4 Things Christians Need to Remember About Gun Control

It's time for Christians to examine the bottom line on firearms.

Editor's Note: In light of the Senate's decision to strike down a bipartisan proposal to extend background checks on gun purchases—a proposal that had the support of 54 senators, 80% of the American public and President Obama—we've decided to rerun an article published in January on the complex issue of guns, the regulation of them and how Christians should wrestle with this issue.

January 19 is the controversial “first national gun appreciation day.”

As a lifelong gun owner from northern Wisconsin, I appreciate my guns. They hold a lot of personal value to me as a part of our family traditions of hunting and marksmanship. I’m proud of the legacy of responsible gun ownership that has been passed down to me.

For the past five years, I have also lived in downtown Chicago, working alongside others who are combating the epidemic of gun violence in this city—men and women with stray bullet holes in their homes and car doors who regularly lose children in their ministry care to violence. I have stood in candlelight vigils with mothers who have lost children and have listened to their pain.

I know something has to be done.

Despite gun-related violence and deaths being down overall, in a city with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, gun violence is up 25 percent, with over 450 school-aged children having been shot (63 fatally) last year.

This is not some rare catastrophe. Senseless gun related violence is a present reality here in my city and others.

This past Wednesday, President Obama unveiled a comprehensive gun-safety plan aimed at reducing gun violence. The rhetoric is heated, and sides are being chosen.

I do not want to debate. I want to stop the murder of innocents from ever happening. Regardless of your view on guns, I know you do too. Where do we begin?

1. Love God.

Clearly, God in His holiness abhors killing. This means engaging the issue with an extreme bias toward the preservation of all life and the reduction of violence by any means.

Are we being “careful that the exercise of [our] rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak"?

Do we love God more than our legal rights? More than our possessions? More than our patriotism? More than our own safety? Are we being “careful that the exercise of [our] rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak (1 Cor 8:9)"?

Now, I have made no mention of the implications of those questions to the issue of guns, but if you feel a twinge of defensiveness or pride already, I would challenge you to pray about that.

2. Seek first the Kingdom.

Christians are to be about the work of announcing, building and representing an entirely new kind of reality here and now, on earth as it is in heaven. Our view is to be extraordinarily invested in the immediate concerns of this present reality.

Matthew 6:33-34: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

Concern about the future of America must not prevent us from addressing the brokenness of today.

This means engaging the issue of gun control must be directed toward stopping violence today—not primarily toward defending against a potential future where certain freedoms might be more restricted. Concern about the future of America must not prevent us from addressing the brokenness of today.

3. Love others.

The Church should be so invested in the lives of others, especially the “least of these” in society, that when someone exhibits unstable behavior or are threatened by violence, they are surrounded with biblical love and ensured the help they need.

Do we love our “rights” more than we love our neighbor? Are we willing to become neighbors to those surrounded by violence?

Do not doubt for a second that if more of us left our bubbles, abandoned culture wars, locked up our guns safe behind our legal right to own them and brought the physical presence of Christ into the communities stricken by violence, we would see dramatically less devastation—by gun or otherwise. Not a single new law would need to be passed, and the 2nd Amendment would be safer than ever.

4. Love your enemy.

Loving others also means seeing your neighbor the way Jesus instructs—including those you might vehemently disagree with or even despise.

It means patience with that friend in your social media feed who has strong opinions but seemingly little understanding, or hearing out organizational leaders calling for dramatic solutions that ignite your ire, or praying for the perpetrators of mass shootings. This even includes the “enemy” of gangs doing much of the killing and literally persecuting communities.

So, where does all this leave us?

I can get behind controlling a certain level of lethal technology, extensive background checks and waiting periods—including private sales. I am for all federal efforts to remove as many illegal weapons from circulation as possible. I will not oppose laws to restrict with fierce prejudice the sale of firearms or ammunition to criminals or the mentally ill. I’ll advocate to reduce the glorification of gun violence in video games and movies if criminals or the mentally ill are using those images to validate violence. I welcome the day when media outlets stop turning killers into “celebrities” for the deranged through sensational coverage.

Honestly, whether these laws change or not does not trouble me. Would I be willing to give up my guns in northern Wisconsin if it would save a life in downtown Chicago? Yes. If it came to it. A thousand times over.

It would be a shame to give up rights for measures that don’t ultimately make a difference. What would be an even greater shame is if we allowed legal ends to satisfy our regained consciousness that something must be done. We mustn't allow legal debates to defer our personal responsibility to combat the issue of violence.

I’m not kept up at night by whether or not I’ll be able to own any rifle I want. “Love God, seek first the Kingdom, love your neighbor ...”

That keeps me up at night.

