It is a travesty that we are in an uproar over guns at Christmas. But death and execution is nothing new to the Christmas story. The weeping and mourning of mothers was heard that first Christmas as Herod’s sword swept through Bethlehem’s infant homes.
As a pastor I have always refrained from publicly taking sides in the gun control issue. There are believing Christians on both sides of this seemingly very complicated (and emotionally charged) issue and I have always felt that taking a public position on gun control would be causing needless hardships in my relationships and impede the message of the Gospel that I preach.
However, in light of this past week’s events, perhaps there is a window of opportunity to speak reasonably on the subject without undue retribution from any side. I am praying so. For heaven’s sake and for ours here on earth.
I should preface this all by saying that my relationship with firearms has been quite limited and I have absolutely no personal investment in them… This might be a good or a bad thing when discussing this subject fairly. Growing up as a youngster, guns were not a part of my family’s “tradition” or “male bonding” rituals as I know they are in many other families. When I was a youngster I once shot a few BBs at a tin can sitting on a fence. Then a couple years ago I went to a firing range with friends and spent a couple hours shooting clay pigeons out of the air. (I was actually pretty proud of myself for doing quite well against my friends who had years of practice and military backgrounds, but I have to say that I left the range no happier or better as a person.)
So… down to brass tacks… Is it morally wrong to own a gun? No. There is no biblical basis to make such a claim.
But let’s ask another question: Is owning a machine whose only purpose is to kill, something that is “God pleasing?” Is it a fruit of the Spirit? Is it something that is for the uplifting of human kind and is born from the regenerate heart given by Christ? Does it point to Christ in any way, shape or form? Does it glorify Him? Or rather, is it a fruit of our sin and the fallen world around us, a stabbing, painful reminder that all is not well in the world?
Obviously there are legitimate reasons for the possession of firearms. But we ought to examine more closely what has been termed the “gun culture”. America’s gun culture has deep roots in our history. There is no denying that guns were an integral and necessary part of historic American life. People had to hunt to survive. And yes, the country was founded on the idea that people had the right to protect themselves from tyrants in government. But as necessary as they were, guns were also the cause of much death and misery among our citizens as we fought each other, often times every man a law unto himself. Truly guns were only a “necessary evil” – and nothing more.
But what about now in the 21st Century? Although there are still examples of American life where firearms are integral to honest living (besides law enforcement), these are for the most part fairly far and few between. But somehow our misguided “affection for” and “glorification of” firearms has continued. In many circles, owning a gun is somehow linked to one’s “manhood” and a source of much pride and ambition. I remember one day in Canada walking home from my seminary classes. I passed this parked truck with a truly massive military style gun case proudly displayed on a rack. I was so foolish in those days that I stopped and wrote a paragraph expressing politely that I was offended by the public display of such a menace to life – even though I was not begrudging the fact he had every right to own the gun. Why would he want to display such a threat, I asked? The owner came up as I finished writing my note. I gave it to him and explained it politely to him. He became so enraged at me that I was struck dead afraid that he was going to pull the gun out and use it on me. I literally ran away as fast as I could! But the question remains: Why do we love our killing machines? What base nature are we feeding?
Of course we can lay the blame for this glorification of firearms at many feet. We can talk about the larger “culture of violence” that we are so easily engaged with in video games, movies, etc. Industries and lobbies and rackets and immense amounts of money are made as people are convinced to buy more and more guns (almost 1 gun per person here in the US). And we have to ask: How does a “gun culture” and “culture of violence” stack up against the Christian directive to love good and utterly hate evil and every tool of the devil?
My contention is not that firearms should be outlawed. My contention is that if someone is compelled by some grave reason to own firearms, he must first learn to utterly hate and revile them. They are to be hated for the evil they stand for. They are to be abhorred for the inherent risk of harm and death they pose to anyone who would by evil chance lay their hands on them. And I would contend that anyone who purchases a firearm believing they themselves are incapable of misusing it should stop and honestly reconsider their hearts and the frailties of their minds. I know that in my own exceedingly gentile life, on at least one occasion, I became so furious and crazed with self-righteous anger (for utterly inane reasons) that I found myself desiring and eager to discharge a gun. And I believe I would have – IF I would have had one.
There is much our government can do to make our nation safer. There are plenty of ways to manufacture guns so they can’t be fired accidentally or by criminals (through, for example, a required input of an authorization code or a matching owner’s finger print in order for a discharge to take place.) It also might be very effective to make gun owners liable for the damage their firearms incur if they don’t keep them stored securely. Of course these ideas (and others) are never foolproof, but if wisely implemented, there seems little doubt they would begin to minimize further horror in our nation – and still let our currently read constitutional rights stand.
But truly, if we are going to change anything in this country, it can’t start with laws. It has to start with our own hearts devoted to Christ: hearts that count life precious and sacred; Hearts that know and are trained in gentleness and holiness; Hearts that are softened by the warm glow of the true and overwhelming mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ; hearts that are completely secure in the eternal love of Christ that faces death with no fear. With such hearts we will thrill to do what is best… and ANY pitiful objection of “convenience” or “personal desire” or “glorified right” will fall to the withering, horrible stare of our dead children.
May death be vanquished from our hearts this Christmas! May Christ reign supreme in our lives – forever. Amen.