Guns and the Kingdom of God
This is a post about a biblical/Christian view of the gun control debate. It is not a political or constitutional one. I suppose there’s no way to make any perspective on this topic apolitical, but it is not based on a political perspective nor is it meant to make or refute political points. Christians purport to be citizens of the kingdom of God which is often in conflict with the “kingdoms of this world.” To truly be citizens of this kingdom means we take on the posture and actions of its King. I believe this King has something to say about the issue of guns in our country.
Biblical Christianity is never about personal rights.
One of the more bothersome American perspectives adopted as a Christian is the idea that we need to stand up for our rights. Jesus had the right not to take on flesh and become human–exposing himself to difficulty, pain, and death, but he humbled himself and became like us. He had the right to not die, but he willingly laid down that right for the sake of the world. Paul appealed to his right to a trial as a Roman citizen, but primarily so he could get to Rome and proclaim the gospel of Jesus there.
When we take a position on gun control (or anything else for that matter) and appeal to our personal rights we are making an explicitly American argument, not a biblical one. In the kingdom of God we have the right to lay down our rights for the sake of others.
The kingdom of God is a kingdom of peace.
In the Bible the specific brand of peace found in the kingdom of God is called shalom. This is a holistic peace that touches everything from the smallest creature to societies to the entire world. It is a peace devoid of anger, bitterness, violence, and revenge. As citizens of this kingdom we are called to be peacemakers–those who bring shalom.
We cannot be purveyors of violence and revenge and those who bring shalom. I understand the argument that there are times in our fallen world when violence is seemingly the only way to stop greater violence. I also believe we run there very quickly.
Guns are instruments of violence–especially the assault weapons that are constructed for the sole purpose of inflicting as much damage as possible in a short time. The idea of Jesus owning or advocating assault weapons is absurd. This was a man of shalom who laid down his own life and prayed for those who were killing him. Our Americanized, gun-toting Jesus must border on, if not cross over into blasphemy.
Citizens of the kingdom of God are not driven by fear.
With the horrific shootings that have occurred in our country fear is an understandable reaction. I think about the places my kids and my wife go and easily begin to worry about what someone could do to them in light of what’s happened at other schools. I hurt and cried for what has already happened to children and adults I have never met. Romans 8 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus–not angels or demons or life or death or even guns. Our hope and peace come from the knowledge of the love of God we have received in Christ that cannot be taken away.
Ultimately the worst someone can do is take this life, and in Jesus there is hope that there is life beyond their here and now. This is not something that leads me to disdain this life, but something that hopefully allows me to work for the good of others with all my might.
I cannot say I live without fear–especially for my wife and kids. Things like Newtown do cause me to fear. But I try to take that fear to the true King and trust that he loves my family more than I do–whether in good times or bad. While I may take actions because of fear I know that is not a proper motivator as a citizen of God’s kingdom. He releases us to live out of love rather than fear.
Guns in the kingdom of God
So what is a proper Christian perspective on guns and gun control? I don’t think there is one in black and white, but aside from baptizing our perspective in the water of the NRA, it must be one that leans toward non-proliferation of weapons. Whatever our perspective, we should ask these three questions.
- Is my perspective in any way a desire to retain my rights?
- Does my perspective have the power to help bring God’s shalom to my house, neighborhood, city, and world?
- Is my perspective driven by fear?