Christian… Arm Yourselves?

This morning I read an article in the Christian Post, where the Lt. Governor of Tennessee, Ron Ramsey, gives Christians in America a very definite instruction.  Below is a quote of what he said.

“The recent spike in mass shootings across the nation is truly troubling. Whether the perpetrators are motivated by aggressive secularism, jihadist extremism or racial supremacy, their targets remain the same: Christians and defenders of the West,” 
“While this is not the time for widespread panic, it is a time to prepare. I would encourage my fellow Christians who are serious about their faith to think about getting a handgun carry permit. I have always believed that it is better to have a gun and not need it than to need a gun and not have it. Our enemies are armed. We must do likewise,” he wrote.
Here are a few points and counterpoints to consider when thinking on the Lt. Governor’s instructions.  I realize my additions to the Lt. Governors points are not his words, but they enable us to consider why he made them.

Our enemies are armed, let the potential for harm lead you, prepare to protect yourself…
  • Although he did not want to encourage widespread panic, the reason for his instruction is fear of what could happen.  This is also the basis of anxiety, which the Word of God commands us to not give into. We are also not to fear what men can do, and recognize that fear is not of God.  We are reminded that God does not give us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (II Timothy 1:7).

Our enemies are armed, we are in a war and force must be used to ensure survival…

  • It is true my dear brethren we are in a war, and have been from the day of Pentecost, yet scripture declares we do not fight with conventional weapons… “For although we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” (II Corinthians 10:3-4).  When searching the New Testament, one will find absolutely no place where defending oneself from persecution is commanded or condoned.

Our enemies are armed, filled with hate and willing to kill us…

  • This is very true, our enemies hate us and think nothing of extinguishing our lives.  Yet we must understand who the real enemy is.  Revelation 12:17 declares Satan has a special hatred for those who keep the commands of God and hold the testimony of Jesus.  The real enemies are not the sword brandishing jihadist, the gun toting satanist, or the politician that uses his power to sanction the faithful in Christ.  Our battle is against principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:11-13).  We are not at war with our human enemies, as they are merely tools for Satan’s war against us; tools he discards when finished with.

Our enemies are prepared to kill us, even though we don’t want to we must be ready to use force commensurate to the threat…   

  • I do agree we must use force commensurate to our persecutors hate and readiness to kill us, but we ought to let Jesus define that force.  In Matthew 5:44 Jesus gives us the most powerful weapon against persecution “But I say unto you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you. 
The Lt. Governor’s claims bring into focus many long standing debates in Christendom in America.  Chiefly, is there a biblical justification for self defense.  As believers we must remember we are citizens of heaven first, and the law of Christ’s kingdom supersedes any right or privilege of human government, when there is apparent contradiction.  A person has to work very hard to come up with a justification for self defense in persecution from the New Testament.  The reason for such debate in this nation, which has divided the church unnecessarily for generations, is for how we view the constitution and see ourselves as citizens of God’s kingdom first and the United States of America secondarily.

We must remember that the constitution of these United States, is not a holy document unto the Lord.  I for one appreciate the constitutional government of this country, as it is one of the best, if not the best form of human government.  The bill of rights has a list of civil protections that are second to none, but they are not sacred, they are secular.  When looking at the second amendment, where citizens have a right to own a weapon, we must be careful not to let our faith be informed by what we consider a divine right or blessing, that is merely a civil right afforded us as citizens of a human nation.  

Let’s focus for a moment on the error, that the right to keep and bare arms is a sacred right for believers; a blessing if you will.  We know our God and Father is equitable and fair.  If the right to self defense is a blessing from God, why has He not afforded it to all of His children, world over.  No offense to the families of those killed in Oregon, over the weekend, but Christians in the middle east are certainly in the midst of more persecution than us.  On August 28th 12 Syrian believers were martyred through rape, beheading, torture and crucifixion.  Sadly, these precious souls of God are only a small fraction of the tens of thousands that have perished from persecution in the middle east.  You would agree that our God supplies all our needs through the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus, and need protection more than us (in my mind). Why has He not provided arms for them?  Please understand this is not an attack on the second amendment, which is a legal right of American citizens, but a plea for followers of Jesus to live as He commands in the face of persecution. 

The point is, we must be careful to form our Christian practice from the Word of God, not secular documents that are good, but not from God.  The right to own a weapon for self defense is a matter of the word of God and Christian conscience, to be prayerfully considered.  In I Corinthians 6:12 we discover, that all things are lawful for us, but all things are not expedient, and we should not be brought under the power of anything. Although we have a civil right, it may not be good for the kingdom of God or our ourselves to exercise that right.  In  I Corinthians 10:23 Paul writes all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify.  The word edify is generally used in reference to the body of Christ. Paul’s further instruction implies that though we may have a civil right, it may not be appropriate to exercise it if it will hinder building a brother or sister in Christ in their faith. We also must remember, that though we may have no objection to something in our conscience, if a brother or sister does and we lead them to violate there conscience, not only do they sin but so do we as well (Romans 14:21; I Corinthians 8:12). 

