As Christians, we should be different than the world as it pertains to dealing with aggression and physical violence. For those Christians that live in the United States, which is a pretty gun-happy country, this poses other problems.
The following is a reply to a blog from my pastor, which I recommend that you read. It is important to note that John Piper argues an anti-gun position, my pastor argues a pro-gun position, and I argue a cautiously pro-gun position. I welcome your feedback:
As a gun owner myself, nevertheless I cannot say I agree with all the reasoning set forth here.
“Being killed in a home invasion is not martyrdom, and Pastor John is comparing apples to oranges when he does makes such an equation.”
However, Jesus and Paul’s preaching on the matter does not say the point of not defending oneself has to do with martyrdom. When speaking of lawsuits Paul tells the Corinthians, “Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?” Jesus concurs: “Do not resist an evil man.”
Ironically, Paul was probably talking about theft (what else would two Christians go over court over other than disputes over private property?) and as Jesus made clear about going the other mile and turning the other cheek, that even a degree of physical abuse is preferable than trying to “right” the situation.
I don’t think the preservation of one’s goods or one’s bodily security is grounds for self-defense, at least by the examples set forth in the Bible. Paul was stoned, and not with drugs, twice. Where is his concern to protect himself from bodily harm? He didn’t travel alone, so some sort of conscious decision was made to allow even physical harm to come to himself in order to avoid physically engaging those who abused him. Further, when Christ talks about Roman soldiers extorting you or turning the other cheek, he isn’t talking about dealing with religious persecution.
After all, Christianity conquered an empire not through force or even personal defense against persecution, but by non-violence. Even in the twentieth century, Segregation was ended in the South and the nation of India was reclaimed from imperial overlords through non-violence.
A sovereign God can cause people to prevail even in the face of force, just as he can hand us over to bodily harm no matter how well we defend ourselves.
The key principle behind why I own a firearm ultimately is not to protect myself, or my stuff, but rather my wife and eventually, God willing, children. I believe the key difference is that the motivation behind self-preservation is not God-pleasing, even dissuaded against, while the desire to consider the needs of others before oneself is taught as a Christian obligation. I cannot think of any other Christian justification for self-defense.
“It is the responsibility of the husband and father both to provide for and to protect his family. What we might choose to do in regard to our own safety is one thing. But he who fails to provide for his family, including the provision of safety and security, is worse than an infidel.”
This is ultimately the conclusion I came to as a gun owner. Would I call the cops if someone wanted to harm my wife? Yes. Would I cheer on if my neighbor pulled the trigger if someone was trying to harm my wife? Yes. Should I pull the trigger if it prevents someone from harming my wife? Yes.
Unless we want to welcome physical harm to those God has entrusted under our protection, I cannot see the justification. I think John Piper has pious intentions in letting God be his 12 gauge hidden under his mattress, but in some ways it is dangerously negligent. He is allowing his wife and family to be possible victims so he can quell his own conscience. And, unless he wants to preach to the police and military to convince them to put away their guns because he wouldn’t want their protection either, I don’t see what justification he has for his position. It is ultimately hypocritical.
“For instance, why did Peter have a sword in the first place? I mean, a sword is not exactly something that can be easily concealed. Surely Jesus knew that Peter had it. Why didn’t Jesus say something earlier if he viewed the possession and use of a sword for its intended purpose as in anyway inappropriate?”
This is a good question, but I have heard it put forward by gun nuts when Christ tells the disciples to sell what they have to buy a sword and they respond “we have two” to be justification for buying weapons. Yet, a few hours later, Jesus tells them to put away their swords.
I don’t think Jesus was teaching about self-defense OR non-violence. Rather, His sovereign will was to create a confrontation where there would be arms involved so that He could caution his disciples not to respond to persecution in this way. Not so coincidentally, it is the model Christians followed for their first few hundred years of existence.
So no, I don’t view Jesus saying “go buy swords” as tacit approval of sword or gun ownership any more than we should be looking in the mouths of fishes to pay our taxes. Rather, he was setting up an event that would transpire a few hours later.