Can a Christian carry a concealed weapon? There’s a lot to consider as we look to the Bible to answer that question. We live in confusing times. People storm schools, restaurants, and even military facilities looking to do murderous evil with the highest body-count possible. Our humanity tells us that we have to chuck “love thy enemy” out the window. In a nation where a right to own firearms “shall not be infringed”, how do we apply our non-violent faith? It would seem 2015, our faith, and our humanity are at odds.
Our humanity wants extreme prejudice when dealing with those would hurt us or deprive us our American way of life. When mass-shootings like those at Umpqua Community College single-out Christians, the question often arises, “How should Christians respond to being targeted for death?” God’s Word has seemingly enjoined Christians from killing the killers. Indeed, the quality of a Christian’s walk is defined by how well they follow the example of Christ’s walk. Jesus made His direction known on how we should treat our enemies:
Luke 6:27 – “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
If you look at the first leaders to experience living under the injunction of loving your enemies, the Martyrdom of Stephen appears to give clear guidance to the Christian heart regarding those who persecute Christians.
Acts 7:60 – And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
The rest of the disciples didn’t rally together and visit judgement on Stephen’s killers, and nothing in the Bible says they should have had any such authority. Romans 13:1 tells us God placed rulers in positions of authority. Jesus gave His followers clear guidance about the hierarchy of authority and the preeminence of God’s will in the lives of Christians. There is little doubt that God did not give individuals, outside of legitimate authority, any right to visit judgement on anyone. With regard to concealed carry in 2015, no Christian has authority on her/his own to apply a death sentence, even to a violent enemy. God has that authority, and rulers He put in place are the only ones who may carry that out.
Regarding violent enemies, we are in times that are really no different than what our predecessors experienced. We deal with a fallen, sinful world. Elements of humanity are barbaric and horrific to each other, and God spoke to our brothers of millennia ago on how to deal with our humanity in the face of inhumanity. But, for us to do the work of being a Christian properly, we need to have a more thorough look at what the whole Bible says about Christians using violence to defend themselves.
What Christians most often forget is how to read the whole Bible as the complete Word of God. For some, there is a misunderstanding that the Old Testament no longer applies to Christians. That would be a mistaken understanding because Jesus came to fulfill the
“Law and the Prophets” (the Old Testament), but not to change a “jot or tittle” of it. Jesus did change some of the incorrect ways that the Jews were practicing the Law, but did not change the Law itself.
His disciples were instructed on studying and preaching the Law and the Prophets in proper context, which is also what we need to do in 2015. For our question today, we need to ask ourselves how to have a holistic understanding of dealing with violence in context with both, the Old and New Testaments.
Two Old Testament passages immediately come to mind. They seem to have a little bit at odds with the New Testament injunction to “love your enemies”:
Isaiah 1:17-20 (NLT)
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
Psalm 82:3-4 (NLT)
“Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.
It is clear from these two passages that simply laying down and accepting injustice and slaughter is not what God had planned. Rescuing and delivering, fighting for rights, and defending are all words that sound like they are loaded with the potential to do violence. Indeed, the Old Testament prescribes a fate for deliberate murder:
Exodus 21:12-14 (NLT)
“Anyone who assaults and kills another person must be put to death. But if it was simply an accident permitted by God, I will appoint a place of refuge where the slayer can run for safety. However, if someone deliberately kills another person, then the slayer must be dragged even from my altar and be put to death.
The community’s authorities would be the ones who would put the killer to death. Still, even in their judgement, one New Testament test for Old Testament law aligns with the theology that God gives the law to the proud, but grace to the humble. If we look at how Jesus literally “said grace” over the woman caught in adultery, then we have a better understanding of applying OT law:
John 8:4-7 (NLT)
4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”
6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.
7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”
It would be easy to pick your favorite piece of Scripture relating to violence against a murderous oppressor and just go with it. You could come down as never responding in violence and you would not commit a sin of violence. But, in not defending the oppressed and visiting God’s remedy on the killer, you would have fallen short of the whole of Scripture. You could come down as blindly killing all killers, and you would find justifying Scripture in the Old Testament. But, in coldly abstaining from a thoughtful consideration of circumstances, you would have fallen short of the mercy of Jesus Christ. Though there is apparent opposition in Scripture, we are not without a remedy.
Applying faith doesn’t happen in a clean-cut, clear world of its own. It happens in the messy reality of 2015 with broken, fallen humanity. We apply the Bible to the best of our ability, grateful that we have the grace of God and the example of Jesus Christ to protect and forgive us. It is precisely because we have a corrupt nature, and live in a corrupt world, that we need the saving grace purchased for us through believing on the resurrected Christ.
Our answer, then, regarding the application of faith when faced with the violence of 2015 is that we do defend the oppressed, afflicted, widows, orphans and ourselves. We do it with a very serious and sober mind, knowing that we will be judged for what we do. And in defending as the Bible calls for, we also look for every opportunity to show mercy to the offender. We have to love our enemies, but we also have to defend the helpless that our enemies would kill.
