Friday, 28 March 2008

Guns In Church?

Recently there appeared an article in our local newspaper (March 22, 2008) entitled, “Pastor whose church was attacked recommends armed guards.” The article begins by saying, “(Colorado Springs, Colo.) The senior pastor at a megachurch where a gunman killed two teenage sisters before being shot by a church volunteer recommends all churches have armed guards.”

What’s wrong with that story? My first thought was, what in the world was a church volunteer doing carrying a gun to a church service? Granted, the carnage could have been much worse had he not shot and killed the gunman. But do the ends justify the means? Certainly it is sad that anyone gets shot and killed by a deranged madman with a gun, regardless whether it’s in a church or anywhere else for that matter.

What I’m concerned with is the promoting of weapons in general, and armed guards in particular, by church leaders for use in the church facilities. No matter which way one looks at it, I doubt very much that Jesus would have come up with the same proposal to such a problem, even if ten times as many people had been killed.

When Jesus was arrested, certainly the disciples with Him thought they were being attacked. Peter himself even went so far as to draw a sword (probably would have been a gun had the technology existed then) and retaliated by cutting off someone’s ear (John 18:10). Jesus quickly rebuked him for doing that. In the parallel passage in Matthew 26:52, Jesus said, “all who draw the sword will die by the sword.”

In Revelation 2:10, Jesus says to the Church in Smyrna, “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer…Be faithful even to the point of death.” What is He saying here? Is He suggesting that the believers arm themselves or hire armed guards to protect them if an attack comes? No, He is not. Actually, our Lord isn’t even saying “if” an attack comes; rather He acknowledges that attacks “will” come. Interesting how, knowing that attacks “will” come, still He does not promote any semblance of retaliation by arming the believers. All Jesus did say was “be faithful even to the point of death.” Wow.

The newspaper article in question continued by saying that there was a “forum on church security that drew participants from about 120 Colorado churches.” The article went on to say “Several U.S. churches have been quietly adding armed guards in recent years, while others have avoided the practice because they either don’t have the money or don’t want to appear like a fortress.” However, if churches arm themselves, what else are they saying in doing so? Are they not also essentially saying that they are preparing themselves for retaliation if and/or when attacks come? I believe that they are. Before we go any further, let’s consider a few Scriptures.
Leviticus 19:18. “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.” 
Proverbs 20:22. “Do not say, ‘I’ll pay you back for this wrong!’ Wait for the Lord and He will deliver you.” 
Proverbs 24:29. “Do not say, ‘I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.’” 
Matthew 5:39. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” 
Romans 12:17. “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.” 
1 Thessalonians 5:15. “Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” 
1 Peter 3:9. “Do not repay anyone evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”
There are many other Scriptures that also say the same thing, but the point has been made; retaliation is never a part of God’s plan for us. Certainly, like most things in life, that is usually easier said than done. What do we do with deranged madmen who run amuck in our midst? What do we do with maniacal gun-toting murders? I know if someone like that were to harm one of my family members, the carnal side of me would be quick to want to fight back. I suppose we could say that it’s even human nature. However, while that may be my nature to want such a response, it is not God’s nature. God’s nature on such things is pretty clear in the preceding verses. Our carnal side says that we have our rights, including to bear arms, and that we are not going to stand quietly by and be any lunatic’s doormat.

Therein lies the real root of the problem; the constant struggle of living according to the acts of the sinful nature versus living according to the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Guns are only necessary where there is hatred. Hatred is listed among the acts of the sinful nature. The opposite of hatred is love, and where there is love there is also no need for guns. This whole thing strikes me as somewhat ironic in that, while we speak of God as being a God of love, we have those in our midst who essentially want to put a holstered gun on God’s hip! How is that possible? My God is a God of love, who loved me so much that He armed Himself and retaliated at His Son’s crucifixion by blowing the brains out of those who killed Jesus. Is that how the Gospels read? Of course not! It’s sad how we preach one thing and so often live according to a completely different set of values. It really is little wonder that much of the non-Christian world so often looks at Christians and shakes their heads saying, “Hypocrites!”

This leads me to another point that I’ve often harped on before, and must do again. Institutional churches will always have elements to them that go contrary to Scriptural teachings. Why? Because they are man-made institutions and not what God ordained that His church should be. The institutional church will always teach and do things that promote its own survival and protect its own assets.

So now, according to the aforementioned newspaper article, we see approximately 120 institutional churches in Colorado alone convening a forum to discuss “church security” in their respective institutions. No surprise there! Of course they have to do that, given that they have their own respective “kingdoms” to protect. Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). So where then is the Kingdom of God? Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21). Notice that He didn’t say that you are “in” it, in the sense that you can be “in” a specific place or building. So if the kingdom is within each of us, then it is spiritual and not physical.

