Many evangelical Christians seem to be arming themselves in fear of having to protect their property or family in an anticipated collapse of civilization. I do not fault them for their concern and support the right to bear arms. I have nothing but respect for the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and even the logic of possessing firearms. I get it; really, I do. I enjoy the experience of shooting cans and bottles off a fixed target from thirty yards away. If I lived in a rural area with rattlesnakes and rabid animals, I would certainly own a shotgun.
Yet the question continues to haunt me, “Is rushing out and purchasing a gun (or several) a wise response for faithful Christians?” One moment, one mistaken response, one second of heightened anxiety, one careless accident, can change a person’s life, and the lives of many others forever, literally in a flash.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”2 Timothy 1:7
Is the risk of “standing my ground”, protecting my property (or parking space), maybe even protecting my life, or the life of another worth it? Maybe. But to me, the emotional costs seem too high and the risks too great. I am not making an argument for you to stop “bearing arms”, but explaining why I do not. I prefer to simply lock my doors and pay attention to potential risks on the street while remaining unarmed. Guns and bullets may not kill, people do (according to the rhetoric), but weapons certainly can kill others when given the right set of circumstances.
What is my bold reasoning? I have none; simply, I know myself and how I would respond. My heart is too tender to kill another human being, intentionally or not. I do not want to risk this level of permanent injury to my conscience. Just the thought of taking a person’s life—regardless of whether by accident or a justified, intentional act—causes me to shudder. I sense my soul would be perpetually wounded, and this is a risk I prefer not to take. So, I remain unarmed and actually, I feel safer this way.
Unlike the visual tsunami of violent deaths seen in movies and television dramas, killing another person rips at the natural fabric of God’s creation expressed in the commandment that we shall not murder. Yes, I know there are unfortunate exceptions but as a rule, we are designed to be part of God’s creative force in the world and not to intentionally participate in the destruction of God’s “image bearers”: human beings. By nature, we are builders of hope, not destroyers of life. As Christians, our actions must find justification through Jesus under the new covenant of redemption through the incarnation of our Lord and Savior. In Jesus we put our trust. What other defense is worthy?
Everywhere I go, I find strangers to be generally friendly and decent. Regularly, I give and receive expressions of kindness and basic human decency in everyday interactions, just like most others do. Maybe the deeper cause of the fear that feels the need to arm oneself is the hyper-anxiety created by unnecessary political polarization that is inciting unreasonable fear and paranoia. I believe the rhetoric is overblown and out of proportion with the reality of how perilous life currently is in our country.
My wife Kathy and I do not live in a bubble or social isolation. In ministry with young people, we often have gone in and out of “troubled” neighborhoods frequently and currently live in what might be considered a medium-risk area. Of course, we stay alert and give due diligence to avoiding situations that might go badly. We are careful to lock our doors and leave security lights on at night—we even had a security camera for a time—but these are reasonable measures for living safely in society. Very rarely have we ever felt threatened or been in such volatile situations that might require fight. Violence often happens in the middle of the night by people who already know each other and have a grudge to settle. Sadly, this will likely be one of the worst decisions of their lives by which they will be forever marked.
Occasionally, I read in the news about a home invasion or kidnapping which merits violently defending of life and property, but these are statistically extremely rare. I wonder: if I come stumbling out into the living room at 3 a.m. flashing a gun, am I more or less likely to be shot by an intruder? Could go either way. Pulled guns shift into offensive weapons and quickly provoke a response. Maybe there are better options. My father kept a baseball bat under his bed. Seems reasonable. By the way, he never had to use it although I remember times when I was a child that he walked into the dark living room ready to hit a home run.
Besides all the things that can go wrong (e.g. accidents, suicides, mistaken identity, moment of rage), I do not think I would fully recover from taking a life. My emotional and spiritual sensitivities would obsess on the horror of that moment. Maybe you think a “justified” killing would not bother you, but I suspect it might haunt you, as it would me. Consider the emotional risk when making these decisions. I suspect anyone who has taken a life, even in the line of duty, would describe such moments as horrific and burned into painful memory. I hope to go my entire life without ever having to make that decision. But if I do, look for me broken, crying, and on my knees before God in repentance, even if it was the better decision of two bad choices.
These are just the ponderings of an unarmed man who does not live in fear.