Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Christian gun owner- oxymoron or legit?

It's been a few years now since I shot my first firearm.  Thanks to my husband, I've gotten more and more proficient with this form of protection, and continue to hone my skill should I ever, God forbid, need to use one to protect myself or a member of my family.

Prior to taking my concealed carry class or purchasing my first gun, I had a good long talk with God and many sessions with my Bible.  Being new to true Christianity I am cautious of being tripped up when it comes to God's will for me as a believer.  I wanted to be sure if I went down this path that it would be with Biblical support and not against it.

As you can imagine, I was able to find lots of information and "facts" about what God says regarding the use of weapons for self-defense on both sides of the argument.  I'd like to take a minute to talk about what I found in my research and what led me to conclude that God calls us to protect ourselves and others.  This is not meant to be an expository about fighting gun control, laws restricting who should have guns and what type, what our founding fathers meant by the 2nd ammendment, or any arguments such as these. I'm sure I will get into that at some point as I do feel VERY VERY strongly about these things and think they are important to talk about.  For now, though, I'd like to discuss the very simple matter of whether or not the Bible supports Christians arming themselves with weapons and then using them in self-defense or the defense of others.

First Point: anti-gun anti/violence proponents often claim that the 6th commandment denounces all killing.
Those who believe guns are evil and go against Christian values often cite the 6th commandment as proof of this.  Depending on where you look this commandment can read either "you shall not kill" or "you shall not murder".  Whether the word is kill or murder is not simply a matter of semantics, but actually changes the meaning of this commandment and therefore is of primary importance.

So which one is correct?  It appears that this commandment is one of the most commonly mistranslated of them all.  The Hebrew version of this commandment is Lo tirtzach which, translated, means "Do not murder".  I found example after example that this is indeed the correct translation of the Hebrew and therefore will go with "Thou Shall Not Murder" as the correct translation of the 6th commandment.

Now- what exactly is the difference between murder and killing?  Don't these words mean the same thing? The Hebrew word for “murder” literally means “the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice.”  So, intentionality is really what we are looking at when determining whether someone has killed vs. murdered. Even under common law (law originating from custom and court decisions rather than statutes), murder was an intentional killing that was unlawful (in other words, not legally justified), and committed with "malice aforethought."

So, those who would argue that God prohibits killing in all circumstances would not be able to cite the 6th commandment as proof of that statement.  God says you may not MURDER... but there is a such thing as justified killing.

Second Point: God calls us to turn the other cheek
Anti-gun/Anti-Violence people have often quoted passages in the Bible that advocate turning the other cheek, suffering instead of causing suffering, and loving your enemies.  Once again, anytime the Bible is quoted and interpreted for meaning, CONTEXT is critical.

Turning the other cheek as quoted in Matthew 5:39 and Luke 6:29 is not referring to mortal harm, but rather insult.  The Bible is very clear that you are not to retaliate against insult or other personal offenses that do not put your physical life in danger.  Back in the day being slapped via a backhand was a common way to describe an insult.  The Sermon on the Mount, where many people go to cite examples that Jesus calls us to be pacifists, really had nothing whatsoever to do with that.  Jesus was actually clearing up confusion about personal conduct around revenge or taking the law into your own hands. God is very clear throughout the Bible that individual retaliation toward others is not OK, but rather, rests in the hands of the government or "the law".  Killing as a form of retaliation is very different than killing in self-defense, and the Bible makes that very clear in both the New and the Old Testament.  Killing in retaliation becomes murder because of the pre-meditation and malicious intent involved.

Third Point: God calls us to protect ourselves and others from mortal harm
There are very clear directives and examples given in both the New and the Old Testament about our freedom AND obligation to protect ourselves and loved ones from those who would seek to do us physical harm, both individually and as groups.  Exodus 22: 2-3 says that if someone breaks into a home at night when their intent can't be easily determined (it's dark, you have been awoken from sleep and are disoriented), the homeowner has a right to kill in self-defense with no repercussion.  It goes on to say if the same person were to break in during daylight where it was obvious they were there only to steal, then killing would not be justified.  Why? Because, again, killing another must be used as a last resort to protect yourself or another from being killed. Killing to protect your stuff; not on the same level.  Of course, you have to know FOR SURE that you are not in mortal harm, and I would argue that if someone breaks into your house while you are there, there isn't a lot of opportunity to discern intent and to err on the side of caution and protection is always wise.  God knows what you know, so if you are truly fearful for your life, God says you may take the bad guy out.

I'd like to take this a step further, though, and point out that there are many passages that show that not only does God condone using lethal force in self-defense, but that He actually commands us to protect ourselves and others.
"Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked." Psalm 82:4
"... But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman's hand." Ezekiel 33 
Another example from the Old Testament. When Lot and his people were captured, Abram had no problem rescuing them with force (Genesis 14:13-16). How about Nehemiah?
"Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows."  Nehemiah 4:13
God calls us to fight for His kingdom.  If Nehemiah did not have his men arm themselves while they worked to rebuild the walls, they would have been killed and failed.  The same thing happened when David fought the Philistines and when Moses and the Israelites fought the Amalekites and many other examples in the Bible where deadly weapons were used to defeat God's enemies who were bent on killing them. With God's direction and support men were led to arm themselves over and over again.  "A righteous man who falters before the wicked is like a murky spring and a polluted well" Proverbs 25:26.... we have no right to hand over our life, which is a gift from God, to the unrighteous. 

What about the New Testament?  Didn't Jesus scold Peter for using a sword to fight off the guards that were taking Him away (John 18:10-11)?  Doesn't that show that Jesus was against using a weapon in defense? Again, context is critical.  Jesus condemned Peter's action not because of his intent to defend Christ, but because Peter was getting in the way of God's plan for the guards to take Jesus.  Note that He didn't rebuke him for having the sword (a gun in today's world), but rather only for using it at that time.  Later on in Luke 22:36 Jesus advises his Apostles not only to arm themselves, but to sell their coats if necessary to do so. That's a pretty strong recommendation considering that the Apostles were going to be traveling and spending a lot of time sleeping outside where a coat would have been pretty important.

To sum up:
  • The 6th Commandment states that you should not murder, and the definition of murder is intentionality, along with premeditation or malice- Exodus 20:13...
  • Some 50 verses later God calls us to protect ourselves from physical harm using lethal force if necessary- 22:2-3 supporting the fact that killing is different from murder
  • Multiple examples of God commanding His people to arm themselves in both the Old and New Testament to protect from physical harm and to protect others from deadly intentions as well
  • Multiple examples of God commanding us NOT to retaliate with physical harm to insults and character attacks- further distinguishing how serious the situation must be to justify using deadly force against another
Killing becomes murder when (and only when) it is not properly justified.  Scripture is clear regarding the justification: you can use whatever force necessary to protect your own life from a hostile aggressor, or to save the life of an innocent from such imminent, life-threatening danger. Do not take the responsibility of arming yourself lightly.  We will all stand before God and answer for our actions in this life.  If you neglect your responsibility to yourself and others, there will be consequences just the same as if you neglect to follow God's commands and use the right to self-defense foolishly and without justification.

"Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight" Psalm 144:1 

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