God-Given Right to Bear Arms?
Do we have a God-given right to bear arms and if so, how should we bear our arms?
Recently, we have all seen and heard people talk about gun rights and gun laws in our politics. After every mass shooting, the debate over gun laws revives itself for a few days and then goes away with a whimper. This heavily debated subject often finds its way to “what the Bible says” and the inalienable rights that the Lord gave mankind. Oddly enough, those “inalienable rights” only seem to be spoken about when it comes to gun rights, never about how we treat one another daily, but I suppose that’s a Bible study for another day.
In light of the recent mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, we’re going to talk about a claim that people who are for not changing gun laws often use. The claim: it is a God-given right to bear arms (weapons). In this study, we will take a look at the scripture that they use to vindicate their stance on this issue. We will keep politics out of our study from this point, and study what scripture shows us.
The scripture that “proves” it’s a God-given right to bear arms
So, “where does this thought come from?” you may ask. “How can someone believe that it is a God-given right to bear arms. Where is that in the Bible?”
The scripture that is in question for our study today comes from the gospel of Luke. I want to set up what was taking place within this scripture so that we can have a full understanding. In Luke 22, Jesus is essentially teaching some of His final lessons to His disciples as He would be arrested that night and hung on the cross by the next afternoon. In this chapter, Jesus has what we have called “the Last Supper” during the Feast of Passover. After instituting the Holy Communion, Jesus and the disciples begin to make their way to the garden of Gethsemane when we come across these scriptures.
35 And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?”
So they said, “Nothing.”Luke 22:35 NKJV
Nothing harmful about this scripture, right? Jesus was easing His way into preparing them for the days after He would no longer be in the world. He reminds the disciples of when He sent them out from Him (Luke 9:1-8). You may want to read that passage of scripture because many people don’t realize that the disciples practiced their missionary journey before Jesus died, was resurrected, and ascended.
When Jesus sent them out, the disciples said that they did not need anything. However, going out to spread the gospel would be drastically different in the days Jesus would no longer be in the world physically. So, Jesus says to the disciples:
Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.Luke 22:36 NKJV
This is the scripture that many who believe it is their God-given right to bear arms love to quote. This scripture, when you simply take it for what it says, has made it clear – Jesus tells the disciples that they need to be able to protect themselves. Many people will say that this is all the proof they need to vindicate their belief in owning a weapon. They will shut the Bible right here and go no further, but we’re not going to do that because there’s more to the lesson that needs to be understood.
Let’s examine the reasoning behind Jesus telling them to carry a weapon
Why would Jesus send the disciples out with no protection the first time around? Scripture makes it pretty clear.
“Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. 2 He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.Luke 9:1-2 NKJV
Jesus gave the disciples power and authority – He provided them with everything they would need the first time around. Jesus was still physically with them and so no protection was needed because Jesus would provide them with everything they would need. However, this time around, Jesus now tells them to carry some protection after He is no longer physically in the world.
After Jesus was crucified and risen from the dead, the disciples began to go out and spread the gospel. The apostles were not very liked by the Jews at that point in time. In fact, most of the apostles were martyred in very gruesome ways. Peter was crucified (John 21:18-19) and many suspects he was crucified upside down. James, the brother of John, was beheaded (Acts 12:1-2). Paul, who many of us preachers look up too, was also martyred (many suspects he was beheaded).
The apostles and anybody else who ended up trying to preach and teach the gospel of Christ experienced some rough and hard days very early on. They would certainly have needed to carry some protection in those days. We have to imagine that men like Paul, who carried money that the churches had given him in Greece back over to Jerusalem, would have needed some protection from potential robbers or people who would do them harm.
So, we see within this passage of scripture that Jesus permits the disciples to grab a couple of swords.
38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.”And He said to them, “It is enough.”Luke 22:38 NKJV
So you can see where people would get the impression that it is indeed a God-given right to be able to protect oneself. The arms of that day were not guns that could potentially kill hundreds of people in a matter of minutes. I don’t say this to say that Jesus may have said differently if the AR-15 existed in the time He walked the earth.
I say that to point out the fact that we have the ability to carry small pocket knives, guns, pepper spray, belts, etc. and all of those things could be considered weapons. My dad used to make me and my brother wear a belt to school, not only because the belt would hold up our pants, but because we could “take off the belt and fight off
What I find interesting about verse 38, is the fact that there were 11 disciples and two swords were enough for the 11 disciples and Jesus. Did you notice that? Remember, Iscariot is no longer with them so there are 11 disciples that were currently with Jesus. Why did they not wander around to find 9 more swords so that every disciple could have a sword? If we were disciples, we certainly would have wanted a weapon of our own, right? I know I would have! So, there must be more to what Jesus is saying here. I at least feel like there is more to this that we are not paying much attention to so let’s keep moving forward.
