American Christians have emerged from a period of prominence into a time of trial, and as a result, we now face an era of unprecedented challenge. Christians in America are confronted with debates of staggering legal and moral complexity.
And few debates are as complex as the debate over the second amendment. Our hearts break as we witness deadly events like those in Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Sandy Hook, Orlando and now Las Vegas. With increasing frequency, our free society presents us with ever-exaggerated abuses of freedom. How do we as Christians engage this debate in light of our country’s constitution? More to the point, how do we engage this debate in light of our Kingdom calling?
Our society is constructed around the concept of a social contract, namely our ability to enjoy freedom is predicated on our ability to coexist with each other peaceably. In order to do that, we sometimes have to be willing to give and take rights in degrees—so our freedoms do not infringe upon one another (e.g., your constitutional right to move about freely ends at my front door). Limits are placed on our rights so that we may all enjoy as abundant freedom as is possible.
When it comes to guns, it will be impossible to remove guns from our society. Regardless of what has been done in Australia or Holland or any other example, guns will always be a part of the American experience, in large part due to the Second Amendment. Still, we face a situation where access to certain weapons seems to run against public interest.
Inherent in the rights enumerated in the Constitution is the idea that our rights can only be enjoyed by a people who values the ultimate right: the right to life.
Think about debates on drugs, say opium. There was a time when there were not laws in place restricting access to opium or cocaine. But there came a point where we as a society recognized that, while we have a constitutional right to imbibe whatever we wish, we did not have the restraint to allow unrestricted use of that drug. Our rights were limited, but for the public good. We did not ban or restrict all drugs, but certain drugs were deemed too dangerous.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves as Christians, apart from whatever the Constitution says, are we going to be a people who value unfettered access to guns even if that access comes with an increasing toll on human life.
A similar argument can be made in regards to abortion. Most Christians recognize a right to privacy, but the court has extended that right to include the right of a mother to decide in private what she does with her unborn baby. While most Christians agree with the right to privacy in the Fourth Amendment, many do not think that it extends to the point where a woman can end a pregnancy and kill an unborn child.
Can we not agree that some rights of some gun owners be limited to protect the children already born, too?
When society can not responsibly exercise freedom, then it is the burden of the government, of the people, by the people, and for the people to make every effort to protect human life and insure the our access to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. We must be willing to accept the limits forced on us by our own sinfulness, and be willing to admit that any American is more precious than any Amendment.
We live in a broken world, which by its very nature is limited by sin. We see only in part, we live only in part and we long for the demise of sin and the arrival of true freedom. Here and now, we must recognize our limits, and seek hearts of wisdom. Our chief identity, after all, should not be in our rights as recorded in the United States Constitution, but in His work on the cross.