Jesus and Gun Control
Some time ago long before Newtown and right after a highly publicized church shooting, a reporter from the Daily Press called to ask me what I thought about armed church members during worship. I said that I didn't know exactly what I thought, though I leaned toward the view that fewer places with people packing heat was generally to be preferred over more places. I do think having armed brethren and sisteren while discussing church music or some other issue is not a great idea. Frankly, I have brothers and sisters on both sides of the gun control debate—
- Some believe that all guns should be outlawed or strictly controlled… or strictly controlled and then outlawed.
- Some believe that guns should be not be controlled at all and that bullets should be handed out like Halloween candy.
Me? I always stand with my brothers and sisters! Personally, I think there would be less violence in the world if there were no guns than there would be of everyone had a couple-- so that's the direction that I would prefer moving. But then is that either logical or realistic? Of course not! But the one thing that doesn't seem to be required for a position on gun control is being logical or realistic. I surely don't have any definitive answers… but neither does anyone else!
Our reading today from Luke 22 is one the texts that comes up in gun control discussions among Christians. Jesus is preparing the apostles for his coming crucifixion. After the Last Supper and the prediction of Peter’s denial, Jesus says, "Remember when I told you not to take any money, a bag or extra shoes with you on your ministry? Well, now you need all that stuff… and a sword to boot!" (See Luke 22:35-36). In fact, he told them to sell their coat to buy a sword! (I'd like to know where you can get a sword for the price of a used coat!) The apostles probably didn’t understand this anymore than they understood the prediction of his coming crucifixion and resurrection, but they respond, "We have couple of swords between us." Jesus says, "Two is enough."
Why does Jesus want the apostles armed? Later when he is betrayed, Jesus stops the apostle ot apostles who use the two swords to defend him (Peter swinging both swords? Sounds like him). Jesus heals the man hurt by the sword play before Jesus stepped in to stop it (Luke 22:51). He clearly contrasts His ministry and movement with a rebellion led by people with swords and clubs (Luke 22:52). It seems that Jesus wanted his disciples armed but He did not want them using the swords in His name. He wanted them and the world to know that He was giving himself over to be crucified because that was His choice and not because His servants would not fight to protect him. Christians should never use violence to promote or defend the kingdom of God. The use of the sword is part of the kingdom of men (Rom 13:4), but Jesus sees a marked difference between the kingdom of men and the kingdom of God (Mark 10:41-44). Power and violence have their place in the kingdom of men; the only power in the kingdom of God is that of service and a cross.
But what does this text have to say about guns and Christians today? Some see it proving that Jesus approves of His disciples OWNING firearms? Other argue that it shows that Jesus prohibits his disciples from USING firearms. I think Luke 22 probably proves the same thing that modern statistics prove about gun violence and gun control-- it proves whatever you believed before you read it!
Me? I think two swords are enough!