Wednesday, December 09th, 2009 | Author:

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Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition
words and music by Frank Loesser, ©1942

Down went the gunner, a bullet was his fate
Down went the gunner, and then the gunner’s mate
Up jumped the sky pilot, gave the boys a look
And manned the gun himself as he laid aside the Book, shouting

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition
And we’ll all stay free

This song was written about a legendary chaplain named Howell Forgy who was on the USS New Orleans during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Although what actually happened is in dispute, the phrase became a rallying cry for the military during WWII.

print ad, Henry Repeating Arms

print ad, Henry Repeating Arms

On Sept. 17th, the NY Times Stuart Elliott did a story about this new ad campaign, an obvious reference to Obama’s controversial  primary remarks.  The associated TV commercial promotes Henry’s made-in-the-USA guns, but the company is not mass-producing the Bible holster.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet, my post this week is about Christians and guns.  More specifically, it’s about when Christians should use guns and what their targets should be.  I’m going to skip over killing animals for food or defense.   And I’m going to give governments a pass at this point, being appointed by God to avenge against evil. (Romans 13:4)

The issue that concerns me is the role of the individual Christian.  The Second Amendment reads that A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. As gun restriction laws became more numerous, on the basis that the Second Amendment applied only to official military organizations, several lawsuits were filed challenging this position.  In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in DC vs. Heller that the the Second Amendment is an individual right intimately tied to the natural right of self-defense.

So we have the legal right to kill someone in self-defense, but do we as Christians have the biblical authority to kill anyone – ever?  That’s the question in my heart, and I’ve been digging around the Bible for a while looking for answers.  Specifically, I’ve been trying to find New Testament scriptures that support a Christian killing someone – and I’ve drawn a blank, pun intended. If I’ve missed something, I’m all ears.  In fact, I’m really asking for your input – as long as it’s not based on cultural songs and ad campaigns, or a church doctrine, but based solely on NT scripture.

All that I came up with points in the opposite direction.

First, we have the example of Jesus, our Christ and our Lord, who did not resist when they came to the garden to take him away.  He did not defend Himself, and rebuked Peter for drawing his sword.

When those who were around Him saw what was going to happen, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Stop! No more of this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. (Luke 22:49-51; see also John 18:10-11)

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves. (Luke 23:33-34)

By His refusal to resist, He saved us all.

Next let’s look at Stephen.

When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:58-60)

His death led to great persecution and a great dispersion of the early church – and the gospel being preached throughout the world.

And then there’s Paul.

Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:24-27)

Not once do we hear of Paul defending himself with physical violence – and his legacy is a good share of our New Testament.

Mark Dinsmore has written an article that addresses some of the issues I’ve been struggling with, entitled Would Paul answer the call to Christian Patriotism? The whole article is well-worth reading, but here’s an excerpt:

My fear today is that if Christians answer a “call to arms” to fight whatever totalitarian regime is being plotted (in preparation for Antichrist), then godly men will be imprisoned or die, leaving women and children behind to be ravaged both physically and spiritually. Going down in a “blaze of glory” like the Revolutionary “heroes” sounds good to our own flesh, but if we are dead men, how can we minister the gospel under whatever pagan ruler or communist culture rises to replace our Constitutional Republic?

We are in a spiritual battle, but we must choose on which hill we are willing to die. Dying for Nationalistic Pride or even for our “Rights” is not the same as dying for the cause of Christ. Far better for godly men to survive in a pagan nation and submit to rule of law (which God ordains) and to subsist by His Word—unless (or until) we are asked to bow down and worship a false god. Such an affront would still not be cause to take up arms. In the life-and-death trial of the fiery furnace, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah did not go into the flames as “National Patriots,” willing to die for their “Bill of Rights,” nor did they offer any physical resistance to their captors. Like Christ’s, theirs was a peaceful obedience and demonstration of submission to God, who alone is able to save (Dan 3:17-18; James 4:12; Heb 7:25).

The last thing I will add, and the passage that comes to my mind whenever I think on these things, is from the Sermon on the Mount, emphasis added.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

So have at it, my friends.  Show me why I’m wrong.

