? I think he means something like this: The mindset that plans to save its life by killing is not inviting the protection of God, but the violence of man. I will say that again. I think that is what Jesus means when he says, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” The mindset that plans to save its life by killing is not inviting the protection of God, but the violence of man.
So, my response — for what it is worth, and this is testimony, not prescription — has been to live in the inner city in Minneapolis for 33 years, raise five children there, surrounded by petty crimes and some gunshots and a little bit of a break in, and never to possess a firearm, nor do I ever intend to. God has protected us, and I believe he will. But as I see it now, I would rather be killed than to kill. For me, that would mean instant joy, but if I killed him, it might be instant hell. I am ready, and he may not be.