In a prophetic lyric by Josh Garrels, we hear the voice of God-and-Country-Evangelicalism: “[I] protect my 90% with my guns.”
According to a news story I saw on TV this week, national gun sales for the month of November this year were 24% higher than in November of last year. The story was mainly about people buying them as Christmas gifts for loved ones. Several interviewed people claimed that giving someone the ability to protect themselves is one of the most loving gifts anyone could give.
How do Christians figure into this story? I do not know the numbers, but I would bet that the majority of people purchasing guns this holiday season are folks who would claim some sort of Christian faith. I know a great many evangelicals who are firmly ensconced in the 2nd Amendment gun-owner camp.
On the Desiring God web page today, John Piper offers some very important thoughts to Christians about the growing popularity of the idea of gun ownership and self-protection.
In his final paragraph, Piper once more clarifies his point in writing the article:
“This article is about the people whom the Bible calls ‘refugees and exiles’ on earth, namely, Christians. It’s about the fact that our weapons are not material, but spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:4). It is an argument that the overwhelming focus and thrust of the New Testament is that Christians are sent into the world — religious and non-religious — ‘as lambs in the midst of wolves’ (Luke 10:3). And that exhorting the lambs to carry concealed weapons with which to shoot the wolves does not advance the counter-cultural, self-sacrificing, soul-saving cause of Christ.”
He is exactly right here.
At various points throughout the article, he concedes the notion that “there are ambiguities in the way Christian mercy and civic justice intersect,” meaning he is not willing to go so far as to say that Christians have no role to play in the armed forces of the state.
This issue of “ambiguity” is where I am forced to differ with my teacher (the Lord has used the work of John Piper in my life for years). I do not think there is as much ambiguity as he does. For example, though he accurately expresses the teaching of Romans 13 on the sword of the state and God’s use of it for carrying out justice in the world, the text never implies–even the slightest bit–that Christians could participate in the state’s use of armed violence for any reason.
Additionally, in his 7th point, Piper briefly discusses Luke 22:35-38. Here he makes another unnecessary concession, saying that he shares “the uncertainty of this text.” While I hesitate to say that I have more biblical understanding than John Piper, I truly believe he is missing the obvious point here. The Lord Himself explains His reason for telling his disciples to carry a sword (and a wallet!) in verse 37. It is so that He will be arrested in the company of transgressors.
So having clarified a couple of points of difference between myself and Piper on this topic, now let me say that in this article, he NAILS it in terms of explaining why Christians should not flee to the self-protective measures of the world.
Here is one of my favorite spots in the article:
“[N]o book of the Bible wrestles with [the idea of being exiles on this earth with our citizenship in heaven (Philippians 3:20), while at the same time being called to serve in the structures of society (1 Peter 2:13)] more directly than 1 Peter, and the overwhelming thrust of that book is this: As you suffer patiently and even joyfully for your faith, do so much good that people will ask a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15).
I think I can say with complete confidence that the identification of Christian security with concealed weapons will cause no one to ask a reason for the hope that is in us. They will know perfectly well where our hope is. It’s in our pocket.”
Do yourself a favor. Read the whole article.