Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that gun control has become a major topic in American culture. Well, as with any topic, it is the Christian’s job to look to the Bible to gain God’s perspective on the issue. So, that’s what we’ll do in this post. My goal here is not to write the absolute last word on this subject. It is, instead, to merely offer the basics of what the Bible has to say about it. Actually, if you listened to the recent two-part series on the “Christian Verses” podcast, you’ve already heard these basics as presented by Malcolm Woody and myself.
Since the Bible was completed centuries before the invention of the first gun, we aren’t going to find a verse that says either: “Thou shalt own a gun” or “Thou shalt not own a gun.” Still, there are some definite Bible facts that can be applied to the topic. I’ll list five of them.
Fact #1: The Bible speaks of the use of many different kinds of weapons. Even though guns aren’t found in the stories of the Bible, other weapons certainly are. The list includes bows, arrows, swords, daggers, spears, and javelins. These were the “guns” of the ancient world.
In addition to these typical weapons, the Bible also speaks of atypical ones. David killed Goliath with a sling and a rock (1 Samuel 17:49-50). Jael killed Sisera with a tent peg (Judges 4:21-22; 5:24-27). An unnamed woman mortally wounded Abimlech by dropping a millstone on his head (Judges 9:50-55). Shagmar killed 600 Philistines with an ox goad (Judges 3:31). Similarly, Samson killed 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone from the fresh corpse of a donkey (Judges 15:15-17). Based upon all this, I think it’s safe to say that if the Bible were being written today, guns would be on the list of the weapons mentioned.
Fact #2: In no place does the Bible blame a weapon for the effect the weapon causes. As an example, I’ll use Herod Agrippa I’s killing of the apostle James. In Acts 12:1-2, we read that Herod killed James with a sword. (He either personally killed him with the weapon or ordered him to be executed with it.) But in Acts 12:20-24 we read that an angel of the Lord struck Herod and caused him to die a gruesome death. The point is that God had the angel strike the man, not the sword. If you really want to get technical about it, the Bible even relates the word of God to a sword (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12).
There’s a saying, “Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” While this saying has become something of a cliche’, it still holds much truth. The fact is that even if there weren’t any guns, someone who is bent on killing will find a way to do it. After all, there weren’t any guns in the days of Cain and Abel, but that didn’t stop Cain from killing his brother. You see, the true heart of the problem is the sinful, Adamic nature with which we are all born. Take that nature out of each of us and all killing will stop. But there’s simply no way to take out that nature, and we’ll all — including Christians — struggle with it until we pass into the afterlife.
Fact #3: The Bible depicts conflict and warfare as inevitable byproducts of living in a fallen world. In Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, the Bible says there is a time for every purpose under heaven. Shockingly to some, that list includes a time of war. Likewise, in Psalm 144:1 David actually praises God for training his hands for war and his fingers for battle.
Even Jesus said that wars must come to pass (Matthew 24:6; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9). As a matter of fact, there are multiple instances in the Old Testament, particularly involving Israel’s conquering of the land of Canaan, when God commands Israel to go to war against other races of people. Furthermore, a sensible, intelligent argument can be made that guns, used rightly, help make the peace (Matthew 5:9).
Fact #4: Jesus Himself made some allowance that there are times when carrying a weapon is appropriate. On the night of His betrayal and arrest, just after His famous “last supper,” Jesus said to His disciples, “…he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” (Luke 22:36, N.K.J.V.). When the disciples answered Him, “Lord, look, here are two swords,” He said, “It is enough” (Luke 22:38). However, later that same night, as Jesus was facing arrest following His praying in the garden of Gethsemane, He told Peter, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, N.K.J.V.).
How can we explain Jesus’ seemingly contradictory attitude toward carrying a weapon? One possible answer is that even though He never intended to resist arrest or allow Peter and the other disciples to defend Him, He didn’t want to be arrested before He had a chance to do His final praying in the garden of Gethsemane. Another possible answer is that He wanted the disciples to understand that their circumstances were about to turn much darker and He wasn’t going to be around to protect them anymore (Luke 22:37).
Fact #5: God commands that each person be subject to his or her governing authorities. The origins of government can be traced all the way back to God’s new commands for Noah after Noah and his family disembarked from the ark (Genesis 9:6). Since then God has been pro government, and the Bible consistently teaches that He raises up rulers, puts down rulers, and grants power to whom He chooses so that those rulers can suit His purposes, whatever those purposes might be. Some of the relevant passages are Psalm 75:6-7, Jeremiah 27:4-8, Daniel 2:20-21, and Matthew 22:15-22.
Once we understand this relationship between God and government, it doesn’t surprise us to learn that God commands us to be subject to our governing authorities. Passages such as Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1-2, and 1 Peter 2:13-17 will never be popular among the rabble rousers of any day, but these passages really aren’t all that hard to understand. And, no, gun control laws don’t cancel out the truth of them.
In conclusion, let me state for the record that I’m not a “gun guy” or a member of the National Rifle Association. I’ve only shot two guns in my life — not counting b.b. guns — and I didn’t particularly enjoy either experience. With that said, though, I’m honest enough as a Bible teacher to share with you what I’ve shared in this post. As for my take on gun control laws, I see them as fine as long as they are well balanced and within reason. I would even say that we’ve reached a point where they are fairly necessary for living in this world where evil seems to be bubbling to the top more and more. Like so many of life’s issues, I think “balance” is the key word here, and my counsel to anyone would be that God really does have a will in all this if we are just open to finding it.