Forfeiting Freedom Where Love Compels – Response to Gun Love

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Yikes.

So, I just posted something about the recent shootings in Virginia (the death of reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward). In light of this tragedy, of the one in Charleston, of Virginia Tech, of Sandy Hook, of Columbine and on and on and on, I SUGGESTED that Christians merely CONSIDER forfeiting their right to bear arms if it MIGHT mean the protection of other lives.

Cue the tidal wave of criticism from those who consider owning a gun their divinely mandated right, as taught, not in Scripture, but in the Bill of Rights (cf. 2nd Amendment).

I received such public comments as…

“How dare you…. I expect more from a thoughtful man such as yourself.”

“This “Pastor” has his head up an anatomical dark place.”

“How sad … this ill-conceived and poorly-written post.”

And it goes on from there.

I’ve never been an advocate for or against guns. Perhaps I’m too naive to understand the passion behind them. Or perhaps some who own them are too close to objectively evaluate this issue.

Here’s what I do know. As a Christian, my life is not my own. It’s been redeemed by the blood of Christ and everything I do, think, and say belongs to the man who purchased me. He has given me a tremendous amount of freedom, but the thing he repeatedly, simply commands of me is love. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31) and  “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34) This is not controversial. Every day should be consumed with considering and expressing the love of Christ and how it affects our lives. For me to merely raise the idea that, having seen as many lives taken too soon, should we perhaps consider foregoing guns, and for it to be met with such vitriol from many Christians, is disappointing. I NEVER said owning guns was wrong. In fact, I said we could do it with a clear conscience. I was merely encouraging Christians to consider where love moves us in this situation as we are to do in every situation.

I’m not sad that someone has a different opinion. I’m sad that, through their words and actions, many seem to be clutching their firearms so tightly that they would not even CONSIDER being compelled to forfeit a freedom in love. I’m sad that many don’t appear to see a line between their political leanings and Scripture. It’s as though hearing a theologically conservative pastor merely make mention of putting weapons down (ahem! something Christ himself said, btw), is so foreign that it is met with panic and anger, like an unwanted bug in the house that we immediately just want to squash.

Look, if I was convinced that my hair was harming someone, I’d HAVE to consider shaving my head – to those who know me, you understand the sacrifice this would be :). If I thought eating Peanut Butter was a stumbling block, I’d just do jelly. My goodness, if I thought my right foot touching the ground might inhibit someone from Christ, I’d hop on my left till I died. I’M SOLD OUT TO THIS FAITH. Literally, Christ bought me.

Consequently, if a gun is pointed at me, and it’s me or him, I might just receive the bullet. I don’t know how to understand Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” differently. I will not kill you. But I will die for you. I’m not afraid to die. Because Jesus died for me.

I’m awaiting an eternal life. The real life. I’m not afraid to lose this one. And if I am, then I’m of no heavenly good here. I’m not afraid to forfeit any freedoms if I CONSIDER that it might glorify God’s name and protect life.

I know that Jesus said, “You will be hated by everyone because of me” (Matt. 10:22) I certainly didn’t think it’d come over encouraging fellow “Christians” to CONSIDER doing the thing that Christ’s love compels us to do every day.

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6 thoughts on “Forfeiting Freedom Where Love Compels – Response to Gun Love

  1. David says:

    Thank you for your efforts in spreading His Word through your profession and your blogs.

    A couple of quick thoughts and questions.

    As far as gun ownership for personal protection, I would like to hear your opinion if a criminal was threatening your family with a gun. Would you let your children take a bullet in the name of “turning the cheek” and “loving your neighbor as yourself”? What about the idea of protecting the innocent? Is it selfishness or pride to desire your children to not be murdered by your neighbor?

    Simply giving up guns will not lessen or decrease shootings as those intent on destruction will still achieve such despite all our prayers and love. Such suffering will always exist until He returns.

    In my estimation, the simplest solution is for everyone to become Christians. We already know that will never occur as God has told us. So in light of that fact, everyone should be armed- especially Christians. True Christians are the least likely to abuse the use of a firearm in the name of God.

    If everyone carried a gun, criminals would most certainly be less inclined to use a gun on someone that is armed. All of these shootings have occurred where people have been unarmed. That same philosophy of deterrence is used in foreign policy and has seemingly been fairly effective.

