What the Bible Says about Guns
With the world as it is, and with politics as they are, there is a lot of spirited debates about whether or not private citizens should own guns. With this I find myself asking, “What does the Bible say about guns and self defense?” Obviously guns, in particular, are not mentioned in the Bible, but there are clear indicators that the use of weapons, to defend human life is granted, and even encouraged, by the bible. This would include today’s modern fire power.
Throughout scripture there are many discussions of weapons for use in war, but this article is going to strictly focus on what the Bible says about private citizens and the use of weapons for personal defense. There are a few verses that people often reference when this topic arises, so let's take a look at those.
“But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matthew 5:39
“If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.” Luke 6:29a
Turn the Other Cheek
The most common misquoted verse is Luke 6:29a, and similarly Matthew 5:39.
Many people believe that this verse means that Christians should not hit back, and should in fact allow others to attack them. This verse is often misinterpreted and taken out of context. What Jesus is talking about in this whole section is community and a way for us to live together in harmony. If you want to fully understand this whole chapter, Tim Keller does a wonderful sermon on it called “The Community of Jesus”.
In this last part of the section on community, (Luke 6:27-) Jesus is talking about how to interact with people whose ideas differ from us, and also how we should interact with our enemies, who do more than have a different belief system, they are actually out to harm us.
A Right-Handed Culture
In order to understand this verse properly we must understand the culture of the time. This was a culture of greeting each other with a kiss, instead of a handshake. So what did they do when they were approaching someone to greet, they gave them their cheek, specifically their right cheek, as they were a right-handed culture. Now picture someone slapping the right cheek. It would be a backhanded slap…an insult. An insult that would shame you and perhaps ignite you to retaliate, either with another insult, or by escalating the situation.
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So when Jesus was talking about a “slap on the right cheek”, He is talking about hurt pride. This is not an example of a personal, physical attack that would threaten human life. Jesus is not telling us to become a passive doormat nor is He saying we are to allow someone to endanger us or other innocent people. To do so would be to encourage evil. What he is saying is that you need to relinquish your desire for revenge. His point here is about attitude. He is saying we need to not only resist the urge to get even, but instead we must humble ourselves and go to the other extreme for the ones that insult us.
“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
In this example from the Mount of Oilves, Jesus is telling his disciples not to fight against the guards that have come to take, and eventually kill Jesus. The disciples have the means to fight, but Jesus is saying no.
While this is clearly a case of personal defense, this is unlike any occurrence of personal defense you will even encounter. Jesus had just finished praying. He knew what was to happen, and he accepted His fate. He was to die an innocent death, like a criminal, so that the sins of the world may be forgiven. By drawing his sword Peter was trying to stop things that couldn’t be stopped. Jesus willingly accepted what was about to happen. It was his ministry, the reason He was here.
Jesus' Disciples Carried Swords
Now lets examine for a moment why the disciples were carrying swords. Now I’m extrapolating here, but these men were spending virtually every waking hour with Jesus. And swords weren’t really easily concealed. They also weren’t multi-functional tools. Much like guns, they had one main purpose, for fighting. I’m thinking that if Jesus was against the weapons, He would have told them to get rid of them. But he didn’t. In fact, it was Jesus who told the disciples to get the swords. Luke 22:36 “He 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.” Jesus encouraged the disciples to have a means of protection.
One thing we can glean from this passage is that you must know when is the appropriate time to use your weapon. In Matthew 26:51-52 we see this story again, with a few extra details.
“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.’”— Matthew 26:51-52
This is not a decree not to be armed, but a rather a warning. When you pick up a weapon, there is always the chance that you may not win. Discernment is an extremely important characteristic to posses if you plan to carry a weapon. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Not every situation warrants that removal of your weapon from its holster.
These are not the only verses that indicate that it Biblical to defend yourself from personal attack. These are just a few of the verses that are often misunderstood and often mis-quoted and/or twisted to give the impression that owning a gun for personal defense in unchristian, when in fact, its quite the opposite.