The second-hottest political and cultural issue of our time is being debated in the Colorado Senate. Seven gun-control bills – four of which have already passed the House – go to vote on the Senate floor tomorrow (March 8). If they pass the Senate, Gov. John Hickenlooper will most likely sign at least three of them.
Here are the bills and their proposals (per the Denver Post):
Senate Bill 197: Restricts firearms for domestic violence offenders
House Bill 1224: Limits ammunition magazines to 15 rounds
Senate Bill 196: Assesses liability for assault weapons
Senate Bill 195: Bans online training for concealed handgun permits
House Bill 1229: Requires universal background checks for gun sales and transfers
House Bill 1228: Requires gun customers to pay the costs of their background checks
House Bill 1226: Outlaws concealed-weapon permit holders from carrying on campus
As the Post notes, our nation is paying close attention to the proceedings in Denver:
Colorado, a battleground state in the 2012 presidential election, is now a battleground state in the national debate over gun control. Witnesses for and against the gun bills under consideration have invoked two of the nation's gun tragedies that happened in Colorado: the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 and the Aurora movie theater shooting in July.
Generally speaking, proponents for increased gun-control laws want to curtail these acts of tragic violence like Aurora and Newtown (and some are also motivated to impose stricter boundaries on our nation’s “gun culture”). Likewise, opponents of these measures desire to protect the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms (and they would argue that increased gun-control laws will lead to more violence).
All that being said, and if at all possible, let’s put the politics and policy debates aside for a moment and get practical.
But before we do, let’s recognize one thing: It’s doubtful that there is across-the-pew consensus in the Summitview family on the gun-control/Second Amendment topic. We’re brothers and sisters and we need to be civil with each other (2 Timothy 4:24-25). Just because this debate charges emotions like jumper cables, let’s remember that the phrase “the right to keep and bear arms” doesn’t appear in the Bible, but instructions about relating to the governing authorities do.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7)
I want to talk about personal freedoms and how Christian citizens should respond to actual (or perceived) encroachment by their government. And, quite frankly, I’m pretty short on answers but long on questions. Using Romans 13:1-7 as our framework, can we find biblically sound answers to the following questions?
When should Christians be “subject to the governing authorities”? Do we have just cause to rebel (the opposite of subjecting) or break laws that we view as unconstitutional?
Our system of government differs from the monarchical forms of government found in most biblical contexts. How, if at all, does this impact how we apply passages like Romans 13?
Can we ignore, break or rebel against rulers who are a terror to good conduct? If so, how is “good conduct” defined? Is gun-owning good? Can we classify the Second Amendment as a means toward “good conduct”?
Are all authorities “ministers of God”? Can authorities who pass laws that (on the surface, at least) contradict the existing laws of the land (e.g. the Second Amendment) still lay claim to this title? If not, do we still owe them our subjection? How does Titus 3:1 fit in here?
Let’s say that in five years, government agents knock on your door demanding you hand over all your handguns and all your AR-15s. But you can keep your shotgun for “sporting” purposes. How should followers of Jesus Christ respond in this situation?
Why was the Apostle Peter rebuked for resisting the authorities when Jesus was arrested?
In Acts 5:29, Peter, in response to the Council’s repeated command to stop preaching about Jesus, says, “We must obey God rather than men.” When is it appropriate to take this stand as Christians?
If you’re in favor of the laws being voted on in Denver tomorrow, when would you say that a government is overstepping its bounds (on the state or federal level)? How far is too far? What issue would make you become uneasy and “rebellious”?
How should Christians respond to a government that restricts religious freedom and freedom of expression? Is there a clear, biblical cause to rebel/disobey on this point?
For the persecuted and martyred Christians in the first and second centuries in Rome, were they justified in resisting the laws of the Empire?
Did Dietrich Bonheoffer disobey Romans 13 and Titus 3 in trying to assassinate Adolf Hitler? Why or why not?
What connection exists between the Great Commission, the Great Commandment and the battle for the Second Amendment?
How dependent on our possession of guns is the spreading of the gospel and the transformation of our culture?
This is pretty important stuff. I’m wrestling with these questions; they are not rhetorical or “gotcha” questions. I want to figure out these answers for myself. I also want to hear what you think – but keep the long-range thought bombs (LRTBs) out of the comments section, please. My prayer is that this discussion will lead us to a greater understanding of what Christ-honoring political and cultural engagement looks like in these tricky 21st-century waters.
And maybe it would be good to hold some sort of gathering to talk about this and other similar issues. These are difficult questions to answer, and coming together as church body to discuss these things in person, as a family, might be a good next step.
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