Many Christians in North America are convinced that it is right and proper to own guns as not only a form of self-defense but potentially as an effective way to challenge and protect against an overbearing government. Many who hold this opinion quote Jesus when he urged his disciples, if they didn’t have a sword, to “sell your cloak and buy one.” Chuck Baldwin, described as an American politician and founder-pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Florida, has expressed his opinion in no uncertain terms: Jesus plainly and emphatically told Simon Peter and the others to arm themselves. So emphatic was Jesus’ command that He told them if they could not afford to purchase a sword they were instructed to sell their clothes if necessary and buy one…The First Century Roman sword was the most efficient and lethal personal defense weapon in the world at the time. It is no hyperbole or injustice to language to say that the Roman sword was the First Century equivalent to a modern AR-15 semi-automatic rifle. It was designed to kill swiftly and efficiently. And Jesus commanded His disciples to buy and carry one!
We should examine very carefully any passage that appears to contradict other sayings of Jesus. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus tells us not to resist evil but to turn the other cheek, to offer our coat to those who forcefully steal our shirt, to do good to those who hate us and pray for those who persecute us. Likewise, the apostles in their letters encourage us to bless and not curse those who persecute us, not to repay evil with evil, to live at peace with everyone, not to take revenge, to offer food and drink to our enemies, and to seek peace and pursue it. It would seem, however, that such sentiments are too much for today’s Christian culture to accept. Readers of the website of Grace Gospel Fellowship in Illinois, for example, are told that turning the other cheek is an orientalism - “a figure of speech that refers to one’s response to a verbal blow.” This author too tells us that Jesus suggested that believers “buy weapons even if they had to sell their coats to afford them.” But what exactly did Jesus say and why?
During the Last Supper, a dispute arose among the disciples about who was the greatest. According to man’s wisdom, those in authority are “the great”, because they lord it over others and call themselves benefactors. God’s wisdom, however, is very different: Jesus served those sitting at the table, yet he was clearly the greatest among them. Similarly, when the impetuous Peter proclaimed himself willing to fight alongside Jesus “to death”, Jesus asked his disciples what they had lacked when he sent them out in peace, “without purse, bag, or sandals.” Peter had to admit that they had lacked nothing: They were able to preach Jesus’ message faithfully and were provided with all their needs. God’s wisdom is very different from man’s wisdom.
What if the disciples had pursued man’s wisdom and instead armed themselves? Jesus provided the answer by allowing his disciples to follow Peter’s lead and prepare to fight. When, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the disciples used their weapons to resist arrest, and Peter cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, they gave the authorities the excuse they needed to arrest Jesus. Man’s wisdom – which fails to look beyond this present world and views power in terms of wealth, belongings, and armed force – led directly to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. The turn of events demonstrated clearly the foolishness of trusting in our own strength and not in the power and sovereignty of God. Thank God, however, that the disciples’ humiliating defeat was ultimately transformed into God’s glorious victory through Jesus’ resurrection from the dead!
In Western society, the moniker Christian has generally been associated with love, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and other fruits of the Spirit. When we obey the words of the Savior, the world can see the person of Christ through the actions of his church. In contrast, the aggressive, even bullying, stance of today’s Christian culture runs contrary to the wisdom of Christ. Hate mail and political agitation and active discrimination and cruel heartlessness have led the US authorities to label some Christian organizations “hate groups,” an understandable if erroneous overreaction. Once again, it seems, man’s wisdom is playing into the hands of those who oppose the cause of Christ.
When we trust in Jesus Christ and his wisdom, we are free to cast aside our dependence on guns and similar illusions of power and accept that “the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” To his disciples, Jesus illustrated graphically the futility of man’s wisdom and the false security of owning a weapon. Shame on us if we are forced to learn that painful truth a second time.