Can a Christian Own a Gun?
Arguments necessitating Christians to own a gun are not supported by the Bible. Furthermore, the various arguments used to condemn Christians as sinners for owning or carrying a gun are equally false.
Arguments Condemning a Christian for Owning or Carrying a Gun
Although the Word of God does not change and cannot be added to or subtracted from, there is no end to the development of arguments for the support of the various opinions of men. One of the many arguments condemning a Christian for owning and carrying a gun is the belief that Jesus taught His disciples to be pacifists. In Matthew 5:38-39 the passage reads: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”
An examination of the text will demonstrate that the Lord is not talking about self-defense or defending others. Christ used this same “you have heard it said” figure of speech to straighten out misunderstandings or falsehoods being taught by the religious leaders of the times. Jesus is condemning the view of some who thought that Exodus 21:24-25 granted an individual the right to personal revenge on those who caused them harm.
However, the passage was not about private or vigilante justice. The context reads, “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:22-25). The judges under the Law of Moses were being restricted as to how they must regulate punishment. The punishment must fit the crime. The loss of an eye would not demand the loss of the criminal’s head making him dead.
Furthermore, considering Jesus’ remarks, since most men are right-handed, to strike another on the right cheek with their right hand the victim had to be facing them and they would have to back hand slap. This is an example of a personal insult. “The injustice that is willingly accepted here is therefore not so much a matter of bodily injury as of shame” (Herman Ridderbos, Matthew, trans Ray Togtman, [Grand Rapids: Regency, 1987], 113). The word “slaps” is translated from “the Greek term rhapizo, which refers to a sharp slap given in insult…. So, the point is not to hit back when someone hits you as an insult. The idea of a violent attack to do bodily harm or even murder someone is not in view here” (Grudem, Politics According to the Bible, 202).
This verse is not against the defense of self or others by use of a weapon. “Turning the other cheek” means not giving into personal vengeance. This is a far cry from giving one’s life up to a murderer. True, Jesus gave His life up without a fight. However, He was doing so by the will of God.
When Paul was about to be scourged by the Romans, he did not just turn the other cheek. He used his Roman citizenship to stop it. “And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, ‘Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?’ When the centurion heard that, he went and told the commander, saying, ‘Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman.’… Then immediately those who were about to examine him withdrew from him; and the commander was also afraid after he found out that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him” (Acts 22:26,26,29).
Additionally,1 Peter 4:12-16 is used as a proof text that Christians are to rejoice in suffering for Christ and not use weapons to protect themselves. Again, there is a need to examine the context. “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.”
This text is talking about suffering persecution for being a Christian. At no point does “martyrdom” equate to “surrendering oneself to violence.” Most people who are being victimized by criminals today are not suffering such for being a Christian. Instead, they are suffering because of the money in their pocket or the car they are driving, etc.
In yet another argument we are told Christians are not supposed to take vengeance on their enemies. Instead, a Christian is to leave vengeance up to God. “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
In addition to this Christians are told to leave justice up to the government. “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil” (Romans 13:4). There is a difference between self-defense and seeking personal vengeance. Personal vengeance would require tracking down the criminal and exacting revenge upon them. This is not the same as a man stopping his wife from being kidnaped by a man from a restroom at North Dakota gas station. He was not “bearing the sword” for the government or avenging himself. He was protecting his wife.
Christians carrying a gun is considered wrong, because it shows a lack of trust in God. True, God protects us and cares for us. The Psalmist wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” and “blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle” (Psalm 46:1; 144:1). However, trusting in God to do His part does not preclude us from fulfilling our responsibilities.
One should trust God for his daily food. That same trusting Christian needs to get out and work for his daily food (1 Timothy 5:8). When “the devil took Him [Jesus] up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone’ ” (Matt. 4:5,6), Jesus was tempted to just trust God to save Him when He jumped. Instead Jesus responded: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God'” (Matthew 4:7). When in a dangerous environment or situation it does not necessarily mean for you to just say, “I don’t need to arm myself or fight back or run. God will protect me.” This does not mean you cannot or should not protect oneself or others. There is a difference between putting God to the test and putting one’s trust in Him.
One last argument goes like this: “If eliminating all guns saved one life, it would be worth it.” More people are killed by a pen each year than a sword. If one life could be saved by eliminating pens, it would be worth it. Consider someone making an argument for being armed with a gun. If arming all good men and women would save one life from the wicked murders, it would be worth it. The availability of guns causes crime. By extension, the availability of any weapon would have to be viewed as a cause of crime. Since the very beginning of humanity, people have been killing other people, with and without guns (see Genesis 4).
The Scriptures and the Second Amendment do not require you to own a gun. You are free to own one or not own one. Laws may come and go, but the goal of the believer in Jesus Christ remains the same: to glorify the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). When wicked men and women misuse the tools given by God to commit atrocities, we need to pray for wisdom on how to deal with such. Former Texas Governor Perry after one such event said, “Let us all return to our places of worship and pray for help.” Amen.
– Daniel R. Vess