Lately I’ve noticed a lot of conversations on Social Media about people carrying guns now when they go to church. Yes, we have the right to bear arms, but should Christians take guns to church? Has living the Christian life become the gun slinging Wild West? The June 17, 2015 tragedy that took place at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina, on the evening of June 17 this year was heart breaking and gut wrenching, but it doesn’t change the truth of the Gospel.
Peter thought carrying a “hook blade knife’ in his pocket to protect Jesus was the right thing to do. Jesus told him to put that thing away.
He could have called down a legion of angels to destroy those who were attempting to nail His hands and feet to the Cross, but He didn’t. He stretched out His arms and surrendered.
The Bible says “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.” It doesn’t say they loved their lives so much they used more violence to protect themselves.
The most powerful display of love the world has ever seen wasn’t about a man fighting back. It was the laying down of a life.
As I reflected back to that horrific event in Charleston it brought to mind something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit over the past few months. Something disturbing… Something we don’t want to dig into.
Jesus made it very clear that in order to follow Him, we have to deny self and pick up our cross on a daily basis. I’ve heard sermon after sermon on what that truly means. Most of them united in theory, but very different in practical application.
Here is what I believe.
Jesus was our ultimate example. While on this earth, He modeled what the Christian life should look like. He was fully human with an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and He went about His Father’s business.
He left us the blueprint…
Denying self and picking up our cross means, to me, that we walk through this life and suffer injustice, persecution, verbal abuse, false accusation, and anything else the world can throw at us all while walking in complete, unconditional love towards everyone.
If there was one man on this Earth who had the right to gripe, complain, cry foul, and just walk away, it was Jesus. Yet, He didn’t do any of that. He wanted to leave a path for us on which to travel.
Now, here’s where it gets tricky…here’s where it begins to get uncomfortable.
1st Corinthians 13:4-8 is the definition of what we read about in the life of Jesus. I call these verses the DNA of God.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
One of these attributes jumps out at me. “Love doesn’t seek its own.” That can be translated to mean several things. Love is not self-focused. Love isn’t self-preserving. Love cares more about others than self.
The very concept of protecting ourselves contradicts this characteristic of love. Before you come after me with guns, hear me out. I’m not laying down doctrine. I’m asking questions. I’m searching.
If we are to live a life defined by the love of God, why would we carry a gun into church to protect ourselves? Are we saying we have more faith in our trigger finger than we do in a God who created the entire universe?
As I mentioned above, Peter was ready to cut heads off with his sword. Jesus said no. Soldiers were hammering nails into His hands and feet, but He didn’t call on Gabriel, Michael or Raphael. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the angels. I can picture them armed with AK-47’s just waiting for the word from Christ. But, Jesus said no.
According to the book of Revelations, we overcome the enemy by not loving our own lives, even unto death. If we are completely dead to self, and fully surrendered to God, we can’t be killed. Yes, we can be wiped from the face of this earth, but it only ushers us directly into eternal life with our King.
Death on this earth is not an easy thing to handle. It’s raw, ugly, and not at all something we desire to face. It can leave scars on the family and friends who are left here to grieve. However, that doesn’t change the truth of the Gospel.
If we are so fully vested in this temporary home and all the things that come along with it, how can we truly become love? According to the ultimate example of love Who hung on a tree, it means giving up our lives.
Human sentiment, self-preservation, and feelings have been part of us since birth. It’s natural to care about self. To protect self.
That’s why we must be born again. Born into the DNA of Christ, not Adam. Born into One who has already conquered death and Hell.
I write this blog not with intended disrespect to anyone’s beliefs or convictions nor as an invitation to DEBATE and ARGUE. I’m just interested in your thoughts on this subject.
(This post was taken from Bishop Dante Smith’s Facebook page post dated December 22, 2015. You can read more from Bishop Smith at www.facebook.com/bishopdante.smith)