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11 Responses
  1. Lisa says:

    All the examples found are before Christ. However, I have heard pastors say that Christians are not to be doormats either.

    I was doing some reading on this and saw someone explain that Jesus did not tell Peter to throw away his sword, but to put it away.

    Then there is Luke 22:36-38 – 36He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’[b]; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”

    38The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
    “That is enough,” he replied.

    These I found with a quick Google search on the Bible and self defense.

  2. …”So we have the legal right to kill someone in self-defense, but do we as Christians have the biblical authority to kill anyone – ever? “…

    Here is a little rundown on the laws;

    http://www.naves-topical-bible.com/PUNISHMENT.html

    New testament, Old testament, what laws did Christ change?

    Matt 5:17-18

    17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

    18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
    KJV

    Jesus Christ, the living Word;

    John 1:1-3
    1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    2 The same was in the beginning with God.

    3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
    KJV

    Does He change?

    Heb 13:8

    8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
    KJV

    Mal 3:6

    6 For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
    KJV

    Are we to protect our blessings?

    Luke 11:21

    21 When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace:
    KJV

    How about someone who won’t provide safety?

    1 Tim 5:8

    8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
    KJV

    God’s Words, man’s words, you choose.

  3. Jim Wetzel says:

    Excellent post!

    I’m not going to “show you where you’re wrong,” because I have some serious thinking to do about that, myself, as one who owns firearms for personal and home defense purposes (as well as an additional firearm suitable for protecting myself from aggressive deer in the woods, ha ha).

    I think the case for unlimited ownership and “bearing” of firearms — in terms of man’s law, American type — is indisputable. But, as you say, just because man’s law says I can do it, doesn’t mean that I should, or that I please my God by doing so. I think there is something in the notion (as AKA suggests, above) that a father and husband has some responsibility for the safety of his family. However, as you show, it’s very difficult to find New Testament scripture that authorizes me to offer violence to others in defending myself; and one could argue that my family is supposed to turn to the same resource for their protection as I’m supposed to turn to for my (personal) protection: the direct provision of God.

    And, on the third hand (I’m running out of hands!), if I use violence to prevent even worse violence, who is to say that God did not provide that protection, by putting me there, with a weapon to hand? After all, I routinely thank Him for feeding me, even though I bought the food with money that I’d worked for. What does it mean to say I provided the food, when I certainly did not provide my own hands to do the work to earn it?

    Wow. that’s why I sometimes hesitate to look at this blog … sometimes it makes my head hurt!

  4. You know, Jean, I have really struggled with the same subject! All I want is Scriptural reasons, and I am still searching! I know that this Scripture is not in the New Testament, but not too long ago when I was intensely researching the subject, I happened across this Scripture:

    Psalm 33:16 No king is saved by the multitude of an army;
    A mighty man is not delivered by great strength.
    17 A horse is a vain hope for safety;
    Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength.

    18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him,
    On those who hope in His mercy,
    19 To deliver their soul from death,
    And to keep them alive in famine.

    20 Our soul waits for the LORD;
    He is our help and our shield.
    21 For our heart shall rejoice in Him,
    Because we have trusted in His holy name.
    22 Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us,
    Just as we hope in You.

    This Scripture especially helped me: Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Luke 10:19.

    Now I know that Paul and Stephen, etc. were “hurt” on many occasions, but when you think about it, God still protected and preserved them; God won in the end.

  5. In the book of Acts, God killed a husband and wife for lying to the Holy Spirit. Very interesting, and Peter didn’t even need to draw a sword!

  6. jon-paul says:

    Oh yes indeed! Anyone who believes in our Lord, Jesus Christ, I believe has wrestled with this issue many, many times. And for the brain massage, thank you Jean. Nonetheless, I do have a question that I spar with pastors about from time to time: What is murder? Sure sounds easy enough, agree? However, is self-defense murder? Humm…

    After a lot of prayer and reading on this issue, I’ve come to the place where I realize that trusting Him to protect me isn’t at odds with having the tools to defend myself – any more than food is at odds with trusting Him to provide my daily defend myself – not any more than having a fridge full of bread. Self-protection is a design feature the Creator gave us.

