Last week, a very kind reader left a comment on my blog that included a lengthy article written by Dr. Peter Hammond, a missionary from South Africa with a very impressive resume and list of accomplishments. I would love to meet Dr. Hammond some day. Following is my response to the comment, which is really a response to Dr. Hammond’s article:
Thank you so much for responding to my blog post. I have only ever wanted to engage others in conversation. Dr. Hammond’s article that you sent had a lot of information, and obviously Dr. Hammond has thought a lot about how he feels about these issues of self-defense and gun control. I’m not sure why you were saddened by what you read on my blog, although I assume you were saddened that I was so misled as to abandon my jobs in the name of Jesus when obviously I didn’t understand what the Bible has to say about the topic.
I would like, in all humility, to tell you how I respond to the article you sent. Again, I thank you for sending the article. And I pray that my response is helpful to you, if you will entertain it.
In the first section, Dr. Hammond relates how his older brother was attacked at his home in South Africa and his older brother was able to fend off the attackers with a combination of his pistol, quick & accurate shooting, and the LORD’s protection.
What a story! It is so exciting and captivating that it really gets my blood flowing and has me on edge until the end. I have a lot of thoughts after reading it: (1) is it possible that the LORD protected Derek & his family in spite of his violence? (2) is it possible that Satan protected Derek & his family as a reward for his violence? And to continue to confuse modern Christians about the use of violence? (3) what are the most effective weapons that Christians have at their disposal? The article itself later says: “the primary weapons of missionaries are the Bible, prayer, faith and persuasion.” I would say the most effective weapons are prayer, faith, and love. Could these three weapons have been used by God?
Dr. Hammond closes this section of the article by quoting Oliver Cromwell as saying, “trust in God and keep your powder dry.” I don’t know enough about Oliver Cromwell to speak intelligently about him, but allow me to ask another rhetorical question: Are you trusting in God if you are also trusting in your own abilities to keep your powder dry and deliver quick & accurate shooting? God is glorified when we reach the end of ourselves and rely on him for miraculous deliverance.
Dr. Hammond’s article next goes into a section entitled, “Self Defence in the Law of God,” saying the Law of God is clear. I agree that the Law, under the old covenant, was clear. The Law allowed a homeowner to strike a thief and kill him, leaving the homeowner guiltless of the bloodshed. Exodus 22:2.
Next, though, Dr. Hammond quotes our Lord Jesus Christ saying, “He who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Luke 22:36. But let us look at the context of that statement. Jesus was speaking to his disciples. Jesus was about to be arrested by an angry mob. Jesus was soon to be crucified by the Roman empire. And the disciples would be persecuted by the Jewish leaders who arrested Jesus and the Roman empire that crucified him. The disciples were about to be set-upon on all sides. In this context, Jesus tells the disciples to buy swords. And it would seem Dr. Hammond’s point is proven. But then, in verse 38, the disciples respond, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And Jesus responds, “It is enough.”
There are at least two ways to interpret Jesus’ response. The problem with the written word is that we don’t get body language and voice inflection. Was Jesus saying, in effect, two swords will be enough for you to protect yourself from the persecution you are about to face? Or was Jesus saying, that is enough talking about matters of this world when you are on the brink of the most important event in all history?
Two more points: in verses 48-51, this is what happened: “But Jesus said to him, ‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’ When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, ‘Lord, shall we strike with the sword?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, ‘Permit even this.’ And He touched his ear and healed him.” So here the disciples ask if they can strike with the sword that Jesus had just told them to buy. What do you suppose Jesus’ answer would have been, if the disciple had given Jesus time to answer? Rather than encouraging the use of the sword, Jesus heals.
Last point: In John 18:36, Jesus says to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
If there was ever an instance where it would be appropriate to use violence, the protection of your lord would seem to be it.
But look at the way the early church acted after receiving the Holy Spirit. Particularly, look at the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 6-7). Why did the Christians not rise up in defense of Stephen to prevent his martyrdom? There is not a single account under the new covenant, after the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, of a follower of The Way striking out with a sword, or any other weapon, or a rock, or even a fist.
Dr. Hammond continues by quoting I Timothy 5:8, but expands the verse to say something the verse does not say. I agree that fathers and husbands are required by Almighty God to provide for their families. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the Faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8. I agree that this includes providing food, housing, clothing, education, medical care, love, discipleship and spiritual guidance. But where does it say that I must kill another man to protect my children. Is that other man’s soul less precious to God than my son’s physical well being? If Christians had killed those who killed Stephen, they would have killed Saul, who became the apostle Paul.
I guess I should go back to what the Law says about killing another human. Are we still under the Law? Or do we have a higher calling? Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:20-21. Paul also says we are to sacrifice our bodies. Romans 12:1. We no longer live. And our ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:18.
The author of Hebrews likewise states, “For you have not comes to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire [the mountain of the Law, Mount Sinai]…But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels,” Hebrews 12:18-22.
Faith and Firearms
In the next section, Dr. Hammond lists many missionaries who carried weapons. Dr. Hammond seems to confuse defense against animals and defense from other humans. All I can say is that even the best and most devoted of missionaries can allow selfishness to cloud their judgment. The selfishness of self-preservation. The scariest passage in the Bible might be Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
It is amazing that Dr. Hammond cites Mark 7:21-23. I couldn’t agree more! “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”
Dr. Hammond then proceeds to cite to what he calls, “historic Christian teaching” – the 39 Articles of the Church of England and the Westminster Catechism. Authoritative historic Christian teaching would come from Christian teaching before the conversion of Constantine. There is NO historic record of any Christian serving in a military until the close of the second century. It was not until Constantine’s conversion in the late fourth century that Christians were told by their leaders it was okay to join the military because their leader was Christian, therefore they were fighting for a Christian empire. But Jesus told us His kingdom is not of this world. And Satan is the prince of this world. And although all civil authority is permitted to exist by God, that does not mean God approves of their actions (Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia?).
I am striving to be apolitical, but I can tell you that I do not agree with gun control. I own guns and I want to keep owning guns. All I am saying is that I do not want to use my guns against another human being.
The truth is that people kill people. Whether it is machetes and clubs in Rwanda or atomic weapons in Japan or firebombing in Germany. All three of those examples are examples of the unlawful use of weapons in war because they were used against civilians. But I don’t want to digress into a discussion of the lawfulness of nuclear weapons or America’s past wars. My point is I agree with Dr. Hammond that gun control is not an issue and gun control won’t solve anything.
Dr. Hammond closes with a quote from Nehemiah, so I will close with a quote from the Lord Jesus Christ:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it is said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” Matthew 5:38-47