God, Scripture, and Guns. When is it “a time to kill?”

The purpose of this blog post, is the show from scripture that there is a time to kill. (Ecc. 3:3) With all the talk about guns lately, and the demonizing of gun owners by the media, I’ve decided to finally state my view.

But before I get there, I think we should make something plain. Not everybody is called to the same purpose. Some people are meant to be men or women of peace, and some are meant to physically fight against evil. But we are all called to put on the armor of God and fight the powers of darkness.

I like stories. I especially like parables, that illustrate important points. I recently re watched the movie “Solomon Kane” and that, along with conversations I’ve had with other believers, inspired this post. Since most people probably haven’t seen this movie, I should give some kind of brief outline. Solomon is portrayed as an evil man at the beginning, who literally comes face-to-face with Satan, and manages to escape. He then tries to retreat to living in a monastery, repenting of his sins, and hiding from Satan. But the head priest tells him that God has other plans for him and he must leave. Solomon tries to live a peaceful life and he finds a family of sorts, fellow believers who he plans to travel to the new world with. But there is much evil in the land, and he is soon forced to either fight to defend the ones he loves or die. Most movies have a climax, where the central question is put forth. In this case it is Solomon asking God if this is all he is to Him, merely a man of war. (This is a very dark, violent film, so be warned.) But it has a thread of redemption running through it.

We are told in scripture that as much as it depends on us we are to live peaceably with all men. But how much does it depend on us? There are times when we, like Solomon, are faced with impossible choices. Sometimes even when we’re trying to be peaceful, we have to draw lines in the sand, and say, “Here I stand, on the side of what is right.” Like Shadrach Meshack and Abednigo, we might have to say “We will not bend to this culture’s idols.”

Sometimes the lines do get blurry, and it’s hard to see God through the fog, but hold on to your convictions, while trying, simultaneously, to let God be the judge. Jesus even says to bless those that curse you, and do good to those who despite fully use you. Does this mean that we just submit to abusive people?

We are also told, above all, to guard our hearts. And Proverbs tells us to avoid fools. In context, a fool is a completely selfish person. We are told to be discerning, and not quick-tempered. There is a big difference between doing good to someone who is abusive and continuing to allow them to abuse you. You can be a kind, giving person without putting yourself under their power.

Be peaceful as much as possible. If a person is angry don’t return it with your own anger. But don’t be their Whipping Boy either. Draw lines in your life to keep the foolish person away from your precious heart.

This whole line of thought has caused me to re examine Matthew 5:39 a lot more closely. You know the one: Turn the other cheek.

I’m starting to think this has to be one of the most misused verses in the Bible, right up there with  “Judge not that you be not judged.”

If you  take it strictly at face value, you find that that not even Jesus kept it. What was Jesus’ reaction when he was slapped? ( John 18:22)

Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?”

Why didn’t he just just remain silent, and turn his other cheek to the high priest? He did not just submit silently to this evil, even though he knew it was God’s will for him to die. He still insisted that he was in the right. The high priest was actually acting against God’s law, by even having a non public trial, and everyone there knew that. To understand, we must realize what slapping of the cheek meant in that culture.

“If someone slaps another person, he must pay two hundred zuzim. If it was backhanded, he must pay four hundred zuzim. If someone flicks a person’s ear, pulls his hair, spits so that it lands on him, strips his cloak off, or pulls off a woman’s headscarf in public, [the perpetrator] must pay four hundred zuzim”. (m.Bava Kamma 8:6)

This slapping was not about injuring the other person. It was a form of insult. A slap with the back of the hand was twice as insulting, and the offended party could demand twice as much money. What Jesus is teaching, both here and in other parables, is humility and forgiveness of people who slight us. We are supposed to leave room for God’s judgement instead of constantly taking people to court over minor offenses. So we are right back to “As much as it depends on you, live at peace.” This is not a verse advocating pacifism, or meek submission when someone is actually abusing you. Rather it’s telling us to let go of our supposed right for vengeance. The Jews that Jesus was speaking to a perverted the law into an endless cycle of demanding their rights whenever someone offended them. Sound familiar?

To sum  this up: we are not to render evil for evil. Don’t go pick a fight with people who insult you or belittle you. That’s just pride talking. Leave room for God to judge the foolish people. But what about when it comes to life and death?

Please get out your your Bibles and turn to Nehemiah. Okay, I’m not really a preacher, I just always wanted to say that. But Nehemiah is an amazing book, and Nehemiah the man really changed his world in a big way. He was sort of the Solomon Kane of his time, willing to go up against evil to create a better world for those who came after him. He was a man on a mission from God, to rebuild the Holy city. Several things I want to point out:

Nehemiah 4:4″ Hear us, our God, for we are despised. Turn their insults back on their own heads. Give them over as plunder in a land of captivity.”

