An acquaintance on Facebook wrote to me as follows:
Keith, one should always look at all the teachings of Jesus and study before drawing conclusions – I think. In Matthew 26:52 Jesus also said:”Put your sword back in its place. … for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” And then proceeds to say he could call upon his Father to protect if needed. Actions at this point reported almost the same in Mark and Luke. The only place I am aware of where Jesus acted with anything close to violence was in his removal of the money changers from the temple. And there it was his reacting to the sacrilege of the temple. Paul also said, “we must obey God rather than man.” If one must choose between God’s command to love everyone and their constitutional right to kill or maim someone in defense of their family? Most everyone will choose to defend his/her family. Fortunately, these are rare instances. Most killings in our country don’t so occur, most are by intentional shootings of victims, accidental shootings of innocent victims – many children – , suicide, and in small number – some mass shootings. The big question for everyone is: Are the 30,000 or so killings in our country every year (and growing) justified, just so that every citizen can have access to any type gun? Particularly when we can look at many other countries and see their killings are a tiny fraction of that in our country. I don’t wish to debate the 2nd Amendment. I just wish a fair discussion of my question.
My response follows…
[Name], I couldn’t agree more. The context of a passage of Scripture, the need to diligently cross-reference other passages, and being as familiar as possible with the whole counsel of God in Scripture is essential. So often, folks grab a snippet from the “good book” and off they go glibly into error.
One example is how the Sixth Commandment should be understood: “You shall not commit murder.” Yet, in Genesis 9:6 we read “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man.” So the just and lawful execution of a murderer at the hand of human beings (after due process, of course) is not the same as the crime of homicide. This is further established in God’s Law by the “lex talionis,” the rule of retaliation. It was given to prevent the infliction by sinful man of punishments that went beyond what the crime committed required.
So God commanded “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” so that enraged lynch mobs and vigilantes, ignoring due process, would not take two eyes for one tooth, or an arm and a leg for one eye. He commanded life for life so that entire families would not be obliterated in escalating blood feuds. Jesus in His sermon on the mount is not negating the Law, He is giving the correct understanding of it to those who had twisted it.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Jesus speaking, Matthew 5:17)
“Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” (the apostle Paul, Romans 3:31)
Here is another classic example of how a superficial understanding of Biblical truth comes into play. Many people are quick to say “do not judge” when a certain behavior is condemned by another. “Who are YOU to judge?!” is often added with great moral indignation. The actual Bible verse is “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1; parallel Luke 6:37)
But turning to John 7:24, we find the Lord Christ also saying “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” In both cases, He is speaking imperatively…the Master commanding His disciples about judging!
So actually we are commanded to judge! But we are to do so righteously and without hypocrisy, not ignoring our own failings and always tempering judgment with mercy. Christ’s apostle Paul laments as follows to the Christian disciples at Corinth:
“…Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren?” (1 Corinthians 6:5)
So I agree, we get in trouble when we operate with only a superficial understanding of the Word of God. Since guns are a means of self-defense (yes they also can be used for wicked purposes, like building bricks, baseball bats, or butcher knives), let’s bring more of the full teaching of Scripture to bear on the heart of the matter. Do the words of Jesus about turning the other cheek, or other statements in the Bible, mean we are forbidden to defend ourselves or others? My judgment is no, the Bible does not forbid us to defend ourselves or others.
That is why in another post I referred to Jesus’ words at Luke 22:26 “…But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” (Luke 22:36)
Just as one might embrace the “do not judge” command but ignore the “judge righteous judgment” command, so here. One might err by taking the statement Luke records out of context, disregarding the full teaching of the Bible, and concluding that Jesus’ kingdom is one which advances by military might. That of course would be wrong, as you pointed out citing Matthew 26.
There, the Lord says that He could appeal to His Father Who would send twelve legions of angels to deliver Him. Had the Lamb of God asked for and received that temporal deliverance from the cross that lay ahead of Him, He could not have lovingly laid down His life as the substitutionary sacrifice for His sheep, that they might have forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Standing before Pilate, Christ said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (John 18:36)
So let’s put this together. His kingdom does not originate in this world, but at present it is in this world. It does not advance by the sword (or the gun) but by the Gospel, “the power of God unto salvation.” (Romans 1:16)
Nevertheless, there is evidently a just and lawful use of swords, or the sinless and perfect Christ would not have told anyone to go BUY a sword! The sixth commandment, part of that Law He did not come to abolish and which His apostle says faith does not nullify, requires more than than not committing murder.
Compare the Eighth Commandment. It not only forbids me from stealing, but commands me to protect my neighbor’s property. The homespun adage “finders are keepers, losers are weepers” is a wicked one. Godly finders are people who actively seek to locate losers – i.e. the true owners – and return their property to them!
Even so with the Sixth Commandment. Not only am I forbidden from committing homicide, but from harboring wicked resentment and hatred against another (Matthew 5:22), and from failing to defend and protect his physical life, reputation and honor. That pretty much sums up the motive of those who oppose that savage, barbaric form of homicide called abortion.
Finally and briefly, the inalienable rights to which the American Declaration of Independence refers are not given by any government or human document, but come from God. The Second Amendment was written to protect the right of self defense. Gun control laws only assault God given rights. Criminals intent on using guns for evil purposes will scoff at such laws as surely as reckless drivers scoff at speed limits…while law abiding people, since they ARE law abiding, will comply with “gun control laws” at their own peril.
This response is long, yet so much more could be said. I hope that to some extent I have addressed your wish for a fair discussion of your question. I am happy to discuss it further if you wish.