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Guns: A 21st Century Idol?

Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.

Tragedy in Nevada

We are nearing the two week mark of the tragic day, October 1, when 64 year old Stephen Paddock opened fire on concertgoers in Las Vegas, Nevada. He killed 58 innocent men and women and injured over 500. This was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history. Up from last year’s deadliest mass attack at the Pulse nightclub that killed 49. Which beat the previous record holder, the Virginia Tech slaying that took the lives of 32 people.
Cue the standard arguments: “We need more gun control!” Yell those on the left. “No! What we need are more guns!” yells the right. Meanwhile the nation grows further apart, and to what end? The 2nd amendment grants the right to keep and bear arms. Proponents of this amendment, many of whom are law-abiding, upright citizens, are following the law of the land. They feel they need a gun to defend themselves, or they enjoy collecting them, much the same way philatelists enjoy collecting stamps. Some people enjoy shooting targets or skeet, and while that’s not my hobby, I would never begrudge another person the right to pursue their own interests in their own way.
Opponents of the 2nd amendment believe that gun control would make America safer. So far in 2017 nearly 12,000 people have been killed by guns, and we still have two and a half more months left in the year. It is important to note that the 12,000 killed does not include suicide. Over 21,000 people have used guns to take their own lives this year. If guns were banned, it’s not inconceivable that approximately 33,000 people may still be alive today.
So the debate continues. It will not get solved to anybody’s satisfaction. If I were a gambler, I’d wager that it won’t be solved at all. After all, If we didn’t do anything after Sandy Hook, we’re not going to do anything now. And so, the will argument will only grow more heated. Both sides will exercise their 1st amendment right of free speech to express their desire to either protect or change the 2nd amendment. This is all good and well, all right and fair. However, it seems that among all the discord we’ve lost sight of something far greater. We’ve lost sight of God. In our quest to be right we’ve lost sight of what’s right.


Guns or God?

By itself a gun is harmless. Guns rarely discharge on their own, and in fact, manufacturers take great pains to ensure that a gun won’t randomly shoot. Shooting a gun at a target is neither a sin nor an illegal activity. Legal gun ownership is not wrong. Putting guns ahead of God is wrong. Putting guns ahead of your neighbor or your family is wrong. You may love the constitution, but is it worth more than the Bible? You may follow man’s law, but will it be at the cost of God’s law?
The Bible could not be more clear on how it views idolatry. Leviticus 19:4 commands that we not make for ourselves gods of cast metal. And in Exodus 20:1-8 God tells us that “You shall not make for yourselves a carved image, or any likeness, or anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God.” And Galatians 4:8 teaches that when we didn’t know God, we were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. These are only three verses out of a hundred that deal with idolatry.

Above all else, seek God

At this point you may be asking “What’s your point? I don’t bow down to my gun. What a ridiculous straw-man, you’ve just undermined your whole entire point.” I’m sure that there are others who have stopped reading already, who may be on Facebook right now composing a rant about the “anti-gun left.” Maybe you’re already in the comments section writing your own article about how the 2nd amendment is absolutely compatible with modern Christianity. You’re well within your right to do so, I look forward to reading your response.
If your first reaction to the Las Vegas massacre was sadness and grief, congratulations! This article is not about you. If your first reaction to the massacre was righteous anger, this article is not about you. If your first thought after the massacre was “what a terrible tragedy, those poor victims. I wish they could have defended themselves.” This article is still not about you. But if your first reaction was “don’t take my guns.” This article is about you. That first thought we have a millisecond after tragedy is where our true priorities lie.

Don't let guns become a stumbling block

Guns are nice to have. They’re sleek and shiny, they’re fun to shoot. Shooting a target exactly right takes practice and skill. Living a Godly life also takes practice, it can be a daily struggle to remember that it’s not about what we want, but about what God wants. Are our actions harming others? Are we lifting up our brother or sister, or are we tearing them down? Are we acting in selfless love or selfish endeavors? These are questions we need to ask ourselves regardless of gun ownership.
The vast majority of people reading this strive to be good Christians. I know this because otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this article in the first place. While I trust that almost everybody reading this will never turn a gun on another human being, we must remember that not everybody seeks God’s will. And though it may be true that you, personally, are a good Christian; there are many gun owners who are not. So far this year over 12,000 people have lost their lives to gun owners who aren’t law -abiding Christians. A gun may be fun to shoot, but it’s reason for existence is to take life. Is that compatible with the Word of God?
If you find yourself struggling about the gun debate, ask yourself these questions:
Why does this gun mean so much to me?
What does this gun symbolize?
Is owning this gun causing discord?
Is this gun more important than my Christian walk with God?
Do I feel this passionately about the Bible?
Anything that you put ahead of God is an idol. This is true whether the object in question is a gun, a car, a boat, or a piece of jewelry. We are emphatically commanded to remove idols from our lives. We are also instructed to love one another. If your gun is more important than your walk with God or your relationship with others then it is time to prioritize. By themselves, guns aren’t bad. But a true relationship with God is even better.

© 2017 Anna Watson

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