December 16, 2015
Jesus Christ, Gun for Hire
By Anthony Wade
Biblical response to article asking if Jesus would join the NRA...
Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. -- Romans 12: 16-21 (ESV)
The Bible is God's holy Word. His final revealed will before He returns for His bride. It contains the answer to any question we may face in this life. We may not always like the answer but that is what it means to have Jesus as our Lord and not just a friend. A friend's advice we consider but our Lord's direction we should be compelled to follow because He is in charge. The great thing about the Bible is if you approach it honestly, inquisitively, and sincerely desiring to hear from the Lord, He will never fail to speak to you. The problem becomes when we approach it as a prop. As something to wield to prove our pre-conceived points. As something to support our distorted world view or favorite political talking point. Then we typically see what is known as "proof texting." The vast majority of seeker-friendly, purpose driven pastors today use proof-texting as their primary tool in the carnal sermons they deliver. I say carnal because when you approach the Bible with your conclusions already in hand then you are not seeking to hear from the Lord at all. You are seeking to use the Lord. It is a completely carnal exercise. What usually happens then is verses are ripped painfully out of context and twisted to fit the conclusion that was already in hand. Why would someone engage in this sort of chicanery? Because they know that deep down the Bible does not really teach what they are standing for.
For example, Jesus loves guns.
I kid you not beloved there are people who firmly believe this notion. That the man called the Prince of Peace, who forgave His own murderers, while they were murdering Him, would somehow be packing a semi-automatic weapon. That man who healed the man who was arresting Him and rebuked His own disciple for injuring the man to begin with, would have a conceal and carry permit. Anyone who has performed a cursory read of the Gospels knows how silly such a notion is. The reality is it is the people trying to make this argument who love guns, not Jesus. One such man is Matt Barber from Charisma News, who recently wrote the following article:
You know you are in trouble when the article is entitled, "Would Jesus Join the NRA." True story here, when I first saw this on my news feed I thought it said "NBA." I only relate this because it is more likely that Jesus would join the NBA before He would join the NRA. But none of that matters to Matt Barber as he sets off to prove an unprovable point. To do so he engages in two deceptive practices. One is the previously discussed proof texting and the other is a version of the logical fallacy known as argumentum ad absurdum, which means argument to absurdity. Barber routinely presents absurd arguments instead of the real ones. The first third of the article is in defense of Jerry Falwell, who recently encouraged all Liberty University students to arm themselves to "teach those Muslims a lesson." That and attacking Hillary Clinton who had repudiated the comments from Falwell. So at least Barber makes it known right away that this is a political article and not a Christian one. The problem is then he tries to pretend it is a Christian article or cause when it most certainly is not. So we will pick up the article right where it seems to off the rails. Right where arming oneself is described as "Biblical as a shepherd boy's slingshot." Ugh. Barber makes the claim that the right to bear arms is a God given right that Jesus Himself validated:
When a strong man, fully armed, guards his house, his possessions are secure. -- Luke 11: 21 (ESV)
This is our first example of blatant proof texting. Remember, the set up here is that Jesus Himself taught that we should arm ourselves and this verse sure seems to say "fully armed." Except Luke 11:21 actually exists within the full context of Luke 11: 14-26, where the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out devils by the power of Satan. Why would Jesus teach about arming oneself and enrolling in the National Rifle Association in the middle of a discussion about the power of God versus the devil? Oh that's right, He didn't. Beloved Luke 11:21 has absolutely nothing to do with arming oneself, protecting oneself or anything about us per se. Consider the summary form The Pulpit Commentary:
"The exegesis is easy here. The strong man is the devil; his palace is the world; his goods especially here the poor possessed; the stronger than he is Jesus Himself""
In the mind of Matt Barber, you are the strong man who needs to be fully armed but the reality is not what Matt Barber is teaching. Jesus was teaching that the strong man is actually the devil. That is how far Matt falls from the truth to try and prop up his Jesus as the Terminator vision. Undeterred however, Barber continued to seek verses to support his pro-gun cause and then completely butcher what they mean:
He said to them, "But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. -- Luke 22: 36 (ESV)