It is for these reasons we must be very careful in giving instructions as secular and church leaders.  Though Lt. Governor Dan Ramsey, is concerned for the plight of believers, his comments are irresponsible and could potentially damage the perception of the Kingdom of God.  In like manner, the other day, Ben Carson while expressing grief for the loss of Christian life in the Oregon shootings, declared he would not have just sat still and let them kill him.  Again this is an irresponsible statement, from a good man who has never been in that position.  If one were to muse a little past the sheen of his remarks, it would imply that these martyrs on Jesus behalf, were wrong for not defending their life to the utter most. Sadder yet, is that Franklin Graham suggested similarly, in an interview following Carson’s comments.  Once more, what does it say about those who were martyred, when the message of Christian leaders is not that they lived there faith as they should, but that they should have lived their faith as those leaders see fit.  As disturbing as the image on the left is, is not that what is suggested for those who do not fight back? The caption reads “Jesus Christ would probably still be here is he’d been packing heat instead of heart”.  Thank God He packed love of God inside of His divine heart.

Could it be these good men have forgotten the word of God on this topic?  Yes they have. 
Luke 9:23-26 (NKJV) Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. 

Of course some would suggest that Jesus was speaking about our denying the life we lived before, and still seek to justify defending oneself with a weapon or the force of their flesh, but they would be in error.  Jesus was using words that He modeled for us and commands we walk in (I Peter 2:20-25).  What does this look like?  It looks like a Syrian Christian father and son. 

On August 28, when twelve Syrian Christians were martyred, a father and son were among the dead.  The father, a leader in Christian ministry, was forced to watch as Isis terrorists tortured his son.  They cut of the tips of his fingers, mutilated the boy and told the father if he simply returned to Islam, they would stop the torture.  The father refused to renounce Jesus. They tortured the boy further, then the father, then crucified them both to death in front of a large crowd.  I wonder what Dan Ramsey, Ben Carson, and Franklin Graham would say to them.  I know what Jesus said to them as He received them into His presence, “Well done, My good and faithful servant”.  My faith informs me of this further, for it is what is declared in James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive a crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 

I must admit, my emotions are mixed as I write the above account, and consider the blessed word of God.  I have a son the same age as the Syrian Christian son who was so brutally martyred.  I also have another son who was born this past may and three sweet and beautiful blessings in my daughters.  I have a wife who even before I knew Jesus, was a constant example of the goodness of God calling me to repentance.  I have placed myself inside the father’s shoes, and felt the utter helplessness to save my son from the evil wasting his life.  Yet in the midst I am reminded the boy did not turn from Jesus, his life was not wasted nor was his father’s or the millions of untold martyrs of the faith.  They have gained what is the hope of our Christian soul… Being forever with Jesus.  

It was once asked my wife and I, when my oldest son was dedicated, if we would support God’s call to ministry if it meant our son’s separation from us, or death in service of Jesus Christ.  The question brought instant tears to my eyes, and difficulty breathing, but with a joy deep within my soul, I said yes, for my firm belief is that all those who have died for Jesus will be awaiting our arrival in Jesus presence.  Though I do not pray for these things to come to pass, as I would much rather not experience this kind of human pain, it is not something to fear or to try to avoid at any cost. Therefore we are not to arm ourselves with guns, knives, clubs or swords, but we are to arm ourselves something much more powerful.

1 Peter 4:1 (KJV)  Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin;  

Is this not the most wonderful justification for self-defense?  God gives us the responsibility to take up arms for the battle we are facing and are to fight.  We get to use the weapon that defeated, sin, death and the devil… Hallelujah what a privilege.  This weapon cannot be defeated if used by faith, for it is the mind of Christ.  This weapon is literally Jesus living in us in the hour of our testing.  This weapon considers the sufferings of Jesus, and almighty power of the love which those sufferings were exercised in. This weapon willing accepts the suffering as an honor on behalf of the King of glory. This weapon fears no man, but understands that death is not the end.  This weapon assures we will overcome the hate and evil, by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony as we lay down their lives for the Lover of our souls.  This weapon is concerned wholly with the will of God, and knows that to live is for Christ but to die is gain.  

How do we arm ourselves with the mind of Christ by faith?  We accept suffering on His behalf as our lot.  We determine not to be led by fear.  We prepare in prayer for the right Holy Spirit led response to persecution against us, while refusing to live in “what ifs”.  We count it a joyous privilege to potentially bare in our bodies the marks of His suffering.  Finally we hold this passage as our motive and foundational strength until He comes. 

1 John 3:1-3 (NKJV) Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.   

I would encourage my fellow Christians, who are “serious about their faith” to arm yourselves, not with man made weapons or confidence is your strength or arm, but with the mind of Christ, who never broke a bent reed nor extinguished a smoking flax. 

About Michael J Erdel

Mike is a pastor with The Assembly of God Fellowship. He is the lead pastor at Encounter Church in Fostoria Ohio. His desire is to encourage the Church of Jesus Christ, and declare God's hope through His Son Jesus, to a world which is long on excuses and short on hope. Mike has experienced the truth that when we kneel before Christ, surrendering to Him as Savior and LORD, being led and empowered by His Spirit. To Jesus Christ be all glory and honor.
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