Facing Issues That Divide: Christianity and Guns

For American Christians, few issues highlight the intersection of legal rights and faith concerns more sharply than gun ownership and regulation. The debate has reached a fever pitch after mass shootings such as the one in Orlando on June 12 of this year that left 49 dead and 53 wounded, the deadliest mass shooting by an individual in U.S. history; and after shootings of police officers in Dallas on July 7 and in Baton Rouge on July 17. We live in a nation where a “right to bear arms” is expressly included in the Constitution. Among the roughly one-third of Americans who own guns, the vast majority do so either for sport or to protect themselves and their families. They remind us that it is people who kill; guns are inanimate objects.  As was seen on a recent attack in Europe, if guns were not available those intent on killing would use other means (a truck in Nice, France, and a knife and axe in Germany).  Some of the gun advocates feel that the violent crimes and mass shootings that have occurred make the case for gun ownership as a means of protection. On the other side of the issue, guns raise questions for many Christians.  How does gun ownership relate to Jesus’ words not to “live by the sword” and to “turn the other cheek”?  They point out that knives and other weapons cannot kill dozens of people a minute as semi-automatic weapons can.  They note that without proper training the average person is unlikely to be able to fire their gun accurately in self-protection and hit what they are firing at.  They raise the question of whether guns make us safer, or only create the illusion of safety. In this final post of a five-part series on issues that divide us, we’ll take a closer look at how Christians can approach guns and gun laws—and what guidance we can gain from the Bible. For a more thorough exploration of this topic, you can follow the links below to Scripture and video from a sermon I delivered at the church I serve. If you’d like to explore the issues in a group setting, you can also download a free leader guide to the series. Here are some thoughts to get you started: According to the Pew Research Center, the reasons that some Americans own guns have shifted. In 1999, nearly half of all guns owners cited hunting as the reason they own guns, and barely one-fourth cited self-protection. By 2013, those numbers had flipped, with self-protection as the main reason for gun ownership. The Pew Center also found that 85 percent of the public favored requiring background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows. Two-thirds of those in the United States who die from gunshot wounds are victims of suicide. Even though the legal system by itself cannot eliminate gun accidents and gun crimes, good laws can still have a positive impact. The Bible has been used on both sides of the argument about gun ownership and regulation. Do our peace and security come from owning guns or from trusting in God? In last year's shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, South Carolina, if the victims had been carrying guns, things might have turned out differently. Does the idea of Christians bringing guns to church trouble you? Why or why not? Ready to dive deeper? Click here to see my sermon series “Facing Issues That Divide,” and then select today’s sermon, “Christianity and Guns.” Want to discuss these topics in a group? Click the link below or here for a free downloadable leader guide.

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