We have the right to own guns. It’s right there in the constitution. As citizens of the United States of America, we have the right to bear arms. Aside from any moral issues with owning a gun (is it a sin to keep a loaded .45 under your 4 year old’s bed?), we have a legal right to hang that shotgun over the mantle.
As Christians, we also have a duty to submit to the government. “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities,” writes Paul. “For there is no authority except from God” (Rom 13:1). And Peter agrees: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution” (1 Pet 2:13).
Notice that neither Peter nor Paul put any qualifications on these commands. We are to submit to the government. Obey its laws, pay its taxes. And Peter and Paul were writing when Caesar Nero was on his throne! (I’ll let you Google around for a character study.) Christians aren’t just to obey good governments (are there any?) or reasonable governments. We are to obey our governing authorities because such undiluted submission looks past our human authorities to the One who established them in the first place. Submission to Rome, or the U.S., is ultimately submission to God.
So what should Christians do if Congress—not that this would ever happen—passed a law that forbids the ownership of guns? Not Uzis and semi-autos. All guns. Rifles, handguns, yes—even your granddaddy’s shotgun hanging over the mantle.
If such a law violates the law of Christ, then we disobey the human law. “We must obey God rather than men,” pronounced the apostles (Acts 5:29). Although the passages above (Rom 13; 1 Pet 2) say that we are to submit to the government, there’s another underlying New Scriptural ethic that tells Christians to disobey the government if the government tells you to do something that isn’t biblical. The book of Daniel is a vivid case in point.
But owning a gun is not a biblical mandate. It’s a legal right that we have as citizens of the U.S. But if this right is taken away by the government, then what should the church do?
Biblically, we turn in our guns. Gladly. Willingly. We should be first in line. If Romans 13 means what it says, then the church should empty its gun cases and “be subject to the governing authorities” since “there is no authority except from God” (Rom 13:1). Eagerly. Joyfully. With hearts greedy for obedience, we turn in our guns because submission to our—sometimes unreasonable and oftentimes quite sinful—governments is only a small picture of our glad, eager, joyous submission to our Creator. Undiluted. Unconditional. Unless we are forced to sin, and since not owning a gun is not a sin—we turn in our guns.
Why do I embark on this fictitious (though…we’ll see) scenario? To make the point, a point that many first century Christians felt in other ways, that allegiance to Christ demands zealous obedience to the government even when, or especially when, the government does something that offends our “rights.”
Our cherished “rights” are not ultimate. God is ultimate, and we are enslaved to His laws, which include submission to a sometimes-unjust government.