    Thoughts?

  2. boastingaboutmyweaknesses says:

    My only thought regarding the above post is based on this statement: “If everyone carried a gun, criminals would most certainly be less inclined to use a gun on someone that is armed.” I would like to see some research on this “most certain” claim. Most of those committing crimes are probably not in their right state of mind and therefore unable in the heat of the moment to logically conclude that an armed citizen MIGHT be a worse target than an unarmed one. I say “might” because if every one on the street is armed, who do you think will come out on top, an experienced criminal or your average family man or mother. Also, as far as the argument regarding protecting your children in the case of a home invasion… where are you keeping this gun, loaded and in your nightstand ready for use? My guess is no – unloaded and locked away so your children can’t access it. So I’m betting that an alarm system, a cell phone, and perhaps a baseball bat (if you want to go so far) will be more effective.

  3. The Rev. BT Ball says:

    Pr. Hein and commenters- (I’m crossposting on Pr. Hein’s blog)

    I’ve read the inital article, comments and Pr. Hein’s response on his personal blog. I found this post as one of the members of my congregation forwarded it to me and asked for my comments, so I figured that I’d post them here. So here goes.

    Pr. Hein is concerned about the freedom of a Christian and the law of love. In response to this it would be helpful to turn to the Scriptures themselves and their explanation in the Small Catechism. The Fifth Commandment, “You shall not murder.” What does this mean? “You should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.” Negatively, Christians are forbidden from murdering their neighbor; postively, Christians are commanded to help and support their neighbor in every physical need. The commandments are quite concrete, Christians will have neighbors who will be in physical need and in danger of death. They will need support, help and defense. Luther speaks of this in the Large Catechism’s explanation,

    “Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it. If, therefore, you send away one that is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death; if you see one suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve. So also, if you see any one innocently sentenced to death or in like distress, and do not save him, although you know ways and means to do so, you have killed him. And it will not avail you to make the pretext that you did not afford any help, counsel, or aid thereto, for you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit whereby his life would have been saved.

    Therefore God also rightly calls all those murderers who do not afford counsel and help in distress and danger of body and life, and will pass a most terrible sentence upon them in the last day, as Christ Himself has announced when He shall say, Matt. 25:42f : I was an hungred, and ye gave Me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave Me no drink; I was a stranger, and ye took Me not in; naked, and ye clothed Me not; sick and in prison, and ye visited Me not. That is: You would have suffered Me and Mine to die of hunger, thirst, and cold, would have suffered the wild beasts to tear us to pieces, or left us to rot in prison or perish in distress. What else is that but to reproach them as murderers and bloodhounds? For although you have not actually done all this, you have nevertheless, so far as you were concerned, suffered him to pine and perish in misfortune.

    It is just as if I saw some one navigating and laboring in deep water [and struggling against adverse winds] or one fallen into fire, and could extend to him the hand to pull him out and save him, and yet refused to do it. What else would I appear, even in the eyes of the world, than as a murderer and a criminal?” LC 10 Commandments pp189-192.

    So we confess that it is to sin against the Lord and His commands if we see one in distress and do nothing. To leave our neighbor to die is sinful. So free men may take up arms to defend and protect their neighbor. While Luther says earlier in the LC that the taking of human life in judgment is given to the governing authorities, the resistance of evil, defense and safety of the neighbor is not simply given to the state, but to each man, as he is able. The use of force by the Christian is actually fulfilling the law of love, both tables. The Christian is serving his neighbor and his Lord by positively keeping the 5th commandment and defending his neighbor.

    So, while the ownership or use of firearms is not commanded by Scriptures, the defense of others certainly is, and at times this will mean the use of force. A means of defense of others, and of course self, is the proper use of firearms.

    As an aside, but important point, the defense of self is also the defense of neighbor. For example, should a wicked man seek to take the life of a father, the wicked man would be murdering and stealing the father away from his wife and children. In using lethal force to defend himself, the father would also be protecting his wife and children who need him.

    So no, guns are not a right we should give up. Pastor Hein is free to do so. But the Christian is free to love his neighbor and His Lord through the use of deadly force to helping and supporting his neighbor in every physical need. There is no more physical than the impending loss of life from evil men that could be stopped through force.