    Furthermore, I do not think that God created clones or imbeciles. God created humankind with the ability to think critically and predicated upon his word to make ethical and moral decisions. So often I think of this scripture: “No temptation has overtake you but such as is common to man; and God will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able…and will provide a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).

    Moreover, I believe that God wants us to be prepared – not only like boy scouts and girl scouts – but as soldiers in His spiritual army and in top physical condition with which to defend ourselves.

    Paul goes to great lengths in Hebrews 12:1-3 to mention being able to “…run with endurance the race that is set before us, (v2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…” See also the “Imperishable Wreath”.

    The again so many times I read Romans 8:28 knowing that “God causes all things…” and I believe that being prepared and able to defend ourselves is a part of the tools the Lord has given us.

    I could simply go on and on…and I will if you want more information; however allow me, if you haven’t already been, visit “The Cornered Cat” the link is http://corneredcat.com/Ethics/trust.aspx this person is a well-spring of a clear and critical thinking individual and the resources she lists could keep one busy for months. Love to you and yours,

    jps

  7. There is a time for self-defense, there is a time for protecting the innocent even when it means destroying an evil person. I would never condone killing anyone over principles, but I would die defending mine.

    All the comments here are marvelous.

    I was reminded of… gosh what’s his name??? Oh Hercules, where are you?!…. John Peter Muhlenberg! Yes! He was a pastor who, in a sermon, declared his support of arms to the cause of liberty in the American Revolution. Many pastors were during this time– the guy who led the Lexington Minutemen was their pastor, Rev. Clark. They studied the scripture and came to realize that to be ramrodded over by evil was not God’s will.

    As far as the end times… Daniel says that the Son of Perdition will “wear out” the saints…. but that does not mean that we should not defend ourselves, if necessary, just as anyone should. I’m sure that the people of WW1 thought it was the end times, that the people of WW2 thought it was the end times…. what would have happened if the people had just laid down, and given up?

  8. Jay says:

    Jean,

    Everybody here has a portion of what I would say. As Jon-Paul mentioned 1 Cor 10:13 mentions God providing for us a way of escape. I’d like to illustrate what I believe with this story.

    I remember seeing an episode of “Travel the Road” recently. Two missionaries were out, and needed a driver. When the missionaries saw the two drivers, they felt in their spirit not to go with these two people. Yet they decided that it was the convienent way to go. Turns out later, these two drivers were theives and threatened to kill both missionaries if they didn’t give them all of their money. Yet, one of the missionaries started praying in the Spirit and saying “IN THE NAME OF JESUS!” over and over. After a couple of seconds, the men just took off and left the two missionaries alone. God still protected His children who were doing His will, even thought they took the wrong path.

    I was looking for a specific scripture to sum up my thoughts, and here it is:
    2Sa 22:3 The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, My stronghold and my refuge; My Savior, You save me from violence.
    God saves us from violence!!! That doesn’t mean we won’t experience it, but when we do, He will rescue us from it!

    Thanks for the thought provoker. Oh, and I didn’t prove you wrong, I just proved you correct!

  9. akagaga says:

    @All Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Truly, I am grateful. When I can’t find a scripture that specifically covers an issue in black and white, it’s a blessing to have brothers and sisters who will step into the breach. (Wait – isn’t that a military term? lol It is! I just found this: “The breach refers to a hole or gap in a line of soldiers. When you step into the breach, you are taking the place of a fallen soldier. It’s used figuratively to mean that you are assuming responsibility for something that used to be done by someone else.”)

    Anyhow, I do appreciate your input. I’d be a lot happier about this if I could find just one NT Christian who used violence under any circumstance, but your references and your thoughts will certainly help me work through this.

    @Lisa I have heard pastors say that Christians are not to be doormats either. I’ve heard it, too, but I’ve never heard them back it up with anything, and therein lies my problem. :) So thanks for the Luke reference. I hadn’t thought of that one.

    @AKA I think the link you provided to the mosaic laws on punishment were guidelines for providing justice after a crime had been committed, and don’t really apply to the situation I’m talking about.

    New testament, Old testament, what laws did Christ change? How about the passage I quoted, and the others like it? “You have heard that it was said … But I say to you.” Not necessarily changing the law, but changing our understanding of it. But thanks for 1 Tim 5:8. I’ll chew on it.

