Nearly 13 million people have a conceal carry permit in the United States, reportedly 1 in 20 adults. While 83 percent of Americans identify as Christian, that means an awful lot of followers of the Nazarene are packing.
Many laws passed in the U.S. authorize the carrying and use of concealed (and unconcealed) for “self-defense and self-protection. See, e.g., 21 Okla. St. Sec. 1290.25. That means some people in the country can legally shoot and kill other people under certain circumstances, particularly when they’re lives are threatened.
Law abiding citizens should read their own State’s laws before they start walking around with a pistol in their pocket. But Christians should take the extra step of reading the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Jesus would never have carried or used a firearm to harm another person, not under any circumstances.
Jesus told his followers at the Sermon on the Mount “Do not resist an evildoer.” Not only did he say “turn the other cheek, ” he said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In the gospel according to Luke, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”
There is no room for war or killing in Jesus’ teachings. Jesus’ actions spoke as loud as his words when he reprimanded a follower for using violence when Temple guards came to arrest him at the Garden of Gethsemane. “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Even in the face of certain death, Jesus did not resist those that intended evil for him, and he taught us to do the same.
Some may respond that Jesus told his followers to buy a sword. (Luke 22:35-38.) Doesn’t that mean it’s okay to shoot and kill someone in self-defense? No.
Jesus clearly was not saying that his followers should take up arms. He merely confirmed that two swords were “enough” to fulfill the prophecy of the book of Isaiah, verse 53:12, which states that the coming messiah would be “numbered with the transgressors.” Jesus did not mean that two swords were enough to save him from certain death on the cross, or overthrow the Romans. He was not saying he or the disciples would ever use violence. He was merely saying that by having a sword they were breaking the law, and thus, amount the transgressors, fulfilling the professing. Nothing more.
Remember that this passage from Luke occurs in the garden of Gethsemane, the same night he is to be arrested. When the Temple guards came to arrest him, he sternly rebuked his followers when one drew a sword and struck the slave of the high priest. “No more of this!” said Jesus. (Luke 22:51.)
Other passages confirm that Jesus condemned the use of violence. (Matthew 26:52, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” John 18,11, “Put your sword back into its sheath.”) A few poor fishermen and women could not accomplish much even with swords on the night of his arrest, and it is clear that his rebuke of violence applied to “living” by the sword, meaning he rejected violence at any time for any purpose.
Some may say that such examples (even though directly from Jesus’ mouth) doesn’t mean that Christians cannot kill other people in self-defense. Jesus just said those things under the circumstances because he was “supposed” to get arrested and die on the cross. But such rationales simply do not wash.
One need only look to the explicit statements of Jesus and the examples of Jesus’ disciples at (and after) the crucifixion to answer these questions. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the check, offer the other also … If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:27-33.)
Jesus made it quite clear that he was not limiting such teachings to ‘loving our neighbor,’ he did not say that we can be less tolerant when our mortal enemy attacks us. Rather he said, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.” (Matt 5:38-39. He is talking about tolerance even when people physically injure us. We must love those who attack us and not resist even when they mean to do us serious harm.
The fact that his disciples refused to retaliate when attacked further shows that their understanding of Jesus’ teaching was that we should be tolerant in every circumstance. (See Acts 4:25-31, 8:1-3, 9:1-2, 12:1-5.) Even when physically attacked the disciples ‘did not resist the evildoer.’ Neither did Jesus. The lives of Jesus and his disciples show that retaliation and killing has no place in Christian teaching, not even in self-defense.
Jesus affirmatively rejected the rationale of an “eye for an eye.” (Matt. 5:38-39.) Jesus did not distinguish between the innocent and the guilty when telling us to practice universal tolerance. (Luke 6:27-33.) Jesus rejected retaliatory killing in any form, even in self-defense.
“The Morning Tree” was written to emphasize these teachings of Jesus, but much more importantly, to provide an entertaining story of inspiration for those working to spread the message of universal tolerance, peace, and nonviolence, which Jesus championed.
Ras, the centurion whose servant Jesus had healed, is tasked by the disciples after the crucifixion to find a lost gospel written by the Messiah himself. A rouge disciple has stolen it, and Ras believes he is on a holy mission, after an angel of light appears to him. Being a military man, the centurion uses violence to pursue his mission. But he has been deceived. People are not who he thought they were. The truth is revealed at the tip of a blade under the morning tree – one cannot serve Jesus with violence.
The Morning Tree was written to further the teachings of Jesus, particularly those of the Sermon on the Mount. The ending may seem controversial (which will not be spoiled here), but remember that this novel is a metaphor for the Passion: Jesus dies on a tree, is resurrected and ascends, teaching us a wonderful truth.
In His Teachings,
Copyright (c) 2016 Austin Reams, all rights reserved.
Would Jesus Have A Conceal Carry License? Nope.
Would Jesus have a CCW Permit? No.
Would Jesus Have a gun?
Would Jesus own a gun?
Would Jesus buy a gun?