Bearing the Sword in Vain: Introduction

A Free Online Book by Jerry Robinson
Table of Contents

Why This Book And Why Now?

Five years ago, I laid down my sword.

For years, I slept within 10 feet of a locked and loaded shotgun.

My reasoning was simple (and at the time, I also believed it to be Biblical). If an armed and/or violent intruder were foolish enough to break into my home in the dark of night to endanger me or my family, I needed a way to fight back. As heinous as it sounds now, my weapon of choice ensured that any would-be criminal would likely not leave my home unless it was in a body bag after his body had been pumped full of lead.

I adopted the cultural mantra as my own motto: “The only way to stop a bad man with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” (And, of course, I was always playing the “good guy” role.)

But over the last several years, I have derived new insights into the nature of guns and other weaponry, and also into “self-defense”, not from our gun-loving culture, but instead, directly from the Old and New Testament writings.

What I have learned has been liberating. It has freed me from a spirit of fear and has caused me to draw even closer to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Today, I no longer live in fear of criminals and do not sleep near a loaded gun. My personal decision to no longer depend upon a gun to protect my life, family, or property came after extensive Biblical research, meditation, fasting, and above all, prayer.

The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that America’s long and sordid fascination with guns and other weapons of death is not rooted or connected in any way to the teachings of Jesus Christ, as described in the New Testament. In this book, I will directly challenge modern philosophies, which support our cultural understanding of guns and self-defense. In this hour of great spiritual deception, we do well to question all philosophies that do not find their roots in scripture.

But more importantly, I will demonstrate from the Old Testament and the New Testament that true followers of Christ do not have the luxury to think uncritically about guns and self-defense. Unfortunately, sound teaching on these thorny topics has been sparse in the local church body in recent years.

Bible students who desire a firm scriptural foundation for an approach to Christian self-defense will find this book to be a refreshing source of actual Biblical references instead of patriotic tropes, cultural mantras, and clever situational ethics that ignore (or even worse, seek to alter) God’s Word.

Ultimately, my aim is to expose the false connection between America’s cultural view of self-defense and Christ’s view of self-defense.

 

Startling Facts About Attitudes Towards Guns And Warfare in America

There are two primary views held by modern Americans regarding firearms.

One, the right to bear arms is a constitutional (and thereby, God-given) right bestowed upon all Americans by the unique wisdom of America’s founding fathers. These Americans, who earnestly support and seek to uphold their view of the Second Amendment, believe their right to bear firearms is sacred. Therefore, any American who seeks to challenge this interpretation is considered a “gun control” advocate who is blithely ignorant of the long history of brutal tyrants and therefore doesn’t understand what is at stake. According to this view, new federal gun control measures must be avoided at all costs so as to prevent a slippery slope towards an eventual loss of Second Amendment rights.

Two, the right to bear arms may be constitutional but it should be open to rational discussion as technology and society evolve. These Americans seek to limit access to firearms amid the mounting horror of constant mass shootings. According to this view, new federal gun control measures are strongly encouraged so as to prevent further bloodshed caused by lax gun laws.   

I personally hold neither of these two views. As I will explain in this book, America’s cultural debate about guns has blinded men to the beauty of the gospel and of Christ’s commands.

One of the most horrifying aspects derived from my own research into America’s gun culture is how it is impacting our nation’s youth. Violence is glorified in America through virtually every media format in existence. Thanks to America’s fascination with guns, many children, as young as 4-5 years of age, are facing constant exposure to violence and the act of killing through video games, television, and the internet. The November 2008 issue of the peer-reviewed medical journal, Pediatrics, reported that about 90% of U.S. kids ages 8 to 16 play video games for an average of 13 hours per week. Another report concluded that “more than 90% of those games involve mature content that often includes violence.”

Inevitably, this barrage of violent images serves to desensitize the child’s conscience by numbing them to the indiscriminate killing of people or animals. Indeed, child psychiatrists have demonstrated that this steady flow of violent images alters a child’s brain, effectively muting the areas of the brain responsible for displaying empathy.

That America’s gun culture represents a state of emergency is confirmed by the fact that more Americans have died from domestic gunfire since 1968 than died in all the wars of this country’s history.

Mass shootings have become an all too common occurrence in America, averaging nearly one per day in 2017. In the wake of such tragedy, it may be surprising to learn that approximately 80% of mass shooters use legally obtained firearms.

According to a 2017 CDC report, approximately 20 children are shot by guns every day in America. Many of these deaths are attributable to parents who keep a poorly hidden and improperly stored loaded gun in their home.

According to a study conducted by the University of Nevada-Reno, 91% of the children under the age of 15 who are killed by guns in high income countries around the world are in the United States.

America’s gun culture, fostered by an adoration of the Second Amendment, is literally killing us — and our kids.