Praying for God to defeat your enemies, is perfectly legitimate, if your enemies are truly in the wrong.

“9 But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat.”

13 Therefore set I in the lower places behind the wall, and on the higher places, I even set the people after their families with their swords, their spears, and their bows.

14 And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.

15 And it came to pass, when our enemies heard that it was known unto us, and God had brought their counsel to nought, that we returned all of us to the wall, every one unto his work.

16 And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my servants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the habergeons; and the rulers were behind all the house of Judah.

17 They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon.

18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.

Isn’t that interesting? They prayed, they trusted God, but they also posted guards. They didn’t assume God didn’t want them to protect themselves and their families. If you read further in  Nehemiah you will find that when they did get the city rebuilt they gathered to confess their sins before God and to praise him for everything. They were shrewd in how they protected the city, and gave God all the glory when it was over. As Jesus later says, be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.

How does this apply to us? Yes, posting guards means prayer warriors, but it also means putting trained  men and women in place to stop evil people from shooting up schools and churches. And let’s call it evil, instead of crazy or mentally incapable. In the last school shooting it was a 19 year old man, not a kid, who was capable of a planned attack. These are the actions of an evil person, not a crazy one.

And I don’t really care how old fashion it sounds. If you are a man with a family, you’re the first line of defense against evil people physically attacking them. There’s nothing wrong with learning to shoot or fight or having a weapon. You might need it someday to defend the defenseless.

Jesus never advocated overthrowing the Romans. He didn’t tell his followers to arm themselves to resist the ruling authorities, but he did tell them to sell their cloaks to buy a sword, presumably for protection against Bandits on the road.

Paul claims that God sets up ruling authorities.

“For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

This would seem to include policemen and guard’s and even private citizens licensed to carry a firearm.

There is a related question that keeps coming up about God’s judgement. Some people seem to think that there’s one God in the Old Testament another in the new. It’s a common idea that Jesus is always forgiving and never angry. The fact is, Jesus didn’t have any problem with God’s judgments. In fact he gives a lot of warnings about those judgments. He talks about the days of Noah when all of humanity was wiped out by God’s wrath as a factual event, and of course, he was there during the judging. He’s not a different Being, he is part of the Trinity from everlasting to everlasting.. He said: “I and the Father are one.” He even says it would be better for you to have a big rock tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea then to cause someone to lose faith. I personally don’t see how one can read the entirety of the Bible, and deny the Justice of God, or that the death penalty is sometimes a just punishment. People tend to confuse the forgiveness of God with the idea that no one should ever be punished for their crime. Perhaps Jeffrey Dahmer is in heaven, but that doesn’t mean we should have released him from prison.

If you are reading all this and thinking that the most violent thing Jesus ever did was turn over a few tables, you might want to read Revelations.

11 I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15 Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.”[a] He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written:

king of kings and lord of lords.

But this is all just metaphorical right?

17 And I saw an angel standing in the sun, who cried in a loud voice to all the birds flying in midair, “Come, gather together for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and the mighty, of horses and their riders, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, great and small.”

19 Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. 20 But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. 21 The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.

Sounds pretty literal to me.

So going back to Nehemiah, trust in God but keep your powder dry. Don’t be lax and unprepared for difficult times and situations. Even when God is sending manna you have to go pick it up. Even when God blesses your business, he expects you to continue doing you work with all your might. And if God is going to deliver the Goliath into your hands like he did for David, he still expects you to learn how to use the sling. If you’re ever in that situation, may your hand be steady and your aim be true.

But, as always, peace is what we pray for and long for. Shalom until next time.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “God, Scripture, and Guns. When is it “a time to kill?”

  1. Colin Pickering, Faultless Inside Blog

    I appreciate you writing this out. The concern I have with all of it is that much of what you have taken as an authorization for deadly force can also be taken a different way. Without clarity, you take a big risk. It is however your risk to take, as everyone is responsible for their own actions.

    Reading the words that you’ve written here, I believe you would search your heart and make the right decision when pointing your gun at someone you believe is a threat to others. I see so much love, wisdom, and intelligence in this, mixed in with your love for Guns. I want to make clear that owning guns is not a bad thing, and reasonable people will not say otherwise. I do not personally claim that guns are the problem, people are definitely the problem.

    There are three things that I believe are not clear cut that you mentioned. First is Ecclesiastes 3; this very easily can be referring to the time before our saviors birth for both a time to kill and a time for war. You see it as authorization for us to determine when it is okay to kill before going to war, but the entire chapter is about how God has determined these things far in advance. In that case, we have no such authorization to make these decisions on our own. On the other hand, you could be right, you might have that authority. I choose not to risk overstepping my authority, but everyone is free to make their own choices.