With great power comes great responsibility
As I said before, Jesus would be arrested that night in the garden. Iscariot would arrive at the garden to betray Jesus and along with him was a mixed troop of Jews and Roman soldiers that were carrying clubs, staves, and swords. In this climactic showdown, I feel one of the greatest lessons ever on bearing arms was taught by Christ Himself.
For us to learn this lesson, we cannot stay in Luke’s gospel. You see, there are details recorded in the other gospel that Luke does not record in his gospel. If we choose to ignore
I want you to first notice the actions of the disciples and what they were saying to Jesus as they watched Iscariot come forward.
49 When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?”Luke 22:49 NKJV
The disciples, fresh off of getting their two swords, were ready to fight to defend Jesus with their new arms of protection. They say, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” Well, one of the disciples decided not to wait for an answer from Jesus.
50 And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear.Luke 22:50 NKJV
Scripture (John 18:10) tells us that it was Peter who swung his sword and struck the servant (Malchus) of the high priest. Peter, in this instance, was being a “shoot first, ask later” type of guy. Peter is the reason why we get this powerful lesson that Jesus teaches about carrying weapons. Peter probably thought that he had done the right thing, but we will soon see that it was not the right thing for him to do.
There are many people who also believe that they are doing the right thing when they choose to use their weapon first. As we have seen on several occasions that drawing and using the weapon for the first course of action is often not the right move to make. There are many people in our country who are suffering because somebody chose the weapon as the first course of action.
I want you to notice what Jesus does next, after healing Malchus’ ear. Please note that this recording is not in Luke’s gospel so we will have to turn to Matthew’s gospel.
52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.Matthew 26:52 NKJV
Swinging the sword in this situation was not the best course of action for Peter. Jesus tells Peter to put your sword in its place (sheath the sword). Why was this wrong? Notice that Peter was not necessarily defending Jesus or even himself. Though this troop was carrying weapons, they did not use those weapons. Iscariot was talking to Jesus and even in the other recordings, we see that Jesus spoke to Iscariot and even the troop.
Peter was trigger happy. There are many people who are trigger happy in our country. Let’s also point out the fact that Jesus certainly didn’t need any protecting because… He’s Jesus! Let’s just take a look at Jesus’ saying about those who take the sword will perish by the sword. What does that mean?
Let’s consider the golden rule, a lesson that Jesus also taught. The golden rule says:
12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.Matthew 7:12 NKJV
Treat others the way you want to be treated – this is the golden rule. You know, we learned this rule back when we were in preschool. I believe that this same rule still applies to what Jesus tells Peter. For example, if you live a life of violence, then violence will likely be the way you perish. Does that make sense?
There’s a consequence for the way we choose to live and we like to ignore those consequences. We know this is true because we see this in our society with gang violence. We try to keep our children out of gangs because we know that life does not typically end well when one goes that route. Even troops who bravely serve in our military or even our police officers could potentially perish by the way that they have chosen to live – even if the way is noble. We see this even in our sports. For example, many football players have to live with the consequences of playing a violent game long after their careers are over. I hope all of this is making sense to you.
Now, the great lesson from Jesus kicks in and I hope you saw this coming. There is a responsiblity that we must take for how we choose to live. We ask people to be responsible with their drugs. We ask for our government to be responsible in how they use our military. We ask the police to be more responsible in how they patrol our neighborhoods. Yet, when it comes to our “arms” we seem to be hesitant on being more responsible. Why? Because it’s our God-given right to bear arms?
What I believe is sad is that many people choose to either not study the greater lesson that Jesus taught about protecting oneself or they choose to ignore what Jesus says because it does not suit their own personal beliefs. In our Bible study today, we see that Jesus teaches us that there is nothing wrong with protecting yourself, but you have a responsibility when it comes to protecting yourself. Most importantly, Jesus also teaches us that we have a responsibility for how we choose to live with others. In fact, Jesus teaches us that there’s a consequence for how we choose to live.
The sad reality it seems some choose to not face, especially here in our country, is that we are now suffering the consequences for not being more responsible with these “arms”. It is up to us to take on a responsibility with bearing arms. Yes, God has certainly given all men the inalienable right to be able to protect himself. Being able to say that is simply not enough of a reason to ignore a growing problem.
I hope that you enjoyed this Bible study and will share this study with other as well. Be sure to subscribe to the New Found Faith site as well. If you have any questions, thoughts, or comments that you would like to add to the topic, feel free to use the comment section below.