Should We Arm Our Churches?

I remember a business meeting that I attended in Chicago about ten years ago. One evening a few business colleagues and I went to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. As we finished and began our trek back to the hotel, the other three guys were in deep conversation about guns and firing ranges.

Since I didn’t have much to offer to the conversation I spaced out and started thinking about other things. That was until one of the guys started talking about how he carries a concealed weapon to church service each week. He went on to say that his church had recently implemented security measures for their church services. At any one time there were at least three people on their security team with concealed weapons during their church services.

I had several thoughts about this mindset and approach at the time, but believed it was unique to that church and not necessarily a widespread phenomenon among other churches. But with the recent violence that has occurred within a few churches in the United States, the issue of securing churches with deadly weapons is more relevant now than ever.

I have a feeling that I am going to be a lone voice in the wilderness on this issue, but I believe a different voice is desperately needed right now.

Listen to me.

A church is supposed to be a gathering of those who have professed their allegiance and given their lives to the way, life, and teachings of Jesus. A church is supposed to be the body, the physical manifestation, of the Spirit of Christ in the world. A church is supposed to be comprised of those who are citizens of an alternative, upside-down kingdom that defies every convention of worldly wisdom.

So how have Jesus followers determined so easily to defy the way, life, and teachings of Jesus by deciding to take up arms when they gather together?

How have Jesus followers given up so easily their identity as the body of Christ in the world by concealing deadly weapons when they gather together?

How have Jesus followers abandoned so easily their citizenship of a kingdom that is characterized by the values of their king by choosing instead a thoroughly human way of responding violence?

There is no argument one can make for Jesus condoning the use of violence by his followers, without taking Jesus out of context and manipulating his meaning.

Jesus is the full and perfect revelation of the Father. When you have seen Jesus, you have seen the Father. When you have seen the way of Jesus, you have seen the way of the Father. When you have seen the values of Jesus, you have seen the values of the Father. And to that end, the full revelation of God through Christ is a self-sacrificing, enemy-loving, cross-bearing, other-oriented love.

Even further, the disposition and character of those who follow Jesus, who are given the Spirit of Christ in and through their lives, looks exactly like the Jesus they profess to follow by embodying and demonstrating the self-sacrificing, enemy-loving, cross-bearing, other-oriented love of Christ to both friend and enemy.

And no matter how many times a person tries to twist or contort Jesus into a violence-condoning, weapon-encouraging, enemy-killing, blood thirsty Savior, it simply can not be done without ignoring the clear and concise words of Jesus and the heart of the Father.

Whipping animals into a frenzy and overturning tables in the temple does not condone or justify the killing of an enemy.

Telling his disciples to buy swords, which was unambiguously mentioned in Scripture to fulfill a prophecy and which Jesus later rebuked Peter for using on an aggressor, does not overturn the entire ministry and life and command of Jesus to love your enemies.

Riding symbolically on a horse in Revelation with a sword coming out of his mouth, which clearly symbolizes the “sword of Truth,” does not somehow make the task of those who follow Jesus an enemy-killing affair. Besides, who fights with a sword in their mouth, anyway?

If those manipulations of Scripture are your basis for overturning and ignoring the overwhelmingly obvious foundation of the self-sacrificing, enemy-loving, cross-bearing, and other-oriented love of Jesus to justify your carrying of weapons to kill an enemy, then you have been misguided and have missed the heart of God for all people, including those you view as enemies.

Even more, if those are the proof texts for Jesus condoning the arming, violence, and killing by his followers, then we have a wildly contradictory Messiah, because they would absolute contradict his entire life, ministry, and mission.

For the Jesus I know and follow took up a cross to demonstrate how God loves despite accusation, insult, violence, and impending death. For the Jesus I know and follow said to love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and to give food to our enemy if he is hungry. For the Jesus I know and follow taught us to repay evil with good, to not resist an evil doer, to turn the other cheek, to go the extra mile, and to give the shirt off our back. For the Jesus I know and follow instructed us to pray for those who persecute us, to forgive others because they do not know what they are doing, and not be afraid of those who kill the body. For the Jesus I know and follow said that anyone who wants to save his life will lose it, that anyone who lives by the sword will die by the sword, that we should not avenge ourselves, and implored us to live at peace with everyone.

If his Kingdom was of this world, then his followers would fight and aggress and retaliate like those in this world. For though we live in the world, we do not fight as the world does. For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the powers and principalities of this dark world. And the weapons we bear are not of this world. Our belt is truth. Our breastplate is righteousness. Our shield is faith. Our helmet is salvation. Our sword is the Spirit of Christ.

And this Kingdom, the Kingdom in which we are citizens, is not of this world. Nor does it operate like the world.

For we are peacemakers. We are those who choose to bless. We are those who are meek and gentle. We are those who forgive and forgive and forgive. We are those who are self-sacrificial, enemy-loving, cross-bearing, and other-oriented. And we are those who always choose to love, even in the face of impending death, because it is the way demonstrated by our Savior and Lord.

