A BIBLICAL CASE FOR GUN VIOLENCE PREVENTION. There are three presuppositions: 1) The will of God is nonviolent love; 2) People activate the weapon. The weapon does the killing; 3) By the grace of God we are set free to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that we may discern what is the will of God.
1. The Word begins with Creation. The place is Eden. The culture is SHALOM: harmony, balance, peace and nonviolence.
2. Violence happens through humankinds sinful choice. Cain chose to kill Abel.
3. The Ten Commandments are nonviolent laws for community and connection with God and each other.
4. Personal acts of murder and suicide are not justified.
5. Violence in conflicts between tribes and cultures are political decisions with frequent theological justification. We must ask: Is God justifying or human leadership justifying violent actions in the name of God?
6. Scripture validates legal, societal and moral permissions of weapon use for hunting, sport and defense of home and country.
7. Sinfulness is always part of the weapons conversation. In the words of Paul: “The good I want to do, I do not do. The evil I do not want to do, that I do.”
8. Isaiah speaks of the coming Messiah as “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace,” all strong nonviolent images.
9. The “Peaceable Kingdom” in Isaiah speaks of “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,” all nonviolent images.
10. The foundational ethic of Jesus is nonviolence. There is no account of Jesus using or carrying a weapon.
11. Jesus’ strongest words regarding weapon use are: “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” “Enough!” “No more of this!”
12. Strangely, it appears some of Jesus’ disciples carried swords. Yet, Jesus’ above words tempered the use of these weapons.
13. Paul says the duty of government is to “ensure good conduct,” implying it may be necessary for the government to use weapons or force. Yet, significantly, this exhortation is bookended by exhortations to love, again tempering weapon use. Furthermore, government leadership had no Christians in decision-making positions. Was Paul being a practical realist?
14. Paul tells followers of Jesus to prepare for difficult times being witnesses. He urged them to “Put on the armor of God, the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of righteousness, the belt of Truth, the shoes of peace and the sword of the Spirit.,” all strong nonviolent armor images.
15. Paul presents the Fruits of the Spirit as: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity and self-control.” All are nonviolent expressions of Christ which Jesus’ followers are given.
16. Revelation concludes the Word with nonviolent promises of a “new heaven and a new earth where death will be no more, mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”
As people of faith set free by God’s grace in Christ, the Word is our launching pad for witness and weapon use in gun violence prevention action.
Ron Letnes (Rev. Dr.)