Christian Responsibility vs. Christian Suffering
Guns. Guns for everyone or no guns at all? This is the hot button issue at the moment and I see Christians on both sides of the fence. The increasingly frequent mass shootings continue to fan the flames of political debate, but have taken me down a different strand of thinking: Christian civic responsibility vs. Christian suffering.
As Christians we are to be lovers of justice. We are to stand up for the weak and the needy. Micah 6:8 could not say it more succinctly: "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Jesus says in Matthew 22:39 that after loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind--the greatest commandment is--to "Love your neighbor as yourself." This sets the stage for what I will call Christian civic responsibility. As Christians we are called to look after our neighbor, and to not look the other way when evil comes. So in light of this responsibility, if a mass shooter is coming down my neighborhood and I have the means to stop him, it would be the Christian thing to put an end to the evil.
We see Christian civic responsibility displayed in the life of the great Christian theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. A nonviolent pacifist for much of his life, Bonhoeffer realized that as a Christian he could not stand by to watch the Third Reich continue their marauding evil. He was eventually executed for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler.
On the other side, persecution is a reality for the Christian. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 that if someone strikes you on the cheek we are to give him the other cheek as well. This is generally not the best self defense tactic. Jesus also says radical things (as He does a lot) such as, "love your enemies" and, "bless those who curse you." Paul warns in Romans 13 against resisting the God appointed government and Jesus promises in Matthew 10 much hatred and persecution for His name's sake--making no reference whatsoever to fighting back. In the end of Philippians 1, Paul says that it has been granted that we should not only believe in Christ but also "suffer for his sake." Just from simple observation we do not see the apostles, martyrs, or early Christians going down with their "guns blazing." They rather seemed content to die for the cause of Christ, knowing that great will be their reward in heaven.
So, in a complicated world with complicated problems and blurred lines all over the place, when are we as Christians to be the loving neighbor and fight, and when are we to lay down our guns and be taken for Christ? Can we be good fathers, neighbors, and citizens if we do not take up the responsibility to defend and protect those around us? Can we be good Christians if we are characterized by violence and resistance?
Debates have been on going for centuries and there is no simplistic answer. It seems to me that the cases where violence is a legitimate Christian response are exceedingly rare in comparison to the peaceful and suffering-filled life Christians are called to live. Even still, there is a pretty clear distinction between suffering for the cause of Christ and a mass shooter rampaging the community. There is a difference from an armed robbery occurring while your family is sleeping in their bedrooms, and the government taking you in for "hate speech." That distinction has to be made. I also believe that much of this discussion falls to matters of conscience and personal conviction, as we all must individually grapple with these issues.
I will make one observation: in both situations, the Christian protecting his neighbor and the Christian being jailed and beaten for his faith--the Christian is sacrificing his personal needs for something greater. The Christian fighter pilot bombing ISIS is putting himself at risk for the cause of others; and the Christian suffering in an Iranian prison has put himself at risk for the gospel of Christ. Though vastly different situations, both of the Christians have died to themselves; and the last time I checked, that is what all Christians are called to do.
One things is for sure: Let's not die fighting on the hill of self protection. We each lost ourselves a while ago when we were redeemed. Let's die on the hill of something bigger: the gospel and others.
"For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." --Matthew 16:25
Please post your thoughts below. This is a challenging topic that I expect varied responses from--so let's wrestle through this together.