Are You Disobeying Jesus to Own Guns?
When a Christian owns and uses guns, at some point he is going to face these objections:
“But Jesus said Turn the other cheek!”
“But Jesus is the Prince of Peace!”
“But Jesus told Peter to put his sword away!”
Somehow people take these incidents as “evidence” that Jesus prohibited using firearms or other means of deadly force.
So, what about “Turn the Other Cheek”?
If you are slapped on your cheek, is that comparable to someone trying to kill you? The answer is simple. Jesus was not addressing how to deal with the threat of capital crime. He was speaking about someone who is insulting you, not someone trying to kill you.
The instruction to “turn the other cheek” categorically is not applicable to life-threatening attackers, because if you are being killed, you cannot turn the other cheek.
When the multitude of forces came to seize Jesus, He asked if they were come out “as against a thief, with swords and staves” to take Him. (Matt. 26:55, Mark 14:48, Luke 22:52). He implied that that there is a time for the just use of deadly force, that thievery is one of those just times.
“Then Would My Servants Fight”
Jesus told Pilate, “If My kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews.” (John 18:36)
...and our Savior expressly declared, that if His kingdom had been of this world, then would His servants fight to protect Him; or in other words, that then and in that case, He would not have restrained them from fighting. The lawfulness of such fighting, therefore, instead of being denied, is admitted and confirmed by that declaration. [All emphases in original] —Life of John Jay, p. 392
War, of course, is the use of deadly force on a collective level, and if it were never right to use deadly force on the individual level, the collective level could not be sanctioned.
But Jesus Told Peter to Put Away His Sword
When Jesus said to Peter, ”Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?” He laid bare the reason why Peter could not use deadly force to defend Jesus. Not for a second because it is immoral to use deadly force on behalf of innocent life. The cup God gave Jesus to drink was the cup of sin: Jesus was going to be seen as guilty of capital crimes. The wages of sin is death; without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin (Heb. 9:22), and the death penalty had to be executed.
Deadly Force for Criminals Harming Children
Jesus even recommended the death penalty for certain crimes against children, as recorded by three gospels, Matthew 18:6, Mark 9:42, and Luke 17:2. All three accounts are quite similar, and we’ll go with Mark here:
“And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in Me, it is better for him that a milltone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.”
NOTE: Nowadays, people use “offend” as in “hurt another’s feelings,” forgetting that “offend” is also synonymous with “violate,” “trespass,” “transgress.” However, we still have terms such as “repeat offender,” which keep some of the objective definition of “offend.”
Jesus, then, was not talking about only hurting a little kid’s feelings; He was talking about committing grave crimes against a child, such as physical or sexual abuse.) And Jesus said the death penalty would be BETTER for a child offender than what would happen to him elsewhere (at the hand of God).
Jesus actually told His disciples to buy swords: “[H]e that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, a buy one,” Luke 22:36b.
In the Letter of Dolabella on Jewish Privileges, written in 43 B.C., “they [the Jews] can neither carry weapons nor march on the days of the Sabbath.”
In telling them to buy swords, He was instructing them to disobey Roman law! (They even told Him, “Lord, behold, here are two swords,” and He said, “It is enough.”)
What About “Judge Not”?
Jesus did say “Judge not” but He went on to say much more and the following verses show that He meant how you treat others is how you will be treated. Elsewhere, He instructed men to judge righteous judgment (John 7:24).
What About the Woman Jesus Didn’t Stone?
The law God gave to Moses required that “the adulterer and the adulteress” should both be put to death (Lev. 20:10). The scribes and Pharisees brought only the woman, and mis-quoted the law. They were not asking Jesus if He believed in the law God gave Moses; they were creating a strawman and asking Him if He believed in it.
