Guns and martyrdom

I understand John Piper is a fairly well-known pastor. I’ve not personally heard any of his sermons, but I’ve met several bloggers who like him. The following commentary on his blog is weird, though, to say the least.

What do the supreme court ruling on guns and the martyrdom of missionaries have to do with each other?

Noël and I watched Beyond Gates of Splendor, the documentary version of End of the Spear, the story of the martyrdom of Jim Elliot, Peter Fleming, Ed McCully, Roger Youderian, and Nate Saint in Ecuador in 1956. That same day we heard that the Supreme Court decided in favor of the right of Americans to keep firearms at home for self-defense.

Here’s the connection. The missionaries had guns when they were speared to death. One of them shot the gun into the air, it appears, as he was killed, rather than shooting the natives. They had agreed to do this. The reason was simple and staggeringly Christlike:

The natives are not ready for heaven. We are.

I suspect the same could be said for almost anyone who breaks into my house. There are other reasons why I have never owned a firearm and do not have one in my house. But that reason moves me deeply. I hope you don’t use your economic stimulus check to buy a gun. Better to find some missionaries like this and support them.

I don’t want to be harsh, but can I point out that there is a difference between shooting the people who own the land on which you are trespassing (basically what the missionaries were doing, right?) and shooting people who break into your home? Don’t get me wrong. I totally support the missionaries, and I admire them for choosing to die rather than defend themselves. There is a big difference, however, in the duties of a missionary and the duties of a father or husband.

Now, I don’t own a gun, either, but I don’t have a problem with people using guns to protect themselves. In fact, I think we are duty-bound to defend our families. Exodus 22:2 says, “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.”

On this passage, Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe quotes Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, who says:

Here the Torah teaches you: If someone comes to kill you, kill him first. And this one [the thief] has come to kill you, because he knows that a person will not hold himself back and remain silent when he sees people taking his money. Therefore, he [the thief] has come with the acknowledgement that if the owner of the property were to stand up against him, he [thief] would kill him [the owner]. – [From Talmud Sanhedrin. 72a]”.

Jesus did not prohibit us from owning weapons, either. In Luke 22:36 he said, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.” Now, I know that these instructions were given so that a prophecy could be fulfilled, but that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus told them to buy swords. The point was so that Jesus would be numbered among the lawless, but if owning a sword (which is used solely for killing) is a sin, then Jesus told his disciples to commit sin.

My first responsibility is to my family. If a non-Christian threatens my family, therefore, my response is as protector of my family, not as an evangelist.

Hat tip to Shane

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3 Responses to “Guns and martyrdom”

  1. Kansas Bob says:

    I wonder what Piper “would do” to protct his family? I found his rationale flawed and agreed with your perspective Casey.

  2. casey says:

    I wondered the same thing. I guess he feels his duty to protect his family stops at locking the door…

  3. Lincoln says:

    Piper needs to pipe down and watch the latest Rambo flick. In it Rambo dispels the stupidity of pacifist Christians quite nicely.