A few days ago I received this question on Facebook, “If Gateway [our church] was attacked by ISIS and I jumped up and shot them all dead… Would God be mad at me for not shooting them with my prayers only? Your thoughts?” What follows are some of my thoughts.
Guns have never been a ‘thing’ in my life. I didn’t grow up around guns. I’ve never been hunting. I have ever only pulled the trigger of a “real” gun (other than a bb gun when I was younger) one time, and that was just a couple years ago. I have family who hunt. In-laws who have lots of guns around. My father in-law, who recently passed away, left some sort of military issue automatic rifle to his first grandchild, who happens to be our son and who quite possibly will never see it. I recognize that guns can be a cultural thing for many individuals and families. I respect that as part of one’s culture.
I like statistics and analyzing data. I can vividly remember playing two Nintendo games growing up that changed my whole perspective on video games: Tecmo Super Bowl and SNK’s Baseball Stars. The common trait that both of these games possessed which I couldn’t get enough of? They both tracked stats realtime. You could see exactly how many rushing yards your running back has or the current ERA of your pitching staff. The statistics became such a fun part of each game. Maybe that’s why I like tracking statistics and data so much now. Statistics around finances, attendance, views, ‘Likes,’ etc. all tell some sort of story I find interesting to consider.
Having said all this, it seems as though the statistics might suggest we have a gun issue in our country. When I look at statistics like this, this, this, or this (just to mention a few), I can’t help but see a trend that at some point we may want to address as a nation. Guns have never been a ‘thing’ to me but it seems as though, increasingly, they are becoming a ‘thing’ for all of us, in one way or another.
So now, back to the question at hand…“If Gateway was attacked by ISIS and I jumped up and shot them all dead… Would God be mad at me for not shooting them with my prayers only?”
A couple things I would say as a caveat before answering:
1) This would mean one would actually have to be present at church.
2) This would mean one is currently and actively praying for his/her enemies.
3) It is far more likely to be the act of a caucasian individual with intent to do harm than any act of terrorism from ISIS or otherwise.
The question seems to be about whether or not the use of force is ever a justifiable thing as a Christian. Debates about the relationship between violence and Christianity have been going on for a long time. Around 400 A.D., give or take, Augustine gave a framework for the “Just War” doctrine, though anyone can read of the violence throughout the Old and New Testaments before his time. I wonder if the question really is, “Can a Christian use force, perhaps even lethal force, to defend one’s self, loved ones, or others against an aggressor who intends to harm or kill?”
Throughout Jesus’ life on earth, he never used force as a means of defense, retaliation, or persuasion. He calls us to daily take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). He also tells us to be as wise/prudent as serpents and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16). One of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not murder.” Jesus does not call us to passively submit to evil but that should not be seen as a call to arms.
Do I think God would be mad at an individual who kills another in defense of self or another? I think God would be mad at the whole broken mess that has brought us to situations like this, and many others. I think God would be mad at our selfishness, our pride, and the hatred we harbor in our hearts toward one another. I think God weeps over the death of a single individual as well as the masses of individuals who have experienced violence at the hands of evil. We are, after all, in the season of Peace, anticipating the birth of the One who is called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Mad? Maybe not?
Sad? Without question!
Challenging us to consider a better way? Always!