These are the instructions to the disciples as Jesus is heading to the cross. Where in the past they were to take nothing with them now they would be going into all the world to preach the Gospel and they should be prepared to survive and expect resistance. Not to their politics but to the Gospel. Sinful man is always opposed to the Gospel. Then there also is the fact that in all likelihood, Jesus was actually speaking symbolically in spiritual terms; not to literally sell their garments for swords. Consider the commentaries regarding this verse:
"At the time the apostles understood Christ to mean real weapons, but he spake only of the weapons of spiritual warfare. The sword of the Spirit is the sword with which the disciple of Christ must furnish themselves." -- Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
"These words of Christ are not to be understood literally, that he would have his disciples furnish themselves with swords at any rate, since he would never have said, as he afterwards does, that two are sufficient; which could not be enough for eleven men; or have forbid Peter the use of one, as he did in a very little time after this: but his meaning is, that wherever they came, and a door was opened for the preaching of the Gospel, they would have many adversaries" -- Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Once again, when you approach the Bible to confirm your worldview you can make it say whatever you want. Here Barber wants Jesus to be pro-weapons so this verse takes on a meaning for him that God never intended. He misses the larger points about opposition to the Gospel and the difference between when Jesus walked the earth and when He was heading to the cross. Because he was so focused on proving his point, Barber also misses that his conclusion does not square with the remainder of Scripture, including verses immediately surrounding this. Jesus was not imploring His disciples to "arm themselves for imminent self-defense" in carnal terms but in spiritual disciplines. Not content, Barber then tries to dismantle scriptural arguments he knows ruin his worldview:
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. -- Matthew 5: 39 (ESV)
Barber tries valiantly to make the case that this verse does not mean what it clearly means by claiming it only deals with "foregoing revenge and to being persecuted for His name's sake by those who hate Christianity. It does not suggest that we as parents must passively hand over our children to Islamists so they can rape and behead them in our presence." The problem for Barber is his entire conclusion is not supported biblically. There is zero context that infers this is merely dealing with persecution. These are in fact part of the random teachings from the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, the very next portion is about loving our enemies, you know, those Islamists he keeps referring to. The last portion of this statement however is the absurdity logical fallacy we discussed before. Who in their right mind would agree that handing over our children to be raped and beheaded is taught in Scripture? No one of course, which is why this is a strawman argument. By dealing with an absurd premise Barber hopes to sway people who logically will conclude that yes indeed we ought not to turn our kids over to be raped and beheaded in front of us. That of course is NOT the discussion we have been having now is it? How many cases have we seen in the news about American citizens being forced to turn over their kids to be raped and beheaded? That's right, zero. So to offer that as an argument defending gun ownership is simply deceptive. To further try and tie it to Jesus however is the greater offense. Next Barber offers up that the only reason Jesus rebuked Peter with the "live by the sword; die by the sword admonition is that he was taking an offensive stance and not a defensive posture. The text however does not support this:
And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. -- Matthew 26: 51-52 (ESV)
It is not until Jesus has been betrayed and is about to be arrested does Peter draw his sword to fight back. This is clearly a defensive posture. He is reacting to what is happening, not aggressively attacking. Once again, Barber misses the point because he needs to. The overall admonition of living and dying by the sword eviscerates the pro-gun Christian argument and Barber knows it. He tries to say that when God says leave vengeance to Him that this is only regarding murder but that flies in the face of the rest of Scripture. The verses immediately following this are in our key verses today and are about feeding and giving drink to our enemies! Vengeance and wrath are certainly tied to judgment, which is to say that the person we want vengeance upon usually has enough to worry about when he stands before God. But Jesus also made it a point to say to give your enemy you cloak. To let him slap your other cheek. It is not just a matter of not murdering. Now desperate, Barber returns to the absurdity logical fallacy:
So, again, it is biblically unfounded to suggest that, when the shooting starts, and if there is no escape, Christians must line up like sheep to the slaughter."
