Eight, nine, maybe ten years ago, I was talking with a few of our ushers at the rear of the church, probably about 10 minutes before the beginning of a worship service. I’m not sure why, but the discussion was about handguns. Maybe they had been to the shooting range, or they were planning an outing. When one mentioned a specific gun, Floyd pulled up his pant leg and revealed that exact model in an ankle holster. He said, “You mean, like this one?” At that moment, I realized that on any given Sunday morning, at least one of my worshipers was packing.
Since then, I know that many members have purchased guns and gotten concealed carry permits. How many have that gun on them or in a handbag on a Sunday morning? I have no idea. When we last worshiped in Haiti, I noticed that many of the ushers had a sidearm under their suit coat. Usually a 9mm.
The mass shooting in Las Vegas, the worst so far (more than Pulse, Virginia Tech or Sandy Hook), shocked us all on Monday morning. As the number of dead topped 50 and the number injured went beyond 500, we learn that the shooter had an amazing amount of firepower and ammunition in a thirty-second floor hotel room.
There are guns, lots of guns, all around us, and we’re not even aware of it. Many are permitted, legal and their owners trained. Some are not. Some research reports that there are more guns in the United States than people. We have the right to bear arms. We have guns because we’re afraid. We’re afraid of who might have a gun. And when the next shots will be heard.
What do you think? Is it appropriate for a Christian to own and/or carry a gun? The issue isn’t directly addressed in Scripture. The judges, prophets, kings and disciples wielded swords. David was deadly with a sling. Samson used his bare hands. Archers inflicted damage with arrows. Peter swung his sword at the high priest’s servant in the Garden of Gethsemane. The bible is filled with people – God’s people – using deadly force.
But Jesus said it is the peacemakers who are “blessed”(Matthew 5:9). When threatened or attacked, we are called to love our enemies rather than retaliate (Matthew 5:44-45). We leave vengeance to God (Romans 12:17-21). And we that task it to the government, who does wield the sword by God’s blessing to take care of wrongdoers (Romans 13:1-4). Yes, the Lord equips his church with a sword, the sword of the Spirit, which is his Word (Ephesians 6:17). When provoked or attacked, we use that weapon to give a reason for the hope that we have (1 Peter 3:15).
There is much to be afraid of in this world. But Jesus reminds us not to fear those who can kill the body, but not touch your soul (Matt 10:28). God’s greatest gift is love, the “perfect love that casts out fear” (1 John 4:18), a love shown when Christ laid down his life for us (1 John 3:16).
I do not have anything against those who choose to own or carry a weapon. I choose not to. I doubt if it would make me feel any more secure. It certainly wouldn’t make a difference should someone be shooting down at me from a hotel window. But there must be a way we can prevent these killings. There must be a way we can, at least in our country, prevent these kinds of shootings.