    The Rev. Benjamin Ball

    St. Paul Lutheran Church

    Hamel, IL

    • Rev. Ball,
      Thanks for reading and for your comment.

      I don’t disagree with much that you’re saying. From my perspective, it sounds like you’re saying, 1) we should turn to Scripture to settle debates concerning social issues, 2) Scripture offers us the 5th Commandment of “You should not murder”, 3) an implication of that Commandment, as drawn out by Luther is to not only “not hurt” but also to help those who are facing hurt.

      I agree with all of that, but feel it’s a little incomplete for the conversation. Look at the section that you highlighted from the Large Catechism, which I copied and posted immediately below….

      It is just as if I saw some one navigating and laboring in deep water [and struggling against adverse winds] or one fallen into fire, and could extend to him the hand to pull him out and save him, and yet refused to do it. What else would I appear, even in the eyes of the world, than as a murderer and a criminal?” LC 10 Commandments pp189-192.

      That is s wonderful example of upholding the flip side of the 5th Commandment. But you’ll notice in Luther’s illustration, that in protecting human life here (helping someone out drowning or a burning building, the Christian is NOT entering into violence. Pulling out a gun and shooting someone in self-defense (which I still have not condemned) is NOT the same type of example. If we lovelessly allow another to suffer, yes, we’d be guilty of violating the 5th Commandment. But there is a potential line there of repaying evil with evil, which violates Paul’s Rom. 12 exhortation.

  4. The Rev. BT Ball says:

    Pastor Hein-
    See Missouri and Wisconsin can talk! Yes to following me, our social discussions need to be grounded in the Word (and the Confessions of our Church) or we are doing nothing different than the talking heads on TV.

    And you are correct that Luther’s example of saving someone from death due to fire or water is a positive keeping of the commandment. So is using force. I believe it follows that physical force is actually a good that may be used in the defense of neighbor. Certainly, this is the case with just war, the legal use of force by the governing authorities, police etc. It is also the case with the individual caring for his neighbor. The first part of paragraph 189 is crucial, “Secondly, under this commandment not only he is guilty who does evil to his neighbor, but he also who can do him good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him, so that no bodily harm or hurt happen to him, and yet does not do it.” It is Luther’s argument that in the resistance against evil, defending and saving the neighbor, we will have to do physical things. Actions. And here is the point, the use of firearms, may be, and often is, the means by which a neighbor is defended. In Luther’s day it would have been the sword. So I don’t think it is rendering evil with evil, but it actually is overcoming evil with good, if you understand good as the physical defense of someone who is in need of someone “to do them good, prevent, resist evil, defend and save him.” If Luther is simply talking about helping someone in a sinking boat or burning up in a house fire, how would one defend against those things? Save? Yes. Resist evil? Defend? Those things come from actions, always in the most extreme and last point of action. And this is where guns come in

    Luther’s Table Talk is full of his anecdotes about an individual bearing the sword in self defense. Of course, we don’t subscribe to Table Talk, but it is helpful to understand Luther’s thoughts on the matter, flowing from his confession of the 5th commandment.
    Fraternally,
    Ben Ball+

    • Rev. Ball,
      🙂 Haha. Yes, I am REALLY thankful for all of the Christ-centered, Scripturally-grounded, gospel-proclaiming Missouri men I’ve met either through blogging or elsewhere. You are yet another great example of a man who can share respectful dialogue, and I’m grateful for that.

      Your last point about not subscribing to Luther’s Table Talks would be one that I’d probably echo here. Luther, for instance, is credited with saying a fairly embarrassing amount of things regarding violence toward Jews that I would not at all endorse. Obviously, we know in such moments that he’s not only not inspired, but also not mirroring the same spirit as Christ or Paul.

      That is not to say he was excessively violent either. If I’m remembering correctly, Luther had some disappointment that his words were misconstrued by some to support the 1525 Peasant Revolt, which resulted in the death of something like 100,000 German peasants. I’m guessing that weighed heavy on his heart.

      Again, please don’t take any of what I’m saying to suggest I’m not in favor of protecting the innocent. I’m trying to respectfully make the point that Christians would rather receive unjust hurt than be guilty of careless hurt, because, as you mentioned, we take things like the 5th Commandment so seriously.

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