196 Comments

Michael Barrett

1

Michael Barrett commented…

Mr van Lent. Wrong. There is absolutely NO empirical data showing gun control to reduce gun murder rate. In fact, many states where the gun control are strictest in the US have higher gun crime rates.

David Zirilli

29

David Zirilli replied to Michael Barrett's comment

Gun control is different than banning guns completely. Banning guns is probably pretty effective. Impossible in the U.S., but had that been the law 250 years ago, we'd probably have less gun violence.

Greg Mayhew

2

Greg Mayhew commented…

I just received an email from Relevant magazine regarding this article on gun control... they referred to the concepts as the "third way." As in a new harmonizing way to look at gun control, bringing the two sides closer together. I don't see it that way... I see this as "Our Way," referring to the long standing Christian tradition of pulling the "Christian" card, "God" card, or "religious" card to trump an argument... we do it all the time... we use the card to get us out of situations, we use it to get into situations, we use it to absolve ourselves of responsibility and we use it to win arguments... because the deployment of our secret card is usually successful... it generally sounds very loving and reasonable... the problem is it is NOT God's voice we are presenting, it is our own fearful, timid voice... often compelled by guilt or shame or pressure from popular/public opinion... this author was doing ok, until the end, when he "pulled the card..." suggesting that if, as Christians, we can even save one life, it would be worth getting rid of our guns... a thousand times over! This is purely humanistic drivel, driven by the inner need to respond to a horrific event... one that leaves us feeling helpless and unable to make sense of the loss and the factors that lead to the tragedy... the truth is that we will not save any lives by getting rid of guns... men have been killing men since the beginning... look at the massacres that have occured in Africa with solely machete's as weapons... hundreds of thousands of innocent people dead... the gasing genocides that have occured in the middle east... the western world barely bats an eye... but when the devastation is on OUR doorstep, we become indignant and demand a response... this phenomenon defies a cure because the problem is NOT guns... it is the broken, fallen, wayward hearts of men... trying desperately to find some meaning in this world and in their flawed existances. The hearts of men, seperated from God and the knowledge of His grand design for each, become twisted and desperate and capable of unspeakable evil... history bears this out and so will the future... guns or no guns... articles like this only serve to distract the church of Christ from our Prime Directive... which cannot be found in ANY political issue, certainly not this one.

David Zirilli

29

David Zirilli replied to Greg Mayhew's comment

So, you agree with the article, right? Love God, Seek first His Kingdom, Love others and Love your enemies. Then, after you have focused on that, go vote on your politics.

Jeremy Olson

6

Jeremy Olson replied to David Zirilli's comment

Gun laws are not a solution. It's a bandaid over a gaping, bleeding out wound. The problem is our culture. There have been studies done showing countries with high numbers of gun ownership and very low gun-based killings and the reason why is because in those cultures community is more important. People are more close knit. Where as in the US we are a much more anti-social, isolated society. When you don't connect with the people around you it's easy to devalue human life in your own mind.

Daniel Cobb

2

Daniel Cobb commented…

I like the premise of this article, but I don't like its thinly-veiled application. When dealing with political issues, it is supremely important to let our faith inform our politics above all else! However, I agree with several of the other comments, in that this article definitely would seem to be suggesting that the "third way," the "Christian way," would be to welcome more gun control. What if that isn't the answer? I mean its a feel good solution! But is it really "loving your neighbor" if it isn't helping violence to go down? What if, in our attempt to be loving, we took the easy way out and failed to stand up for what would affect the most beneficial change, whether that be gun control laws or resisting them? I love what one of the other comments said regarding our real duty as Christians, to affect real heart change by the transforming power of the gospel. This is the third way.

Anna Carissa Rozzo

2

Anna Carissa Rozzo commented…

I feel like this issue is much more complicated than whether or not you support gun control. We are getting into a very unhealthy pattern of polarizing and therefore simplifying complex social problems. Addressing violence and crime needs to take on a much more holistic approach. As Christians, we can all get behind (hopefully) caring for the poor and the mentally ill. As a resident of Washington DC I can say quite confidently that most, if not all the homeless people I see in the streets are suffering from mental illness. As an inner city teacher, I can say that our schools need reform so they can better support the needs of children and adult learners. If we prioritize education, end the stigma towards mental illness, and support the poor, we can go a long way towards curbing crime and showing the world Jesus' love.

Allen Kraus

1

Allen Kraus commented…

Good article.
Yes, I agree. As Christians our hope and security are in God. However, even Israel and the disciples understood the necessity for weapons in defense of themselves.

I submit that if we spent as much time praying for the souls of our countrymen as we debated gun control God might hear our prayer and heal our land. The problem at the heart of it is a spiritual problem because our "struggle is not against flesh and blood..." but "against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."

Via Con Dios.

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