Right Matt. Except you are the only one making such an absurd argument. You are trying to suggest that Jesus Christ would be a member of the National Rifle Association and to prop up this absurd argument you are forced into deeper absurdities. But perhaps the greatest absurdity is the conclusion of this NRA advertisement:
"Is applying deadly force in defense of self and others a last resort? Of course. As the apostle Paul cautioned, "If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18). To be sure, we are to love our Islamist enemies. In fact, it is our greatest hope and prayer that they may come to the saving knowledge, acceptance and grace of Christ Jesus, who, alone, is "the Way, the Truth and the Life. Still, and in the meantime, Jesus did say, "Blessed are the peacemakers." So I'll be keeping my Peacemaker within reach. Just in case.
You have got to be kidding me. The transparency is disgustingly obvious. The man just spent the entire article trying to justify killing Islamists and now he piously tries to say that it is his greatest prayer that they come to Jesus Christ for salvation? You cannot have it both ways. Killing them ensures they will die apart from Christ. So please do not tell me out of one side of your mouth that you pray they get saved while you are reloading your gun out of the other side of your mouth. Disingenuousness does not even come close to describing this. Perhaps the most egregious use of Scripture however is to conflate the Beatitudes with a common referent for a gun.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. -- Matthew 5: 9 (ESV)
Only in the wicked hearts of man can a weapon designed to take life be considered something that brings peace. Either way, God's thinking is always so far above our sheer carnality. To take this verse and try to tie it to guns is to completely flip it on its ear. Clearly that is not what Jesus was teaching. Let us see what the Matthew Henry has to say:
The peacemakers are happy. They love, and desire, and delight in peace; and study to be quiet. They keep the peace that it be not broken, and recover it when it is broken." -- Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary
In the mind of Matt Barber the way you keep the peace is to shoot anyone who is not in agreement with you. That is not however the way of Christ. Regardless of whether you have no way out. Regardless of any pre-conceived notions.
Please beloved hear me very clearly. I am not defending either side of the carnal argument regarding guns. I can understand why people seek to protect the second amendment and am just as concerned about governmental overreach. I just recognize that these are secular debates. My concern is when people use Jesus Christ, pretend He said things He never said, and twist the Bible to fit their political worldview. Remember this article was entitled, "Would Jesus Join the NRA." I am almost embarrassed that I had to spend a few hours answering the obvious -- NO. Turn the other cheek means exactly that. Live by the sword; die by the sword means exactly that. The Prince of Peace means exactly that. Just look at the key verses in relation to the pro-gun argument proffered by Matt Barber. Live at harmony with one another -- unless the other guy pulls a gun and locks the doors, then blow em away! Uhmm, not quite. Repay no one evil for evil! What about the Islamists? What about the terrorists? What part of "no one" are we missing? Beloved, fifty years ago this question would have been, "What about the communists?" A hundred years ago it might have been, "What about the Irish?" The point is that there will always be someone we consider the enemy. There will always be hate in the wicked hearts of men because we are sinners. If your enemy is hungry we ought to feed him. If he is thirsty we are to meet that need as well. These verses do not end with overcome evil with guns. The Christian imperative is that we are to overcome evil with good.
The problem for the Matt Barbers of the world is that they seem to look at the absolute insanity occurring in the world because of sin running wild and think that it somehow must sway God to change who He is. If that was the case then God would be just as capricious as we are. Thankfully, He is not. If you want to lobby for gun owner rights in this country, knock yourself out. Just stop pretending that Jesus is packing an Uzi along the way. Stop claiming the Bible defends man's sinful proclivity for violence. Stop asking the absurd questions; such as would Jesus join the NRA. You stand a better chance of Him joining the NBA. I am sure He has a killer hook shot.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- December 15, 2015
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.