It seems that many consider mass shootings an opportunity to voice again a particular political agenda on gun rights and gun controls. This is a sad response to tragedy, but not unexpected. Recently a president of a Christian university gained media attention because he strongly encouraged the students to take a concealed carry class. As usual, some observers responded with praise and others with derision. Christian opinion is divided on the issue of guns. Some insist that Christian love demands believers do all they can to help bring about tighter restrictions on gun ownership. Others insist that Christians have a duty to protect the innocents by arming themselves against the attacks of violent people. What does the Bible say about this matter?
To get the obvious out of the way, the Bible does not say anything specific about guns because guns were not invented until centuries after the Bible was written. However, the Bible does say a little about the possession of weapons of violence. Because the situation of Israel was unique, Old Testament descriptions of warfare and self defense are not particularly applicable to Christians in America today. A few New Testament events offer some insight into how to think about this matter.
Jesus was not opposed to the ownership of personal weapons. In Luke 22 Jesus gives the disciples instructions for continuing ministry after His death. He specifically tells them, “He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Before going into the garden of Gethsemane the disciples told Jesus they had two swords. He does not rebuke them for having the but tells them, “It is enough.” When the guards came to the garden of Gethsemane to capture Jesus, Peter pulled out his sword and started swinging. Jesus rebuked Peter, but His earlier words indicate the rebuke was because Jesus’ arrest was necessary. The suggestion that Jesus rebuked Peter for using a sword seems to contradict the earlier instructions to carry a sword. One must be careful with applying these passage to gun control or weapons ownership because that is not their purpose. However, these passages do show that Jesus permitted, and in at least one case commanded, His followers to carry weapons.
Aside from Peter’s flailing in the garden, we have no Biblical example of Christian’s using the sword in self-defense. The silence of Scriptures leaves the possession of guns in the arena of Christian liberty. Really the only other thing that can be definitively said is that carrying firearms should not be a matter of division among believers. Those who want to own and carry handguns should be fully convinced in their own minds that they have the Biblical freedom to do so. They should not demean other Christians who are convinced it is wrong to own or carry guns. Those Christian’s who are opposed to gun ownership must also be fully convinced in their own mind about the matter. They must hold that position without despising those who carry firearms This should not be a matter of division or strife between Christians.
This issues raised by mass shootings and terrorist threats are not easily answered. Christian’s must give a well reasoned, Biblically based response to the problems. Every believer has a political opinion, but we must be careful to not confuse political ideologies with Biblical truths.