Hey, how about gun control? Who wants to talk more about that!?
You know, I wasn’t going to write anything on this issue and what surrounds it but it really is something that burns pretty passionately in my heart and so I’m gonna address it.
I’ve seen a lot of blogs come out lately about how we need guns in order to protect ourselves so we should be against more gun legislation. They say we have the right, and duty, to defend ourselves and we need guns to do it. Recent tragedies have certainly escalated the whole debate.
My thoughts on this matter are going to be on the more unpopular side of public opinion. I realize that and I’m okay with it. In this post I’m only going to be dealing with the issue as it relates to supposed justifiable violence, and those who love and follow Jesus. The following is actually adapted from a piece I wrote last year called, The Problem With Loving Enemies.
I wasn’t always against violence. In fact, it’s kinda strange to say that I am now. I used to demand violence as an answer to the worlds problems because it was my highest form of justice. I could condone executions and wars without batting an eyebrow. It wasn’t only vindicated in my eyes, but it was the will of God. But things changed as I grew in my understanding of God by looking through the lens of Jesus.
Webster defines a Pacifist in this way: a person who believes that war and violence are unjustifiable.
Sometimes I feel the word pacifist is too small to capture such a big issue. But I do feel like it sums up my current convictions very well. Unjustifiable. Based on what? I think the only thing that brought me to a confident position is what I truly believe everything should come back to for anyone claiming to be a believer – the life and ministry of Jesus.
If Jesus is the exact and complete representation of the Father, and if He is the same yesterday, today and forever, and if we have studied the life and ministry of Jesus, and if Paul told us to be imitators of God, we should have a very hard time reconciling what many Christians would refer to as justifiable violence, and the cross. Especially when Jesus said things like:
- Do not resist an evil person (Matthew 5:39)2. Turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39)3. All who take the sword will perish by the sword (Matthew 26:52)4. Children of the Father will love enemies (Luke 6:35)5. Conform wholly to My way of living (Matthew 16:24 amp)
He rebuked the disciples who wanted to call fire down on a town and walked through violent crowds with out lifting a hand in defense (Luke 4, 9). Also, very quickly, those who use the temple scene at which Jesus overturned tables and whipped people and animals in order to justify violence don’t understand that when it says, Jesus drove them out, the use of the word drove implies a tone of voice rather than action. In addition, the people of the day would whip the ground in order to produce a loud crack that would move the animals where they needed to go. Jesus was angry and may have flipped some tables but he didn’t whip anyone, not even the animals.
I don’t make a lot of dogmatic statements these days. When you get burned by them as much as I have hopefully you learn to be a bit more flexible in what you believe. So I won’t make any dogmatic statements now. But at this point in my life it bothers me that so many Christians claim they wouldn’t think twice about killing someone who breaks into their home and/or threatens their family.
And that’s really one of the main reasons, other than hunting or the range, why many Christians say they would own and use a gun. The scenario always seems to be, “What are you going to do if someone breaks into your home with the intent to do unspeakable horrors to your family?”
But when did it become okay to bow to the worlds system? Why is this scenario justification to abolish the kingdom principals Jesus came to establish and live, and dive head first into the world’s way of handling problems?
I’ve had some people answer in a way that points out the current status of the world and that certain things have to be done in order to combat it. “It’s just the way it is,” they say. And while there is some truth to that I don’t think it gives us the right to adopt a world mentality in exchange for what Jesus taught and lived.
When I read through the bible I see a picture of a loving God that will bend to the current culture because he loves us enough to meet us where we’re at. I think we glimpse this when we see that Jesus never overtly came out against the oppression and marginalization of women, and slavery (He certainly challenged them in many ways). A mistake many of us make today is that we confuse bending to the culture with condoning the behavior. I hope none of us today would say God condones slavery and the oppression of women.
Here’s the point: God bending to the culture is always for the purpose of moving us toward his ideal. Jesus didn’t condone slavery. As we see through what Paul continued to teach, God’s will was to move the culture out of that and into equality.
The same is true for violence no matter how much we may think it’s justified. God may have bent to us as we’ve entered into wars and demanded weapons for self defense, but it’s his ultimate goal to move us away from that and into his ideal. And that ideal is self-sacrificial love defined by Jesus dying instead of killing. A question each of us should ask is, “Do I want to be someone who continues to perpetuate the world system or someone who moves toward God’s ideal?” Maybe another one we should ask is, “why am I so comfortable saying I would take a life when Jesus did everything to avoid it?”Being imitators of Jesus means that violence shouldn’t be our default in hairy situations. Self sacrificial… Click To Tweet
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; But I tell you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, To show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].
Matthew 5:43-45 amp
Love them! Keep in mind that Jesus’ audience were dealing with Romans who would come in and crucify innocent people just to make an example, to keep the peace of Rome. It was horrendous. It would be like Jesus telling us to love and pray for Isis. But He does tell us to love them even as they terrorize the world. He does tell us to love the intruder even though they might kill or do unspeakable things to those we love.
I can hear the question I’ve gotten many times before. “What’s the answer then when someone is about to harm your family?” My response might be, what about the name of Jesus? What about asking the Holy Spirit to show us how to respond? I know that I’ll be dead or unconscious before I watch my family being harmed. But I also know that I won’t take a life or escalate violence.
We’ve got to eliminate the inner dialogue telling us that there’s no other way to deal with evil people. Click To Tweet Jesus found a way and we’re supposed to be like him.
This is a hard issue and it’s a volatile one. But it’s time to stop ignoring the words of Jesus regarding enemies. It’s time to start wrestling with it. And it needs to be wrestled with because violence is contrary to the character and nature of God we see in Jesus. It’s contrary to love and we, as followers of Jesus, are instructed to love in everything we do.
Jesse and Kara Birkey
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