One of the hardest issues we face is how to make the call between violent defense, and violent revenge. Our nature tells us to meet an attack with overwhelming retribution. Here, we have to temper our response to eliminate all retribution. On a micro-level, our only mandate is to stop the aggressor’s action, and no more. Then, it is up to authorities to take over. Paul describes a proper mindset in this event:
Romans 12:17-20 (NLT)
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD. Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Before I close this, I want to emphasize that I’m not advocating for anyone to carry a concealed weapon. That is a personal choice, based in the laws of the U.S. and the state where the carrier may live. You’ll want to check with law enforcement or an attorney where you live to understand your legal rights. This article is solely about the biblical implications of carrying and being prepared to use a sidearm.
I want to finish with a video that shows what appears to be self-defense on first glance. If you review the following link a time or two, you will see that the person using the concealed weapon failed to live up to a Christian application of force. After you watch the video, I would love to have you comment on when and how the concealed carrier failed as a Christian.
This is a tough one. I’m still not sure how I feel about certain aspects of this issue, though I do think it’s wise to get training and know how and when to wisely use a firearm for worst-case scenarios. Thank you for making me think!
I think it’s a good thing when we’re given pause, and we reflect on what God’s word says. With the gravity of lives in the balance, and the instantaneous decision-making of a defensive event, thoughtful contemplation beforehand is a duty. I share with you the value that we should think this one through.
As long as those evil-doers were mobile they had the potential to come back in surprise and start shooting back in revenge or anger. The old man wisely kept shooting until it seemed evident to him that these still mobile and threatening servants of Satan no longer posed a viable threat. Had he not been this diligent, he would have been subjecting the innocents in the cafe to further lethal danger and that would not have been a demonstration of love for his innocent neighbors.
If a Christian should find him/herself in such a situation, he/she should always keep shooting until it is clear that the servant of Satan is no longer a lethal threat. Of course while shooting, adrenaline flow allowing, he/she could be lovingly praying that the servant of Satan will be freed from Satan’s grip and call upon the name of the Lord to be saved. Additionally if the servant of Satan is incapacitated by the Christian’s righteously dispensed hot lead, before he/she bleeds-out into eternity or before the ambulance gets there, the Christian should share the gospel with his captive audience.
“..if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”
~~Jesus Christ, Luke 22:36
Sounds like a command to me, brother. So I suggest you buy a sword (i.e. a gun) and carry it with you constantly so you can protect your family and other innocents. By not doing so you are willfully disobedient of Gods commands in Luke 22: 36 and Psalm 82: 3-4
I feel your compulsion, brother. Although, my definition of defense is different than yours, we agree that defending the defenseless was the right thing to do. We simply differ on at what point defense became dispensing justice. I’m not saying you’re wrong, but rather that I see it a different way… others will agree with you.
I purposely avoided Luke 22:36 because of the wildly differing views on this verse. Wesley’s commentary writes: “22:36 But now – You will be quite in another situation. You will want every thing. He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one – It is plain, this is not to be taken literally. It only means, This will be a time of extreme danger.” If you read the verse in context with the OT, you get a reasonable assurance that Wesley isn’t correct. Plain language is fairly plain as well.
Bob Deffinbaugh of Bible.org states that 22:36 is symbolic: “The words of our Lord were intended to call the disciples to live in the light of what the prophets and He had been consistently predicting—the misunderstanding of, rejection of, and death of Messiah, in order to bear the sins of men and to bring about (ultimately) the kingdom of God. It would not then be by a sword, but by the shed blood of the Savior, that men would be saved.”
Rather than to try to engineer harmony between a plethora of different commentators, I felt like it was wiser to take a “Whole-Bible” perspective. We have the perspective of David, 1000-years before Christ, Isaiah from 700-years before Christ, plenty of opportunity to get it wrong, and Jesus to temper our understanding. The only way I can find to harmonize the OT God and the NT words of Christ who preaches “love your enemies” to understand that, only to defend the defenseless would we ever use force, and then only what is necessary to stop the aggressor’s action. You can get there without Luke 22:36, and that seems like a much more defensible exegetical territory.
Incidentally, I’m not sure of your training, but I wouldn’t phrase myself as forcefully as “By not doing so you are willfully disobedient of Gods commands in Luke 22: 36 and Psalm 82: 3-4” There are many theologians of far greater training than I who disagree.
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Finally got to watch the video. Interesting for sure. On one hand, I am very glad the fellow was around, because innocent people may have been harmed and he clearly defended them. On the other hand…chasing them out the door? Maybe not so much. This is a tough issue and you have made me think on it.
I’ve heard a couple of takes on Twitter about the video, too. Both said they commended the older fellow. I called it more like you did. He kept shooting long after they were running away. To my mind, that passed defending the defenseless and moved into delivering Justice. I totally get the humanity, and the adrenaline, though.
If it made us think, maybe that’s a success.
And he really moved for an old guy lol!
Excellent David. You know here it Arkansas we can carry concealed with a permit. The question came up if we could have them in church with us. I was personally not for that although I have no issue at all with guns been thinking of getting a permit myself
If your state is like South Carolina, and many are, you just have to have permission of the church. Thanks for reading
That’s the case here as well it would be up to the congregation. I’m just not really supportive of it myself.
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