a balanced, biblical pacifism (guns in America)

In America where it seems mostly all politics, there is a contentious political mudslinging going on about guns. I wish I could call it a debate, but for the most part what I’ve witnessed is not that. It seems that largely the way here is to mischaracterize one’s opponnents, or put their character in the worst possible light, something both the left and the right regularly engage in. I see it mostly from the right, but I live in a mostly political conservative area. We need to do better.

I speak as a a pacifist Christian, who certainly respects differences among Christians in this area. Some of the best Chrisitians I know (and not online, although I could include that, but who I am personally acquainted with) differ with me here. But none of those I am referring to would make a big issue out of this. They simply might use a gun in the case of someone breaking into their house and putting their family at risk. While I think there are better ways to handle it, and one such friend in particular I think would try to avoid using a gun if possible, I can understand such a position. One has to consider the historical context of America and then of the Christian church at large. But on the latter, there are serious problems left for advocates of guns (other than used for hunting, of course).

One of the mistakes some of the more vocal of pacifist Christians make is to insist that the state/government should disarm, should not use violence. That is not at all what the New Testament or specifically, what Jesus advocates. In fact quite the opposite. See Romans 13. But for the follower of Christ, it is most difficult to rationalize the use of a sword or gun in stopping evildoers. That is left to the state as no less than servants of God (again, see the beginning of Romans 13). I think a responsible ethic for the state is to do everything possible to avoid war, and to work at that. Force should be used as a last resort and sparingly as possible. What is a nation state to do when evildoers pillage and rape and murder? It seems clear enough to me that they need to step in and stop such evil. As to the “just war tradition,” considering its list, we would be hard pressed to justify any war that has been fought in recent memory. Though not rooted in scripture, it may be a useful construct for nation states. Surely less wars would be fought if nations tried to follow it. But what about the follower of Christ?

For myself, I would do what I have to do to defend my family or someone else short of killing the perpetrator. But I would want to do my best to bring about a peace that is rooted and centered in the gospel of Jesus. When it comes to personal attacks, I would want to love my enemies, turn the other cheek and pray for them. I would want to win them to Christ, but not stop loving them in the way Jesus directs, even if they continue on their violent path.

There is no place for the use of violence for followers of Jesus. Neither the New Testament or Jesus’ words advocate anything less than living out one’s life for Jesus and the gospel. In not only proclaiming and witnessing to the gospel, but in no less than laying down one’s life for it and for our Lord.

Back to guns in America. Again, good people will disagree. I say, let’s have a real discussion and debate. And for followers of Christ, let’s turn again to the pages of the Bible, especially the New Testament, and the gospel accounts in it: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Let’s at least err on the side of less physical force, and preferably reject that option altogether. As we seek to follow our Lord in this life to the end.