By Caleb Keith –
Recently, there has been a flood of violence and unrest following both Islamic terror attacks and domestic shootings. As is typical in the United States, such violence has led to a nationwide argument about gun control. As arguments both for and against gun control go flying through the air, I have found one particular argument coming from Christians more bothersome than the rest. Many Christians, both evangelical and Catholic, have labeled it sinful and un-Christian to own guns. This argument stems from what I would call the “Not of this World” movement. These Christians tend to overemphasize the spiritual aspect of the Christian life while often demonizing or ignoring the worldly part. The fact of the matter is that Christians are both citizens of God’s spiritual kingdom and citizens of a broken, sinful world. These two kingdoms, as Luther and the other reformers referred to them, are very different. The kingdom of the right is the kingdom of God, ruled by Grace, which has been won by the blood of Christ. The kingdom of the left is the kingdom of the world, ruled by Law, coercion, and the sword. God rules over both these kingdoms for the good of man so that he might be saved from his sins and live peaceably in a broken world
Being citizens of the right, Christians are called to live by Grace, proclaiming Christ and the forgiveness of sins until they are taken up to paradise. As citizens of the left, Christians are called to live under rulers and governments for the good order and peace of the world. This means that Christians can be both agents and objects of Grace, while simultaneously being agents and objects of the sword. Christians, while being forgiven by God for all sin, are still subject to the earthly consequences. This also means that a Christian can be called by God to forgive his or her enemy and at the same time be called to the defend their neighbor against temporal evil.
When it comes to the topic of Christians and gun control, it must be recognized that guns are a form of what Luther would call the sword, a force that is used to quell evil and maintain earthly order. The authority of the sword under earthly rulers comes from God. However, the sword can be abused by those to whom it has been given. In the United States, the Second Amendment asserts that citizens have the right to keep and bear arms. While all U.S. Christians have the right to bear arms, not all of them are called to such ownership. The Christian is free to either own or not own a gun in good conscience. Those who choose to keep and bear arms should do so responsibly, not for personal gain or power, but for the defense and love of their neighbor. Those who choose to forgo owning a weapon should not condemn those who do as committing sins against God. Gun control is not a matter of salvation but a matter of the state. When Christians confuse that, it is to the detriment of those residing in God’s kingdom of the left by making that of the kingdom of the right into Law rather than Grace. While a nationwide conversation about guns, violence, and terrorism is necessary, the Christian should have nothing to offer spiritually besides the forgiveness of Christ, both for the victims and instigators of violence.