What Did Jesus Say About Weapon Control?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, March 3, 2018 4 comments

by Nathan Buck

It is with anguish and anger that I set to writing this week's blog post. The horrific evil of 17 students killed in Florida, gunned down by a fellow student, is gut wrenching and I grieve with their families and friends.

There are so many questions around this latest shooting, and so many things that as I write this are still coming to light. The initial outcry against guns and government and conservatives has started to fade as questions arise about the 39 sheriff calls to the shooter’s home, the multiple FBI reports on him, and the 4 minutes armed law enforcement officials stood outside waiting while children were being mowed down by gunfire. All of it doesn’t add up, and it clearly suggests there is more going on here than just an issue on the availability of weapons.

I will let our leaders hash out issues of policy, based on sound evidence and good judgment. I will make my personal contributions to that discussion as needed in my community and to support freedom, personal responsibility, and safety for society. But, I find myself coming to this question over and over again: what would Jesus say about gun control? 

Considering guns were invented much later than when He walked the earth, He obviously didn't speak directly to gun use. However, he did address weapons, war, fighting, etc. in ways that I believe were forward looking and hold implications for us, NOW on THIS issue. And since He is God, I am sure He was aware of the implications and intentionally addressed them for our benefit today. 

Read Matthew 26:47-56 and Luke 22:47-53. This is the moment when Jesus is being taken into custody by Roman soldiers in order to be questioned by the religious leaders and eventually by the Roman governor of the province, Pontius Pilot. Notice that one disciple is passionately moved to defend Jesus. He sees the threat that this is and the betrayal of Judas and literally lashes out with His sword, as if to say, "Stay back, we will defend ourselves." He ends up cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant.

I imagine this moment as one where everything slowed down and everyone stood still, stunned by what just happened. While all their minds are racing over how to respond, what the high priest might do, how to help the servant who is bleeding and likely screaming in pain… Jesus takes control of the situation. Even though there is a host of soldiers there to take Him, in this moment Jesus has control and no one moves. He touches the ear of the servant and heals the man - a miracle that everyone saw, and the servant could easily be proof of. But here, healing wasn't the lesson, nor was it about who really had the power to make things happen in this situation. Everyone there had just seen the power and control Jesus could choose to have. No, the lesson was about weapon control.

He said, "Put away your sword. Don't you know that he who draws the sword, dies by the sword? Do you think that I cannot call on my Father, and at once he would put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" In this simple phrase, Jesus says several things we need to take to heart. Every soldier, police officer, and weapon owner knows (especially in regard to guns) that you never draw or point your weapon at something you care about. The role of the weapon is to destroy, and by initiating the use of the weapon (even as protection) you are initiating a situation of destruction. By doing so, you also initiate the potential for your own destruction. When we escalate any situation to violence, even if it is to meet a violent threat, we must acknowledge that destruction will happen, and be ready for the aftermath.

Some have taken this statement to indicate Jesus was a pacifist. I do not know how conclusively we can make that assumption from the Scriptures. What I do know is His point here appears to be clearly focused on the inappropriate nature and timing of using the sword, as well as the limited power of the sword in comparison to God's power. His caution and correction directly support the first lesson in gun ownership - don't point a gun at anything you don't intend to destroy - as well as emphasize the double edged nature of using a weapon, that once a weapon is in play, it is likely a weapon that will end the scenario.

Jesus also has the disciple put his sword back in his sheath, and He doesn't ask the question, "Why did you bring a sword?" It seems Jesus acknowledges there is a time and a place for every tool, even weapons. This, however, was not the time or the place. This time was intended for Jesus to be taken. It was intended for no one to be hurt except Jesus, who was about to sacrifice His life for ours. As painful as that was for his followers, the rest of God's plans for us were based on His sacrifice for our salvation.

Using the proper tool at the proper time and understanding the risks is essential to how we address this issue in our culture. Broad sweeping legislation often has unintended consequences that we are blind to when making policy in a heightened emotional state. Abandoning personal responsibility in favor of legal restrictions is just as unacceptable when it is legislating morality as it is when trying to legislate societal protections. Law is never an effective way of producing thoughtful humans of good will. Law is only a deterrent, with a method of consequence and punishment. It is the values of purpose and personhood, as we look at each other, that cause us to pause and consider doing good for one another instead of harm. It is also the knowledge that if my action is to draw my "sword," whether in weapon or word form, then the escalation will likely bring about an end result that is also a "sword."

The very nature and tenor of the over-reactive conversation around gun control has liberals, conservatives, non-religious, and religious people all striking each other with blows. The media is filled with liberal filtered narratives promoting total confiscation in the name of safety. The backlash of conservatives is to blast the shortsighted surrender of freedom in the name of rights. Within the Church there is derision and division, with broad insults toward evangelicals and fundamentalists for supporting a conservative administration, as well as plenty of blow back toward progressives for supporting a relativistic position in regard to morality and identity politics. Everyone has their swords out taking a swing at each other on the latest political or social issue. And to all of us, I say what Jesus said: "He who draws the sword will die by the sword."

To be more blunt: sit down, shut up, and take a moment to consider what God may be doing here, instead of launching all these volleys of vitriol and viciousness. Our words must be Truth, spoken in love, seasoned with salt, and giving a reason for the hope that we have. If we are joining the fray with our sword out, then we should take care to realize the minute our flank is exposed we will be cut down the same way we cut into the fight. To be more precise, I will let Paul's words give us something to consider, "If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Galatians 5:15). Read the verses just before and after for a reminder of how we should be approaching every situation.

Let us be present in this world and in the culture, but as a unified force of good empowered by God's power, avoiding being drawn into skirmishes that divide and distract, no matter how emotionally charged an experience is or how baited we are. Use the proper tool for the proper job at the proper time. Take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions, and teach your kids the same. And in the meantime, with respect, love, and all grace and charity, do your best to live in peace with everyone, without compromising the Truth, but continuously and creatively loving people toward the one who is always True.

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Bill said...

Nice article, but what about Luke 22:36-38 where Jesus apparently encourages his disciples to buy a sword?
"Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough."

Unknown said...

Well stated, sound advice based on the Truth of God's Word. Kuddos to you Nathan for articulating what all of us should be thinking and how each of us should be acting and responding. I say thank you to you for taking the time and effort to put this together. May God continue to bless you and yours in your efforts to change our world and culture for the better.

Worldview Warriors said...

Thank you.

Nathan Buck said...

Bill, thanks for asking and good observation - that is immediately proceeding the events I focused in on. ;-)

Jesus' statement there lends credibility to the idea that He was not apposed to weapons for the proper time and purpose. We can not see all the connections Jesus may have, but clearly there was a reason He directed the disciples this way. I doubt it was only for the lesson I described, given the context of the statement in 22:36.

I tend to limit the influence of this verse pretty tightly to the period before the Holy Spirit came, because Jesus was not physically present and the disciples did not appear to have God's power apart from Jesus' presence. That may be too restrictive, but it is hard to discern all the implications since, there is no conclusive statement for war or pacifism in the rest of the NT. I do clearly see the constant challenge to rely on God's power completely. We all have room to grow there, I am sure. :-)

Thanks for your question.