Most Gun-Toting American Christians Are ‘Bearing The Sword In Vain’

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Roman church, he reminds his readers that Christians are to be submissive to the ruling authorities as they play a crucial role as God’s instruments:

“Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to [execute] wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:1-7)

This foundational passage of scripture is filled with important information detailing why human kingdoms exist and why followers of Christ should humbly submit to them. We will examine this passage in-depth later in this book. For now, suffice it to say that, despite their fallen nature, human kingdoms are empowered by God’s infinite grace to execute justice in a fallen world. Man’s stubbornness and arrogance prevents him from ultimately ruling in a perfect or fully righteous manner. In an age that seeks temporal pleasure, there is little desire for answers rooted in eternal wisdom.

Despite our sin nature, and only because of grace, our Heavenly Father uses earthly kingdoms to accomplish justice in the earth. The alternative, where man lives in a state of nature, void of any form of government and left to define his own laws without any final earthly arbitrator, makes us glad that God’s justice reigns in its current form. We will return to this passage in Romans 13 several times throughout the course of this study. For now, however, note that these ordained ministers of God who execute judgment on our behalf, “beareth not the sword in vain.” As God’s ministers, the ruling authorities are endued with heavenly power to “execute wrath” upon evildoers. When the government executes its judgment upon a criminal, its intention is to enact justice for the offended party and it acts as God’s vengeance.

Does this divine authority afforded to God’s ordained ministers to punish wrongdoers and lawbreakers extend to everyone?

According to the Apostle Paul, the answer is clearly no. Therefore, according to the New Testament, any person, whether Christian or not, who is not specifically ordained by God and deputized by the ruling authorities is obviously not God’s agent of justice. This means that the person who wields a sword (firearm) to exact justice in the earth without God’s ordination “bears the sword in vain.”

As God’s ministers of reconciliation, Christians have an entirely different calling from those ordained to execute God’s wrath through the use of the sword. After all, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but spiritual, in nature. (2 Cor. 10:4) God’s grace, coupled with the overt commands of Christ, compel us to reject the weapons of this world — and even the methods employed to wield those weapons.

As followers of Christ, we are not called to usurp the ordained role of human government. But neither are we called to stifle it through organized rebellion.

As pilgrims and sojourners on this earth, followers of Christ are viewed by the world as ambassadors of another Kingdom.

Yes, a Christian is a “good” American in that he pays his taxes, honors those in authority, and seeks to live a quiet life out of the way of the long arm of the law. But Christians could also rightly be accused of being “bad” Americans in that we are political nomads, with no human kingdom ultimately worthy of our allegiance on this earth.

Should we pay taxes? Yes, we have clear Biblical commands.

Should we pray for our leaders? Yes, we have clear Biblical commands.

Should we honor the king? Yes, we have clear Biblical commands.

Should we pledge allegiance to a human kingdom on this earth? No, we have no such command.

Should we intentionally provoke the existing government to wrath? No, we have no such Biblical command.

Just as foreign travelers to America do not pledge allegiance to this nation, neither do Christians. Why? Not because we despise America as some may accuse us. It is exactly the opposite. As ambassadors of God’s Kingdom to a wayward nation like America, we are not seeking to conform, as we are not called to be influenced by the world. Instead, we are called to influence the world for a Kingdom that is not of this world. Indeed, our allegiance is reserved solely for that one Kingdom, the one belonging to God and His Christ.

Followers of Christ will pay their taxes while praying for their human rulers, even if under the threat of persecution.

Tradition tells us that the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter were likely executed by the state during an intense wave of Christian persecution during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. Nero, who was literally insane according to most credible historians, launched a full-scale assault on the 1st century church. It was during this persecution that both the Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter admonished the early churches to remain submissive to the ruling authorities. Even the temporary span of a maniacal leader such as Nero was unable to change this duty of Christians towards human government.  

It should be obvious from a simple reading of the New Testament that the Christian calling and ordination is not to play avenger and to execute God’s wrath on criminals. According to Paul, and many other New Testament writers, this work is reserved for the government.

As Christians, we are to pray for our rulers and to submit to them. However, we are not called to do their work for them. Nor can we. After all, how can we, as bearers of God’s mercy and light to the world, resort back to the carnal weapons of this world? Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians commanded to kill, maim, or brutalize anyone — especially our own enemies!

Instead of executing God’s wrath in the earth, we are told to restrain from returning evil for evil and to leave room for the wrath of God.

Therefore, it is my own contention as well as the underlying concept of this book that Christians who choose to take the law into their own hands could rightly be said to “bear the sword in vain” as they have no heavenly mandate to execute God’s justice via the sword on this earth. Our calling is the exact inverse, should we choose to accept it.

Finally, while the Bible does not expressly forbid owning a firearm, Jesus does warn those who call themselves His disciples, that “those who live by the sword” should expect to “die by the sword.” Those are strong words that are as relevant today (if not more so in a nation filled with more firearms than people) than when Christ first uttered them in the final hours of His earthly life nearly 2,000 years ago.

The eternal words and life of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the four Gospel accounts in the New Testament, furnish modern man with a concise example of how to live along with a clear command to love all men, including our enemies.

Listen not to the world’s voice. Do not let this world rob you of your eternal reward through its deceptive lies. Instead, listen to the voice of Christ as He shines light upon the narrow road to eternal life, saying:

“If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)