Forfeiting Freedom Where Love Compels – Response to Gun Love

blog - forfeit

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.

Is Carrying A Gun A Christian’s Right?

(image credit to tvline.com)

(image credit to tvline.com)

(Article was originally posted at TimeofGrace.org.)

It seems like we revisit this controversy on a monthly basis. That’s too much.

Last Wednesday, in shocking fashion, Americans were once again alerted to the regularity and accessibility of gun violence as disgruntled ex-WDJB employee Vester Lee Flanagan killed reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward ON LIVE TELEVISION in Virginia. Almost nothing alerts Americans to reality like putting it on TV. In the same way that last year’s TMZ footage of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his fiancé reintroduced the country to the problem of domestic violence, the footage of Flanagan adds another wrinkle to the gun control debate.

One of the things I find a bit surprising, maybe even disappointing, is where a majority of Christians seem to land on the controversy of gun ownership.

Many Christians, even beyond Midwestern hunters and Southern Fundamentalists, will point to the Second Amendment as the defense of gun ownership. But the thoughtful Christian needs to be shrewd enough to see a line between Constitutionally protected rights and the principles of Christian freedom. Yes, there is absolutely nothing inherently immoral about bearing firearms. Yes, there is nothing illegal about owning registered weapons. But when considering Christian freedom, grace moves us from what we could do in personal interest to what we likely should do for the sake of the greater good.

Let me draw a comparison. One of the most puzzled looks I ever get in Bible studies is when I ask people if we are free to say what we want. Many students, channeling their American spirit, will proudly tout, “Of course! This is our First Amendment Constitutional right! I have the right to speak my mind and express my opinion.” At this point, I’ll generally move the class to collaborate on God’s instructions regarding our speech. I’ll remind them what God’s words themselves do – build up, not tear down. Then I’ll redirect them back to the initial question about free speech. The class eventually comes to the conclusion that while our speech as Americans is largely unrestricted, our relationship with Jesus compels us to forfeit our national rights for the sake of glorifying God in our personal speech. We realize that we’re not really “free” to say anything we want, because that would be to violate a higher law, the law of love. (I’ve written about this at length before.)

The same logic would seem to hold true for the Second Amendment and our right, or lack thereof, to bear arms. I am well within my Constitutionally protected right to own a gun. However, by doing so, and advocating for all Americans to have those same rights, am I contributing to the good of society, or hurting it? Does this seem to build up or tear down civilization? Put differently, while I and 999 citizens can probably responsibly own a firearm, what if one in a thousand can’t? For the sake of that one, should the other 999 put their guns down? What if you asked the victim’s family? What if your family WAS the victim’s family? Would you feel differently?

With each passing month, I’m just less compelled by pro-gun advocacy. Consider the common arguments…

For instance, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” That’s ridiculously truncated logic. There’s a reason why it’s illegal for 3-year-olds to drive actual vehicles, but no law prohibiting them from driving Big Wheels. One is capable of causing significantly more damage than the other. With the “guns don’t kill people” logic, you could equally argue for every one of us possessing nuclear warheads, because “Nukes don’t kill people. People kill people.” The fact that such clichés are still in circulation leads me to believe that we haven’t thought this through carefully enough.

Or, some like to say, “I need to be able to protect my family.” Okay, so now you get a gun…but so do your home intruders. So you’re banking on your ability to out duel your attacker like a suburban Clint Eastwood? On the other hand, if you both were armed with only baseball bats, slingshots, or this thing, you might still do some harm, but death is considerably less likely.

God has given us plenty of wonderful freedoms, including, in our country, the right to bear arms. But there are also plenty of biblical exhortations to give up that right when love obliges us to do so. Consider what the Apostle Paul says to the believers in Rome, when in chapter 14 of his letter he addresses the willingness of Christians to not eat meat that has been sacrificed to idols for the sake of those who are negatively impacted by such behavior. In the midst of that instruction, he says, “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.” (Rom. 14:19) At this place and time in history, can a Christian confidently determine that private ownership of guns trends toward peace and mutual edification in our communities? I’m not suggesting that the Christian can’t possibly reach that conclusion with a clear conscience. I’m merely pointing out that the Christian’s thought process must sink deeper than “Well, it’s my Constitutional right!”

Even more, consider the example of Jesus, our Savior. Paul writes:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross! (Phil. 2:6-8)

Incredible. Jesus life here on earth, and even his very coming to this planet, was characterized by giving up his legitimate, undeniable, divinely protected rights. And by emptying himself of such rights, he didn’t just potentially become a victim, he was crucified unjustly. This all because he so loved us. And by doing so he rescued mankind.

Therefore, something remarkable is programmed into the DNA of Christianity that inspires us to forfeit some freedom if it may protect another.

So…guns…is this a right that we should give up? I’m willing to consider.