The fear of the Lord isn’t about walking around terrified of God. In fact, it’s the exact opposite: it’s a steadfast confidence in His power, justice, and holiness.
November 10, 2021
Revolvers, pistols, rifles, shotguns, machine guns—all of them are cool. They’re cool when lying untouched and unfired in freezing weather. And in subzero temperatures, they even become very cool. Now that my sneaky title hooked you into reading this far, let me tell you about something that is most definitely uncool: the white-hot, hair-trigger tempers of some Christians who get all up in arms over firearms.
The controversy is nothing new. It’s always been a highly explosive subject on both the social and political battlefronts. Bring it up at Aunt Ethel’s Thanksgiving dinner, and cranberry sauce may just become the newest accessory to complement your spiffy fall getup. Make it the topic of a local town hall meeting, and you’d better jump into a foxhole and get ready for the pyrotechnics. Post about it on the menagerie of social media outlets, and BOOM—welcome to Armageddon.
As a young theology major in college, one of the most valuable lessons I learned in my Christian Thought class dealt with the topic of integration. This highly transformational and revolutionary concept was contrasted with the opposing paradigm known as compartmentalization. The latter kept Christ and Scripture neatly segregated from the various compartments of life, while the former integrated the Savior and His inerrant Word into the very warp and woof of existence. One declared, “Some areas are off limits for the things of God”; the other exclaimed, “The Lord’s ways reign supreme over all!”
“Christians are well-known for arranging their firing squads in a circle.”
Regardless of where any Christian might land on the gun-control spectrum—and the spectrum is broad—one thing is certain: abandoning the fruit of the Spirit, the attributes of agape love, and the role as ambassador for Christ is never an option for anyone who claims to love and serve Jesus. Compartmentalization is a no-go in this arena (or any other); integration is a must.
In the aftermath of the recent Florida school shooting, I’ve been deeply grieved by the venom and spite that I’ve seen strewn across the social media landscape by some Christians. And in many cases, they’ve been leveled by one Christian against another. The old saying rings true that Christians are well-known for arranging their firing squads in a circle. And while I’ve alluded to my human grief, I can’t even begin to imagine the grief that has been experienced by the Holy Spirit. It almost sounds preposterous to suggest that mere mortals have the capacity to grieve the infinite Spirit of God—the third Person of the Triune Godhead who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain. Yet that is no suggestion. Paul the apostle thunders in his epistle to the Ephesians: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:30–32). And caught in the crossfire of the verbal bomb-lobbing, and the sharpshooting, Spirit-grieving escapades of God’s people, are seventeen precious souls who were brutally murdered. These are not numbers, statistics, or nameless faces. They are Nicholas Dworet, Aaron Feis, Jaime Guttenberg, Alyssa Alhadeff, Scott Beigel, Meadow Pollack, Christopher Hixon, Luke Hoyer, Carmen Schentrup, Gina Montalto, Alex Schachter, Peter Wang, Alaina Petty, Martin Duque Anguiano, Helena Ramsey, Joaquin Oliver, and Cara Loughran. Each name represents a life and a story, each name represents a person who was intentionally created in the image of God, and each name represents a stream of crushed and devastated friends and loved ones left behind. Are they not worthy of a brief moment of our respectful silence amid their wreckage and despair? How about our prayers, and our compassion, and our service, and our Christian witness?
“Instead of firing verbal bullets at your fellow Christians, treat them in such a way that demonstrates you are willing to take a literal bullet in their place—even when you can’t see eye to eye.”
So, follower of Christ, I’m not asking you to relinquish your opinion on firearms, or to give up your guns if you own some, or to purchase weapons if you don’t possess any. I’m not suggesting that you stop openly sharing your thoughts on the matter, or that you cease producing blogs and vlogs that contain your cherished viewpoint, or that you give up championing your cause on the social stage and in the political realm. I’m simply urging you to integrate Christ and His Word into everything that you do. I’m pleading with you to stop grieving the Spirit of God in the process, and to instead bear His fruit: the fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22). Remember, the world will know that we are His disciples by our love for one another—a love that is defined in 1 Corinthians 13 as one that is patient and kind; one that is neither arrogant nor behaves rudely, nor seeks its own, nor is provoked, nor keeps record of wrongs. I’m petitioning you to demonstrate toward your brothers and sisters in Christ what Jesus described as the greatest love of all: the willingness to lay down your life for them. Instead of firing verbal bullets at your fellow Christians, treat them in such a way that demonstrates you are willing to take a literal bullet in their place—even when you can’t see eye to eye. And if you should be willing to pay that high a price, should you not readily be willing to pay the lesser price of civility, graciousness, deference, and winsome courtesy?
Finally, I want to humbly encourage you to remember who you are, and why you’re here. It’s made abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians 5 that the call of God’s people is to serve as ambassadors for Christ. You are His representative in the midst of a lost and dying world—a world that is broken and blind and in need of truth, hope, and redemption. Your call is to shine His light, and to lovingly proclaim the same glorious gospel through which you were saved. This is where all your goals, dreams, ambitions, and sociopolitical interests take a backseat, and you remember that you are not of this world, but above all things you exist to seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness.
Yes, some people think guns are cool, and sometimes very cool, but may cooler heads prevail, and may each of us holster our ol’ verbal blunderbusses, and declare a holy ceasefire for the glory of God.