This is not meant to be a political discussion. I don’t care what the Constitution says. I don’t care about the Second Amendment. I’m not trying to change your rights. If you disagree with this post, feel free to ignore it. But for people who identify as Christians, I am asking all of us to spend some time reflecting on the issue.
America has a gun problem. My home state of Texas has an even bigger gun problem.
Guns are a way of life in Texas. Most people that I know own at least one gun. Many people I know own several guns. They own guns for a lot of different reasons. Some people use guns strictly for hunting. Other people collect guns. Other people keep guns for protection.
Whatever the reason for owning guns, people here love them. Love them. Can’t get enough of them. Guns are a part of our culture.
But should they be?
Is it healthy for a culture comprised primarily of Christians to have such a heavy emphasis on weapons?
In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah gives an account of a vision of the end times. In the last days, Isaiah tells us, the Lord’s temple will be established, and the Lord will judge between the nations and settle disputes for many people. The people, then, Isaiah 2 says, will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nobody will take up the sword against anybody else, and nobody will train for war anymore.
Many of my friends who are not pacifists often point to God’s use of violence in the Old Testament as an indicator that violence is not inherently unjust or evil. But passages like the one in Isaiah reveal to us that even in the Old Testament where violence was taken for granted, the ultimate hope of life in communion with God was one in which instruments of destruction were transformed into tools that sustain life.
And who doesn’t enjoy that imagery? What Christian doesn’t look forward to the day when God will right all wrongs, and we will all live at peace with our neighbors?
We’re a people that claims to love and adhere to the Bible, a book that literally tells us that under God’s reign, God’s people will voluntarily convert their weapons into farm equipment. And we’re also a people that buys bumper stickers that say things like, “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
Pick a lane.
We cannot love the Prince of Peace and also cling to tools of violence.
People who love their weapons cannot look forward to the day when they will be beaten into plowshares.
Those are mutually exclusive worldviews.
It’s not just guns. It’s all weapons of violence. A culture that celebrates the tools of violence cannot simultaneously rejoice in the day when the tools of violence will be destroyed. Those are two things that just can’t coexist.
It’s either “You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”
“They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
Pick one. You can’t have both. And only one of those is scriptural.
Now, someone will surely say, “You don’t have to love your guns to see them as necessary.” And that’s a fair point. Owning guns and loving guns are two separate things entirely.
Some people own guns strictly for the purpose of hunting. Hunting is a recreational activity that also helps people feed their families. In this instance, a gun is a tool, and just a tool.
There are also people who own guns solely for the purpose of protecting themselves and their family. While I think Jesus modeled an ethic of non-violence that asks his followers to carry a cross, rather than a gun, there are many strong and faithful Christians who don’t interpret Jesus’ teachings and life the same way. They own a gun because they see it as an unfortunate reality of the world they live in. I respectfully disagree, and that disagreement was the subject of last week’s post.
But I don’t live in a culture that reluctantly accepts the existence of guns. I live in a nation and region that rejoices in its weapons. Our guns define who we are. If that bumper sticker is to be believed, we’d rather die than not have guns.
I have multiple Facebook friends who, after every mass shooting in our country, they change their profile pictures to pictures of themselves holding guns. While real people weep over the loss of loved ones to gun violence, we immediately jump into defense mode on behalf of our guns.
We stand by our right to bear arms more than we stand by grieving people.
How can we ever be peacemakers in the world when we love weapons more than victims of those weapons? (And make no mistake about it, if you hear of a shooting in the news and your first thought is, “Oh no, they’re going to try and take my guns.” then you love guns more than you love the people killed by them.)
How can we ever hope to achieve a society that doesn’t need guns if we love them too much to let them go?
The gun culture of America is dangerous and spiritually damaging to us. It prevents us from seeking after the establishment of God’s kingdom. A love of guns anchors us to violence as a way of life, when Christ calls us to be peacemakers.
You may have your second amendment right. I’m not trying to change that. But as Christians, we’re not required to exercise it.
If we want to change the culture of gun violence in America, we first have to change the culture of gun loving in America. We become what we love. If we love weapons of violence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to us when we become weapons of violence. Our culture praises violence, lives by violence, and embraces weapons of violence, and then can’t figure out why so many people become victims of violence.
We will never overcome violence with guns. We can only create more violence. And loving our guns will only make it harder for us to surrender them to God.
But the good news is that even though it’s true that violence creates violence, it’s also true that peace creates peace.
The church ought to love peace. Christians make up a third of all the people who live on the Earth. If we were committed to non-violence in a real and radical way, we could create peace on Earth simply by being a people of peace. By laying down our weapons and trusting in the power of God, God can work that peace through us.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness. When we lay down our weapons, we become weak. But weakness is where God reveals God’s strength. For those who follow Christ, our weakness is God’s greatest asset in the world.
And whether we lay our weapons down now, or they’re stripped from our cold, dead hands later, one day they’re going to be beaten into plowshares. Why wouldn’t we want to join in that process as early as we can?