Recently I have seen interesting posts by individuals claiming that gun ownership is condoned by Jesus. They reference Luke 22:36 where Jesus says, “And one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one.” (NRSV) I am aggrieved to see that pro-gun advocates have claimed scripture in this manner without first having studied the context of the scripture and secondly understanding the principal foundation of Jesus’ teachings.
Following in verse 38 the disciples responded to Christ with an enthusiastic “here are two swords.” Now, for some this is encouraging, but Jesus threw the proverbial cold water on it by saying “It is enough.”
Is that a war cry? Will they not need more if they are going to bring down the government? No, this is Jesus’ way of saying to the disciples, you do not understand.
In between vs. 36 and 38, Christ tells the disciples once again that the Old Testament scripture will be fulfilled as he becomes the suffering servant, “For I tell you, this scripture must be fulfilled in me, ‘And he was counted among the lawless.” The disciples do not comprehend what he means nor will they until he is crucified. What is left to say to children who are bent on fighting and weapons other than, “It is enough.” The conversation was over and time to move on to the Mount of Olives.
Claiming that vs. 36 is a call for Christians to own guns is a mistaken interpretation. The writer of Luke was not calling Christians to arms and it should be noted that this conversation is not supported by the other Gospels. Instead the author was showing the disciples ignorance in understanding Christ’s purpose.
Now, I may be a simple theologian, however, I do not stand alone in this interruption. John Calvin in his Commentaries, on a Harmony of the Evangelists, said that this was Christ using “metaphorical language,” to help the disciples understand that they will “soon meet with great troubles and fierce attacks.” Calvin further states that Christ is not calling them to physical battles but spirituals ones, “He [Christ] does not call them to an outward conflict… [but to] the fierce attacks which they must sustain in spiritual contests.” Just as the conflict is spiritual so are the swords Christ is referring to in verse 36.
Today, as the gun battle continues I call Christians to follow Christ and fulfill his command to Peter, to put down your gun (my interpretation). Pistols, automatic weapons, multiple magazines, instruments of mass death are not needed in the hands of Christians but instead we need the peace and love of Christ abounding in our words and actions. Let us not represent our faith by being deeply entrenched in the machinery of war and murder; let us not defame Christ’s message of love and peace or disregard his call to love our neighbor. Instead of cold steel, let our hands reach out with love. Instead of reactionary reptilian thought, let our spirit be filled with grace. Instead of killing our neighbor let us show the world that Christians strive to exemplify Christ’s peace now and forever.