Should Christians demand their rights? More particularly, should followers of Jesus Christ demand their rights to assault rifles?For, if we only listen to those directing the media discussions of the matter, we would be led to believe that the Sandy Hook school massacre, Vice President Joe Biden’s task force, President Obama’s 23 “executive orders,” and any resulting discussion should focus very narrowly on magazine capacities and “assault rifles”: scary-looking, military-style firearms that occasionally play a role in mass shootings.
But citizens of the United States, including the Christian ones, should be well aware that the discussion is about much more than that. Liberty, freedom, the limits of government, and responsibility are all at issue.It is perhaps a bit unsavory to talk about Christians and rights in the context of guns: it is difficult to picture the Rev. Billy Graham holding high an AK-47, waxing Heston-esque and shouting “From My Cold, Dead Hands!”
The Apostle Paul, however…
Christians are more familiar with asserting other rights enumerated in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights, such as the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion. And, if they were not, they should have been involved in asserting basic civil rights such as were won for Black Americans in the 60s.
But what about the admonitions of our Lord Jesus Christ, himself, who told us that we should give others the coat off our backs, to go the extra mile, to “turn the other cheek” and all that? What about the Apostle Paul, who said that Christians ought rather be defrauded than to assert their rights by going to court? (2 Corinthians 6:7). And that believers were to submit to governing authorities? (Romans 13:1). How do Christians determine which rights to demand and which not?
Some of the answer to that question might depend upon which sort of government in which the Christian citizen lives. If he lives in a monarchy, and the king does not permit his subjects to own certain weapons, then there is little Christian can do that would not resemble unbiblical rebellion against governing authorities. [Governmental authority is not absolute: Christians rightfully defied the Nazis in Germany, for instance.]
If, however, he lives in constitutional republic in which government is “of the people, by the people, for the people,” then it very well could be that lack of submission to government includes failing to participate in that government. As the Dixie Chicks might say, “Praise the Lord, and pass the ammunition!” Changes in time and occasion count for a lot, as it happens: a Christian living in Colonial America was faced with an entirely different question in taking up arms against King George than what the Christian living in modern American faces when deciding to preserve the right to bear arms against the political ideations of King President Obama.
It was, after all, the same Apostle Paul who proclaimed “I appeal to Caesar,” asserting his right as a Roman citizen to be given certain procedural rights before being summarily executed. A citizen who happens to be Christian, then, may legitimately exercise rights that government has granted/secured, such as appeal privileges and gun rights. But the question remains whether it is Christian to do so.
Jewish citizens under Roman rule asked Jesus if it were lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, to which Jesus replied “render to Caesar what was Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.
It is important to consider what the response would have been the same had there been a constitutional amendment against Caesar levying those taxes in the first place.