    God’s Words, man’s words, you choose. Well, ain’t that what I’m trying to do? :)

    @Jim I’m sorry you ran out of hands, but they were very thoughtful hands. And I’m sorry your head hurts. If it’s any consolation, I sometimes avoid this blog for the same reason. :)

    @Alice All I want is Scriptural reasons, and I am still searching! You poor baby, God has us both in the same boat! :) Thanks for the Psalm 33 reference. I think I see a glimmer of light in it. Kings had armies and strength and horses. The problem comes in when they rely on them instead of God. Waddya think? [FYI: be sure to check out the link Jon-Paul provided, especially the "ethics" section.]

    And if God just took out all the bad guys like He did Ananias and Sapphira, this would all be a moot point, eh? :)

    @Jon-Paul After a lot of prayer and reading on this issue, I’ve come to the place where I realize that trusting Him to protect me isn’t at odds with having the tools to defend myself. I like this. I’m not sure killing someone is in the same class as filling our bellies, but I think there’s some truth here.

    And thank you, thank you, thank you for the link to Cornered Cat. The ethics section deals directly with the scriptures I referenced. It doesn’t give me that NT example, but it at least sheds some light on the subject.

    @Rebecca They studied the scripture and came to realize that to be ramrodded over by evil was not God’s will. Hmm … You wouldn’t happen to know someone that could provide links to some of their thoughts, would you? :)

    what would have happened if the people had just laid down, and given up? mmm … maybe the rapture, and we’d all be home by now? lol

    @Jay What a great story. Thanks for sharing it. It reminds me of some Christians who were smuggling Bibles into China. I don’t remember all the details, but the backseat of their car was covered in illegal Bibles. They came to a checkpoint, praying fervently, the guards looked into the backseat – and let them go through. God blocked their eyes!

    And I just went and re-read David’s song in 2 Samuel. When our Lord thunders from heaven, why are we worried about protecting ourselves? Thanks for the inspiration!

    Again, thank you all. If God provides any more thoughts on all this, please keep sharing!

  10. Wow, Jean! This is quite a thought provoker! Some interesting points were brought up and I agree with almost all of it.

    I would just like to add that although Jesus said to “turn the other cheek,” I agree with Lisa — “we should not be doormats.” In other words, if a murderer walks up to me with a gun, I wouldn’t just let him shoot me; I CAN defend myself; however, I wouldn’t go so far as to kill him (if possible). If this ever happened to me, I would pray for protection. The Bible is full of God’s wonderful promises to protect us (especially Psalm 91); and since God is not a liar, if we call to Him in the day of trouble, He will rescue us. Nahum 1:7 comes to mind: “The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble; And He knows those who trust in Him.” Also, in Isaiah 59:19 it says, “So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.” (It’s interesting that these Scriptures mention the fear of the Lord. ;) )

    Jay’s story reminded me of another story that I’d like to share:

    A Christian man in a nation where Christians are persecuted for their faith was brought into a cell to be executed. The executioner pointed a gun at the man and told him to deny Christ. The man refused, and proceeded to tell the executioner that he needed to accept Christ as his Savior before it was too late. The executioner uttered some curses toward God and proceeded to pull the trigger. The Christian shut his eyes and quietly prayed the word “Jesus.” However, he heard no gunshot. When he opened his eyes, the executioner was holding his neck and his face was contorting. Suddenly, he dropped dead! All the other guards had run out of the cell in fright. When the Christian finally ventured out of the cell (which the guards had left opened), he found the guards hiding under a desk! They said that a bright man had touched the executioner’s chest, and then the exectioner had died! So you see, even though the Christian could not defend himself, he had the best defense there is: JESUS CHRIST! I think that all of us should be like that Christian.

  11. akagaga says:

    @Miss S even though the Christian could not defend himself, he had the best defense there is: JESUS CHRIST! I think that all of us should be like that Christian. What a great story! And I agree. Our only real defense is Jesus.

    For You have been a refuge for me, A tower of strength against the enemy. Let me dwell in Your tent forever; Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. Selah. (Psalms 61:3-4)