Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his sermon, Loving Your Enemies:
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption… I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.”
Too much commentary in America that goes by the name “Christian” proclaims vengeance and fear instead of love and redemption. The debate about the possession and use of guns is a very good example of how far we have lost touch with the teaching of Jesus. I was dismayed to read the following in a New York Times article (“A Clamor for Gun Limits, but Few Expect Real Changes”, by Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Steinhauer, January 13, 2011):
Erich Pratt, the director of communications for Gun Owners of America, said “Why should the government be in the business of telling us how we can defend ourselves? These politicians need to remember that these rights aren’t given to us by them. They come from God. They are God-given rights. They can’t be infringed or limited in any way. What are they going to do: limit it two or three rounds. Having lots of ammunition is critical, especially if the police are not around and you need to be able to defend yourself against mobs.”
If this is representative of a certain “Christian” thinking about guns, all of us are in serious trouble. Where has any Scripture said that God has given a right to individuals to own and use weapons? Where did Jesus teach that it is good to defend oneself with violence? The teachings of Jesus and the Church (as Martin Luther King Jr. reminded us) have always been on the opposite side: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, turn the other cheek, do not repay anger with anger. Jesus goes out of his way to stress that vengeance is no longer acceptable: for his followers a new way holds true, the way of love (Matthew 5:38-48). This viewpoint may be accused of being naïve, but when we come to our senses we recognize that ultimately it is the only way to peace and security.