Maybe I'm out of whack. I just watched an internet famous pastor hold up a machine gun and say "my first amendment right is protected by my second amendment right". How does that line up with the bible? The whole argument was based on defending the scripture too. I can't imagine Jesus holding up an ar-47 and insinuating he'd shoot someone who tried to take away his rights. It was such a mentally dissonant moment.
Several people that I love responded with support for my opinion and questions. I'm so thankful we live in a time where honest conversation can occur about topics that could be incredibly divisive. I'm going to try and respond to one of my friends questions about two specific Bible verses.
He wrote, "I submit these two verses for your interpretation and understanding Psalms 144: 1 And also Luke 22:36. Also it's not a machine gun. Its a semi automatic rifle. The laws of God trump the laws of man." Another friend helped me appreciate I got the gun wrong as well. My lack of knowledge about guns aside, I'll dive into the scripture and see if I can't share what I think is going on in these passages. There's a theme that runs between the two verses my friend mentioned, violence or aggression is ok with God. I may have over-simplified it, but I'm trying to couch why he brought them up in context of the total conversation.
Let's start with Psalm 144:1, "Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle". I think this verse pretty much means what it says. David was a man of war, but hadn't really been born for it. The little shepherd boy is acknowledging that his victories and ability to defeat great foes comes from God. This idea continues throughout with him saying, "Rescue me and deliver me from the hand of foreigners", in verse 11. David is keenly aware of his weakness and dependence upon God. So, it certainly seems like a verse that is in support of David's warring ways, however I do want to add a little more to the picture.
I don't think David was sinning per se by being a man of War. His kingdom was a Theocracy and God had demanded, essentially, genocides. David did as God had directly told him in a government that has not existed in quite a long time and certainly doesn't exist now. Israel's unique situation and barbaric relationship with other people groups was how God "spoke". The violence was akin to the judgement of God. However, while David can't be faulted for doing what God asked, He did represent a phase of God's relationship with the world that ended with him.
David wasn't allowed to build the Temple because he was a man of war and the blood on his hands (1 Chronicles 22:8). Solomon was representative of a new phase, one that would move Israel closer to its original intent, to be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Solomon ushered in a time of peace and I believe that through progressive revelation we see that this is ultimately God's goal. Furthermore, I believe that after Solomon the kings are basically dumpster fires who bring judgement upon the people barring a few standouts specifically because they move away from the word of God and his goals. So, while I wouldn't punish David for his actions, I don't think that we should look to him as a perfect corollary for how we should view violence and force as New Testament Christians.
Which is ok because we have what seems like a New Testament passage where Jesus is telling his followers to take up swords for the coming days of violence. I saved this for last because I think it is a case of proof texting and in context actually doesn't support the taking up of arms against foes as much as it proves the grand plan of God through Jesus Christ. Here is the text and then I'll dig into it, "He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one." Here we have long haired, hippy Jesus telling his inner circle to get ready to fight because they are in the crosshairs, right? I think the first problem is that this verse is taken out of context and really needs to be read with the surrounding passage. This is often the easiest way to understand context and avoid misinterpretation, but I'm not saying I'm above reading my own agenda into scripture, for which I repent as best I can.
A quick overview of the chapter reads like this, Judas betrays Jesus, Jesus proves he knows what's up and calls out Judas, Jesus describes the power dynamics of his kingdom, Jesus knows Peter will deny him three times, Jesus claims he will fulfill prophecy (this is where our verse lives), Jesus prays with an awareness of his coming torment, Jesus is arrested, Peter denies him, and Jesus is put on trial and abused. So, I see occurrences of Jesus' divine foreknowledge with Peter, Judas and His own prophetic fulfillment, as well as in the Garden. In fact, by the end of the chapter, each bit of foreknowledge is playing out. Jesus is participating in and orchestrating events for his ultimate goal as the perfect sacrifice.
Let's focus in on our text now,
Without a doubt Jesus says, buy a sword if you don't have one. Immediately he explains why they should buy a sword, for the sake of fulfilling prophecy. Which prophecy? That would by Isaiah 53:12, "Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors." Specifically, Jesus points to being numbered among the transgressors. I'll come back to this in a second. But, at the end of the passage the ever dull disciples find two swords and Jesus says they have enough swords. How is that possible unless the purpose of the swords is not for self defense in a hostile area, but a very specific part of fulfilling the previous prophecy?
Jesus needs to be numbered among transgressors. So, we'll jump ahead to his arrest where a certain disciple takes a swing and cuts off a guys ear (no doubt he missed while trying to sever his head). Not for nothing, Jesus rebukes this use of force and in Matthew reminds his followers that He could call down armies of angels if self preservation was his goal (Matt. 26:52-54). All that to say, Jesus is now officially counted among the transgressors. Hanging out with guys who tried to kill the High Priests assistant firmly plants you among the transgressors in the eyes of the Sanhedrin.
Jesus, with his unique foreknowledge sets in motion the path that will lead to his own death. He assures his own death by telling his boys to gather up some swords. Interestingly enough though, Jesus repairs the ear. I think that says something about what He was about. Also, it removes the little bit of evidence they might have to convict him of a crime in the kangaroo court that follows. Jesus remained perfect and without crime while managing to be counted among the transgressors.
I think that's the heart of that passage. It's not about gathering up weapons, it's about Jesus doing what he has to to make sure that He ends up on the cross. He rebukes the use of swords as soon as they are no longer necessary for his end game. If you look at the post-pentecost examples of these same disciples, they don't make much of their use of swords. I'm not even arguing that they might not have owned a sword, but they were not men of war. They did not meet out violence when confronted with hardship. Take for example Stephen also, who did not attempt his own rescue through force.
One other note is that Jesus is giving a command to the disciples that doesn't really carry over to our era. It was fulfilled and we don't need to look to that verse as prescriptive of how we should live or act. In other words, it's not a call for Christians to sell their clothing to purchase weapons. That's a misrepresentation of the text.
Let me attempt to apply this all to the modern day conversation and sum up. I still feel like the internet pastor was being irresponsible with his podium in creating a license for believers to take up arms against individuals who would try to deny them free speech in some way. I also believe that it is fairly unbiblical to hold up a weapon and insinuate that he himself will use it to defend his 1st amendment right. I don't believe we can take the example of David as a man of war and superimpose it over our current situation and I don't believe that Jesus' command in Luke 22 is at all relevant to the conversation. This is also not a debate on gun or sword ownership, but really a question of is force appropriate when a Christian is under duress.
I hope I was able to communicate with a sense of brotherhood and love. I could talk more about defending oneself and protecting the lives of others, but that is for another time because this post has swollen well past the point of being interesting. Thank you for asking the questions. I hope this helps.