Only and always peace and love…

Brandon

5 thoughts on “Should We Arm Our Churches?

  1. I obviously come into some conflict with this, as I think anyone might. You mention what he says about his kingdom, and ours not being of this world, and I think I understand. I have-however seen how certain wisdom has been gained from distance traveled (from God), and that we would not be able to even process as we do, as richly as we might, or recognize things, without our unique positions in life, that have been brought about by a state of “sin”. I can’t say I would follow Jesus, in my reaction to an invading threat, or if a person committing evil was trying to stop me, or loved ones, from doing what they planned (living more than now, or moving unmolested, somewhere, for instance), I would definitely resist them- Even killing them. This wouldn’t mean I would do it with hate, though. I love the enemy like I would teach them to fish, to keep them from stealing mine, or some other parallel. I recognize love differently than some- I root it to recognition of what is good, and cultivating it. I think “self” is a fuzzy concept, but if I had a message- Such as a cure for some blight, and if someone tried to stop me from spreading it, I would resist them, because this “self-sacrifice” at that point, of giving up my life to stay in this interpretation of his message, would be voluntarily allowing people to be continually effected by some sickness, and I don’t see how this is for the greater good. Or if someone is raping my lover/wife/daughter/son right in front of me, or threatening to hurt them, I would resist- And for the ability to take care of them, I would resist. If I were to absolutely choose the path of non-resistance, I would not have children. If I invest in this world, I have a responsibility to keep doing it, within reason, I think. But it has been said also, that we should resist “the devil”- Perhaps this is something we can do. Doesn’t the devil work through men? I understand self-sacrifice, but only for a purpose, at points (to the good/”greater good”). It is an if-then situation, and I’m not ready for the if-if I am ready to leave this world- Right now I’d like to make it better, and if I can self-sacrifice for that – For something positive, that I can recognize, I will. But not without purpose…at least not yet (even though one can say that acceptance/trust/faith in Jesus is the purpose).

    This is complicated. I admit, at first, your post made me angry- When I thought of the numerous situations in which I would, and still would, given the power to do so, help and protect myself and others, and work for good while I’m alive, here. But then it does seem to be a valid interpretation of what Jesus taught.

    But I think it runs in contradiction of what life does, for the greater part, and in good part- We definitely owe to this “nature” (good and bad of it), what we are, and there is definitely an if-then processing that I follow in this; If I am to stay here, if I am to invest here, if I am to have a family, I will protect them, and if I am to recognize good, I will work for that good, even if it means that I have to dispatch some unfortunate souls along the way, working for what I could recognize as “Satan”. But I can recognize that salvation (forgiveness) may always be available.

    This is complicated, and I’m still in conflict.

    I came here to share something I noticed; I noticed in researching a source for your post (I think), Matthew 5:39- I landed there when searching for information to make an argument. I remembered as well, as numbers sometimes make me pay attention, that the recent church shooting (Texas) took place on a church on the corner of 87 and 539 there…The shooter fled on 539, and that’s where it ended.

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  2. Brandon, I think the intensity of your view on this subject is directly proportional to the intensity of your commitment to full-on discipleship, conforming to the likeness (and example) of Jesus Christ. For many (most) Christians, the converse is equally true. In Jesus’ day, crowds followed him, and no doubt many believed in Him as Messiah and placed their hopes in Him. But not nearly as many undertook the path of discipleship, as defined by Jesus. Later in the New Testament it seems that various believers were referred to as “disciples” but I’m not at all sure this indicates a conformity to Jesus’ own definition. (Luke 14:25-35)

    For most believers, we “love our enemies” in a daily, social sense in that we forgive them, we pray for them, we actively seek to bless them and do good to them. No one’s life is at stake, but this is “loving our enemies” nonetheless. When our life or the life of a loved one is at stake, here is where believers and disciples diverge. There is a sense among believers that loving one’s enemy does not preclude loving one’s family and friends, and so when faced with the choice between allowing our (church) family to be killed by a madman or defending our (church) family with lethal force, choice B seems obvious. I also agree with the above commenter that even killing can be done with regret rather than hatred.

    By Jesus’ definition, a disciple will give up everything – even sacrificing familial relationships – to follow Him and conform to His example. That would include dying if necessary. Jesus actively discouraged some folks from becoming disciples, and He warns us that we ought to soberly evaluate our seriousness of purpose before ever embarking down that path. Does that mean everyone else is lost? I don’t think so, else Jesus would have encouraged everyone to at least “try” discipleship.

    It’s good that you encourage believers to at least ponder and pray over the issue of total non-violence. Many (most) will never be convinced that this was intended by Jesus, but some might be persuaded, if they are already inclined toward giving up more and more for the sake of conforming to Christ.

    ~ Don

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