Gun violence is an epidemic that takes hundreds, if not millions, of lives every year. Some would argue that guns are necessary for personal protection, while others claim that guns cause more problems than worth. According to Amnesty International, more than 500 people die every day from gun violence. Forty-four percent of all homicides globally involve gun violence. There were 1.4 million firearm-related deaths globally between 2012 and 2016. Most victims and offenders are young men, but women are particularly at risk for firearms violence perpetrated by an intimate partner.
Americans’ passion for the right to bear arms has a long and well-known history. However, the narrative of religion and guns is shrouded by mass shootings, including the few at churches. Activists, scholars, and pastors now point to a shift in the relationship between religion and guns. More people of faith realize that despite a range of views on the increase and use of firearms, they have a theological and moral imperative to speak out on the issue. Security training companies say that houses of worship make up the fastest-growing business segment as more churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples are arming their congregation. Conservative Americans who hold more theologically conservative beliefs are more likely to own guns. Still, those who are more actively involved in the community are less likely to own guns.
Owning Weapons in the Bible
Due to the growing level of violence in today’s world and the praise of peace in Scripture, there’s a debate among Christians regarding whether it’s appropriate for a Christian to own weapons. However, a thorough look at the Bible offers some insight. Some apostles possessed weapons. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He asked His followers to bring swords. They had two, which Jesus said was enough, demonstrated in Luke 22:37-39. As the authorities arrested Jesus, Peter sliced off the ear of one of his high priest servants, Malchus. Jesus healed him right away and told Peter to put his weapon away. Jesus didn’t criticize Peter for having the sword, just for using it.
Still, David praised God, who trained his hands for war and his fingers for battle. The Bible never forbids Christians from owning a weapon, but it does offer some principles to consider. First, God calls all Christians to be peacekeepers. A Christian considering purchasing a gun should prayerfully consider it if doing so would aid in peacekeeping. A Christian should only own a weapon for a purpose that would honor God. Using a weapon for hunting, military or law enforcement duty, or self-defense may glorify God. Still, it would help if you reflected on your motives for owning a particular weapon.
Finally, a Christian should abide by local laws, including gun laws. Romans 13 is clear that governing authorities are from God, and we should obey them. Further, we should pray on behalf of ruling leaders who oversee our communities and nation. Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with owning a gun or any other weapon. A weapon can be helpful and even necessary in some contexts. At the same time, Christians should carefully consider their motive and purpose in owning a gun, and Christians should follow local ordinances.
Essentially, the Bible says that a Christian should own a weapon for the right reasons. God would never want you to use your gun to hurt someone. One of the most known commandments is, “Thou shalt not kill.” The only time He would like you to use your gun is for self-defense. Jesus also wants us to question why we feel like we need a weapon. If we’re getting it for self-defense or if you’re a law enforcement official, then He would be pleased. However, if you’re going to use your weapon for anything other than uplifting His kingdom, He wouldn’t be happy.
Church Mass Shootings
Although the church is a place of comfort and peace, they also experience their share of violence. In Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015, nine Black members were killed during a Bible study at the Emmanuel AME Church. The church is one of the oldest Black churches in the United States. 21-year-old Dylan Roof was convicted of 33 federal hate crimes and murder charges and was sentenced to death on January 10, 2017. In November of 2017, a gunman killed 26 people and wounded 20 others at a Texas church. Witnesses said that a man in all black started firing a rifle outside of First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a community of a few hundred people thirty miles east of San Antonio. Police identified the attacker as 26-year-old Devin Kelley.
These two church shootings changed the landscape of how safe Christians are in church. The church is a sacred place where believers come to worship and unwind after a tough week, or they come to give God praise after a good week. No one could ever imagine that the church would be a place of violence and gunfire. Although they’re rare, churches started enhancing their security due to these incidents.
Jesus' Take on Gun Violence
Gun violence is a tragedy that no one should ever have to endure. Sadly, millions of people lose their loved ones each day due to gun violence. The saddest stories are those where perpetrators kill an unintended victim. Some Americans feel that people who oppose guns are trying to take away their right to bear arms. However, these advocates want the violence to end. Jesus weeps for everyone who dies from violence, but those who died at church truly break his heart.
Jesus would want everyone to solve their issues without guns. He’s not against you owning a gun, but how people use their firearms would upset Him the most. Psalm 11:5 says that the Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence. Jesus would compel us to come together as a community and put the guns down. He would want us to talk to one another about our problems instead of resorting to firearms. He loves us, and He’s tired of having to welcome souls into heaven too soon because of violence.