The Heart of the Problem
Guns are weapons deliberately designed to damage an object, inflict wounds, or kill another living being. Whoever intentionally carries a deadly weapon must be prepared to use it and must be ready to potentially kill. Carrying a deadly weapon thus inevitably alters the way we see and interact with people. We view those around us through a lethal lens. This contradicts three paramount biblical principles: love your neighbor; love your enemy; and trust God fully.
This brings us to the heart of the problem: being ready to kill someone is at odds with loving them. Moreover, relying on a weapon to keep me safe raises a spiritual question: am I placing my faith in guns or God? Whom do I trust will save and protect me? My gun, or God?
What Makes a Christian?
Love and compassion are high on the list of characteristics of those who would be recognized as Christians. Bearing arms, inflicting violence, killing other human beings, and causing others to suffer from gunshot wounds does not reflect the loving and compassionate character of Jesus Christ, who is the Prince of Peace.
It always puzzles me how some Christians are strangely forgetful of the clear teachings of Jesus that have guided and motivated Christians throughout the centuries: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44, NKJV). Using a gun does not emulate the virtues of love and compassion. We know that “those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6, NLT). Believers should never “repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom. 12:17, NIV) but rather “overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21, NKJV). Love is the quintessential virtue of Jesus’ followers and the identifying mark by which the world recognizes us as His disciples (John 13:35).
Embodying Faith and Imitating Christ
God does not want people to be victims of violence, and certainly not at the hands of those claiming to be followers of Jesus. Christians cannot change the world through violence. Guns are instruments of violence, designed to harm other human beings who are created in the image of God. Even when guns are used with very noble intentions, the sad reality is that they destroy lives, fracture families, cause injuries, and result in enormous bloodshed, grief, and death.
The use of guns runs counter to the spirit and teachings of Jesus. There is something profoundly unsettling when Christians use weapons of warfare to kill others and think they are somehow following the Prince of Peace. When this happens, Christianity loses credibility, because what matters most is not what we claim about Jesus, but how we embody our faith. By imitating Christ’s peaceful and kind manner, especially in dealing with our enemies, we present to those who would cause us harm the manner by which Christ deals with them. For if we do not treat our enemies as Christ has taught us, how will they know the One we proclaim to be Lord and Savior? Can love and compassion come out of a gun barrel?
Redemptive Violence—Fact or Fiction?
Hollywood and society have conditioned us to believe that violence stops evil and saves lives. This myth of “redemptive violence” is diametrically opposed to what Jesus practiced and taught in the Gospels. “Put away your sword,” Jesus said, because “those who use the sword will die by the sword” (Matt. 26:52, NLT). Jesus did not commend Peter for his skillful use of a sword. Jesus did not wound: Jesus healed! As followers of Jesus, we should be willing to suffer injustice rather than retaliating with violence (1 Peter 2:20). In using guns, we have strayed a long way from the peaceful and loving path of Jesus.
Agents of Shalom
As Seventh-day Adventist Christians we are not called to play the Dirty Harrys, Rambos, or James Bonds of this world. Devotion to the way of Christ means that we do not take up worldly weapons and participate in violent acts, but we are agents of shalom as Jesus has described the essential nature and ethics of His new community of believers (Matt. 5:38-48). We do so because God “is kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Luke 6:35, NIV). Jesus never violently injured another human being. He never punched a Pharisee or assaulted a Sadducee. Jesus exercised His power to heal, not to harm. The early Christians comprehensively rejected the legitimacy to kill at any level, including abortion, capital punishment, gladiator contests (even watching them!), infanticide, and warfare.
If I am completely honest with you, try as I might, I simply cannot imagine Jesus looking into the eyes of another person and pulling the trigger of a gun or a semiautomatic weapon, firing a round of bullets at someone, or engaging in a knock-down, drag-out fistfight with an adversary. I cannot imagine Jesus deliberately hurting or killing another human being. His love compelled Him to act differently. We too should model this love by recovering the courage to learn from Him to be agents of peace.
This article first appeared in Adventist Review, January 14, 2022 (https://adventistreview.org/commentary/guns-or-roses/)
 All Scripture quotations marked ESV have been taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 For a more detailed description, see the discussion in Frank M. Hasel, Barna Magyarosi, and Stefan Höschele, eds., Adventists and Military Service: Biblical, Historical, and Ethical Perspectives (Madrid: Editorial Safeliz, 2019).
 Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
 Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
 Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
 For some sobering statistics on the impact of gun violence in the United States see https://www.bradyunited.org/key-statistics, accessed Aug. 20, 2021.
 There is a profound difference between shooting a wild animal and shooting a human being, who is created in God’s image. No human being is made to be hunted or killed. No human being should be in the crosshairs of another person’s gun or assault pistol.