Each man’s work will be tested by fire. Paul says that, “no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

Isn’t it interesting that God’s Word says that He will test our work with fire and yet we are busy doing everything we can to protect our “work” (buildings) from that fire that, God Himself will sooner or later be sending? The fact of the matter is that, in building our own kingdoms with gold and silver and costly stones, we’re working against God! When will we start to see that God isn’t interested in our institutional church buildings (megachurch or not) any more than He is interested in the supermarket or gas station down the street? The kingdom is within us; it is spiritual. We are not within the kingdom in the sense that we are in some physical place.

Sooner or later that place that everyone is so concerned about protecting, is going to burn. There is no doubt about it. Go ahead an arm yourselves in an effort to protect what you have built, but God is going to test that thing that you have built, and He is going to do so with fire.

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23). If living according to the “fruit of the Spirit” is really the quest of all true Christians, then here’s my final question: where do guns fit in? I wonder.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

4 comments:

  1. In John 20:26, the disciples met behind locked doors. They did so however, not in fear of some random madman, but because they were being actively hunted. I wonder if Jesus would have still said "Peace be with you!" if He saw them cowering afraid of some unknown and unseen assailant? I suspect He would have used His "oh ye of little faith" line at a time like that.

    I don't think we should go looking for the next madman to send us to meet our Lord, but we should not fear that day either.

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  2. Meeting behind locked doors is one thing, arming ourselves with weapons against a perceived attack is quite another. I think Jesus would still have said "Peace be with you." To have His peace, no matter what happens, is crucial. The more the peace of Christ is within us, the less we are likely to be concerned with whatever the world happens to throw our way.

    I don't usually like cliches much, but one that fits is the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) that was popularized some years ago. If we are genuine Christians, and if Jesus is truly our example, then the question of weapons and potential retaliation really needs to find its answer in Him.

    Am I there yet? No, but "I'm Pressing On" (Philippians 3:12-14).

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  3. The main reason you see these madmen going into schools, and churches to kill is because there is little to no chance of opposition to them in their murderous acts.
    You don't see them running into Police stations, or NRA meetings to do their deeds do you?

    There is no prohibition in the scriptures against defending yourself or family.
    Period.

    Jesus clearly allowed self-defense (Luke 22:36). Jesus instructed his disciples to buy a sword if they did not already have one.
    Jesus rebuke of the apostle who sliced off buddies ear must be taken into context, the scriptures had to be fulfilled, so defending Jesus from arrest was not in the game plan.
    At least two of the apostles were armed at this time. If having a weapon was so wrong why no rebuke before the ear hacking event?

    "If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft" (Exodus 22: 2-3.) He who steals into another’s home bears the responsibility of his criminal action. Self-defense is not a crime.

    There is no prohibition for Christians serving in the military/police. Occupations that can, and do lead to the death of other people.

    Defending yourself or loved ones is not vengeance.
    Matthew 5:39-
    "Jesus specifically mentions the right here , even though a blow from a right-handed person would normally fall on the left cheek. This probably means that the blow is delivered with the back of the hand, since then it would indeed fall on the right cheek. We know for certain that such a blow was considered particularly insulting. The injustice that is willingly accepted here is therefore not so much a matter of body injury as of shame." (H.N. Ridderbos. "Matthew": Bible Students Commentary. Zondervan. p. 113)

    "At a closer look this passage deals with how one must respond after being insulted. This is not a passage dealing with what one must do when being physically attacked and having one’s life being threatened".

    Just sayin':)

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  4. When you espouse a biblical theory, one way to test it is to extrapolate it to alternative circumstances and see if it still holds water, or still makes sense.
    The general understanding of turning the other cheek sounds ok, but what would you do if someone came into your house and started to rape your wife or daughter? Would you still turn the other cheek?
    "Help yourself my friend, I have no intention of protecting her, that would be unChristian".

    Would you call the police? No! Consistent with turning the other cheek also means that you have no right to call anyone else to confront the aggressor on your behalf!

    I am the Lord, I change not, means the God of the OT is also the God of the NT, ie. Jesus, and He has not changed since he inspired the prophets.
    God/Jesus gave permission to kill a household intruder without guilt. Yes that was the Law of Moses, now surpassed of course, but that selfsame God has not changed his mind. This applies to all the other OT things which still reveal the attitude of God to criminals and evil doers.
    In much of his teaching, Jesus was illustrating personal attitudes which revealed unrighteousness of heart which needed to be dealt with, rather than a new level of law making.
    Righteousness never came from the law, and I am not calling for the Law to be re-established, however it does reveal what God thinks about many things we dismiss as outdated.

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