Further, they had not planned to stone her anyway, because the Romans didn’t grant the Jews authority to put people to death. When Pilate told the Jews, “Take ye [Jesus], and judge Him according to your law,” they responded, “It is not lawful for us to put any man to death.” (John 18:31)
They purposed to trap Jesus, not to uphold God’s morality. They wanted to get Jesus in trouble either with the Romans, or their straw-man portrayal of Old Testament law. Jesus’ wise response (and His writing in the dirt) exposed them as hypocrites.
Centurions and Soldiers
In Matthew 8, a centurion came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his servant—stipulating that since he wasn’t worthy to have Jesus under his roof, all he wanted Jesus to do is speak the word, and the servant would be healed. “For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to anther, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” (v. 9)
Jesus marvelled and responded, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.“ (He also healed the centurion’s servant, of course.)
If Jesus had believed and taught that using deadly force was never justified, He would have expressed this in some way to the centurion. When the centurion talked about the soldiers under his authority, a pacifist would have had a prime opportunity to respond with pacifist declarations! But Jesus said nothing about leaving the military or ceasing to use deadly force. (At other times, Jesus would say, “Go and sin no more,” to a person, but He did not even say that.)
John the Baptist — Jesus’ Cousin — And Deadly Force
John the Baptist was “filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15c). When he was preaching his message of repentance, soldiers in the audience “demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do?”
“Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages,” replied he (Luke 3:14b).
Do violence to no man... John the Baptist knew that deadly force could be used in violation—violence—of the rights of others, rather than in their protection. The following phrase, “neither accuse any falsely,” builds on the ways that one can violate another’s rights.
Be content with your wages... In John Jay’s letter on Just War, he elaborated:
Can these words be rationally understood as meaning that they should receive wages for nothing? Or, that when ordered to march against the enemy, they should refuse to proceed; or that, on meeting the enemy, they should either run away, or passively submit to be captured or slaughtered? This would be attaching a meaning to his answer very foreign to the sense of the words in which he expressed it. [Emphasis in original]
Isn’t Shooting An Intruder Sending Him to Hell?
I have heard people raise this as a reason why they opposed anyone owning, much less using, weapons or deadly force.
The truth is that God doesn’t give any man the power to send another man to hell. Whether a man goes to hell depends on how he, on his own, relates to God (whether in obedience or disobedience). And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. —Jesus, Matthew 10:28
What About the Apostles?
In Hebrews 11, the Bible’s Hall of Fame and Faith, the Bible praises men who “through faith subdued kingdoms,” (v. 33), and “waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (v. 34). Clearly, the men who used swords and deadly force in defense and in war did so through faith, not against faith.
The Apostle Paul declared his willingness to receive the death penalty, if he had committed a sin unto death: “For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die: but if there be none of these things whereof these accuse me, no man may deliver me unto them. I appeal unto Caesar.” Acts 25:11
Moreover, in appealing to Caesar, Paul implied that a fellow man can have authority in determining if someone else has committed a sin worthy of death: a sin that meant its perpetrator forfeited his right to life. He implied that imperfect, UNSAVED men could know perfectly whether someone else is guilty of a capital sin.
To Everything There Is A Season
Scripture cannot be morally inconsistent because it is the Word of God, and He is morally consistent. The moral principles of the Old Testament remain the same principles for the New Testament.
God established the guideline for using deadly force in the Old Testament; to be exact, in Genesis 9 among the terms of the Noahic covenant:
- Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth (9:1)
- The fear and dread of man shall be upon every beast, every fowl, all that moves on the earth and all the fish in the sea (v. 2)
- Every moving thing shall be meat for man; as the green herb God has given man all things (v.3)
- The blood of an animal shall not be eaten (v. 4)
- Whoso sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man. (v.6)
In other words, a certain crime will forfeit a person’s right to live.
The animals still live in dread of man.
The animals are still meat for man.
The blood of an animal still shall not be eaten.
The husband and wife should still be fruitful.
And using deadly force to defend innocent life is still moral.
As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven...
3a A time to kill, and a time to heal...
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. [emphases added]