    Second is the smack in the face. Yes, I know that this is an insult, but the point wasn’t the physical violence. The point was not returning evil for evil. Jesus asking a question after being struck is not resisting an evil person. He, like he always did, provided that person with opportunity to change. This is what God always does for us throughout the entirety of the bible, he offers us opportunity to change. This opportunity is afforded all of us, that no matter how far we wander off, he will always want us to come back and celebrate our return. This opportunity is ended when we kill someone that we determine to be too far gone to save. Do we have the authority to make this call, or is this God’s call alone? I believe God alone has the authority to judge because only he knows our hearts, but as always it is your choice what to believe here.

    Third, the decision to buy only two swords was not made for protection. Do we not believe Jesus could have provided swords for all of his disciples if this was for protection? I don’t claim to know why Jesus chose to allow two swords to be purchased here, but I know some believe this was to setup his eventual capture. It gave them an excuse to come and get Jesus and suggest he was arming a rebellion. At the same time the number of swords provided evidence to the contrary, what kind of rebellion can one wage with only two swords? Additionally the only time the sword was used the person wielding it was corrected by Jesus.

    In the end it all comes down to what we want to believe right? We are very flawed people; I am constantly changing what I know about the bible as I learn. The bible is huge, and its wisdom cannot be learned by skimming or reading it fully one time. People who have studied the bible for decades still find new lessons to be learned in it. We can’t ever believe we have finally learned everything there is to know. Our convictions can’t be static, because if they are that means you’ve stopped maturing.

    Here is the last point. I believe you will make the right choice with your gun. What do you think it takes for a person to be validated for shooting another? What if a man walks into the school and is dressed in a way your don’t like? What if the way he looks makes you feel he is a threat? What if he reaches for something that you assume is a gun after that? Are we validated for shooting someone who appears to be a threat?

    How many people are going to die at the hands of good people making bad judgments? We are such a flawed people. We make lots of decisions based on fear, selfishness, anger, preference, experience, bias, and prejudice. Should we really be advocating as men and women of the Christian faith for these same flawed people to determine who is and is not deserving of death?

    You as a Christian man will evaluate your decision based on what you believe is right in the eyes of God. There are many more gun in school advocates who just love guns, not God, just guns. Guns aren’t the problem, people are the problem. More guns does not fix the people problem, it adds more opportunity for very flawed individuals to make mistakes. Nikolas Cruz likely has a mental condition that makes him prone to violence, is he too far gone to be saved by Jesus… I hope not.

    Cruz killed many people, but how many people did Paul kill before being saved?

    I believe you are a good Christian man. I appreciate the discussion that we’ve had and I value your opinion. I don’t know which of us is right, perhaps we are both wrong and there is a third option. I just hope you are not taking too great of a risk.

    May God bless you in all you do and help you decide what is right if ever presented with this sort of choice.

    • I appreciate you commenting. I really feel I just touched on the tip of the iceberg here, especially in regards to how God has used people to protect the innocent. Even sometimes people that are not believers. But at the moment I want to address something else. I don’t particularly love or hate guns. I’ve grown up around them, so they pretty much been part of my life from the start. They’re just a tool like any other tool. Like an axe or shovel. What I’m using an axe to split wood, I’m always aware that I can make a mistake and injure myself. When I’m using a gun to feed my family, I’m always aware that it has the potential to harm myself and others. Yes even trained people can make mistakes, but it’s no different then training people who protect our congressman, or our president. Should they have more protection than our children do? I guarantee you that there are many citizens who carry their gun to church in rural communities. It’s a shame that it’s come to this, but we should also be realistic. The mindset that says guns protecting schools are not the answer, is one that I believe, shows a fear of the guns themselves. Certainly they are not the total answer, just another tool in the Box. When we were kids, and got our first gun, the first thing we would be told is to never point it at a person. It seems we have a whole generation then have a whole different concept of what a gun is for. They think it’s only purpose is to kill people. Of course there are thousands of instances in this country every week where people protect themselves with guns without ever firing a shot. Criminals, by and large, are cowards and look for easy targets. Why in the world do we put a sign up advertising that the place where our children gather is a gun-free zone? We should put signs up saying “this property is protected by trained individuals with guns.” I’m fortunate that I am self-employed, and can rattle on about these topics while I work. Perhaps I’ll post more later.

    • Love your thoughts here, Colin

  2. For anyone wanting to see it, Solomon Kane is available on Netflix 🙂 It’s a similar theme as many others, like The Patriot – a man hesitant to war who eventually becomes convicted that there’s a season for that too. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a good study as well for anyone digging through the Christian conundrum of pacifism versus just war theory or even considering violence as a means of self defense. He strongly believed in solely praying and preaching against Nazi Germany but eventually as the war dragged on he came to believe fighting might be God’s way – he took part in an assassination attempt on Hitler that failed and he himself ended up in a concentration camp. He was a brilliant author, minister and leader though – a good example of someone in real war times struggling to grapple with this aspect of faith-life.

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Rachel Svendsen

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