Bearing Spiritual Arms

LEGISLATION banning military-style assault weapons, recently introduced in the United States, has prompted much discussion about the question of gun control. Naturally, people want to feel safe, and there are arguments on both sides of this debate. But there are also underlying issues that bear consideration.

For example, what really does make us safe? Does possession--or banning--of weapons ensure personal protection? Is there any kind of protection that doesn't depend on ever more sophisticated weaponry? And could such protection be a viable or wise choice in today's world?

We learn in the Bible that Christ Jesus' preaching and healing works were controversial. Unsuccessful attempts were made to stone him or push him off a cliff. Later, in an effort to end his message, Jesus' enemies beat, mocked, and finally crucified him.

Yet we never read in the Bible that Jesus carried a weapon. We do read, however, that he prayed often. Jesus at every point loved God, obeyed Him, and had complete trust that God was always present to defend him. His love for God also filled him with the greatest love for man. He had the ability to forgive rather than retaliate.

Armed with this standard of spiritual love and an unswerving trust in God's protecting power, Jesus had no need of the world's weapons. His choice of God's power protected him in the most dire of circumstances. He passed right through angry mobs, unarmed and unharmed. He emerged the victor from mockery and physical abuse, because he knew that his life and being were spiritual and therefore out of range of material attack. And his resurrection clearly shows the powerlessness of the material weapons that had been brought to bear on him. Even the crucifixion--death itself-- was ultimately powerless in the face of God's omnipotence.

Jesus' absolute trust in divine protection was not easy to fathom, even for his disciples. Confronted just before the crucifixion by a crowd intent on capturing Jesus, one disciple tried to defend the Master by drawing his sword. And he cut off an ear of a person in the approaching crowd. Many people would feel that under the circumstances, the disciple was justified in his actions. But Jesus looked at the action differently and immediately said, Matthew's Gospel reports, ``Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword'' (26:52).

In a situation where Jesus' very life was at risk, these words are remarkable. Perhaps they even seem unrealistic. Yet his words are utterly relevant to today's issues of gun control and individual safety. They indicate that to Jesus, bearing spiritual arms was more than a personal preference, more even than a right. It was a divine, Christian demand with which all men will ultimately need to comply, if society is to find true freedom from violence.

After rebuking his disciple, Jesus demonstrated the depth of his commitment to spiritual love, by healing the severed ear. In countering the effects of violence in this way, wasn't Jesus showing us the all-embracing power of God's love? We can expect to find this same protecting power present for us today as we are willing to turn to Christian love for our security instead of to weapons.

Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: ``Good thoughts are an impervious armor; clad therewith you are completely shielded from the attacks of error of every sort. And not only yourselves are safe, but all whom your thoughts rest upon are thereby benefited'' (p. 210). True security is found in the consciousness of God's love for us and for those we encounter on the streets.

The power of God, of divine Love, is available to defend, bless, and heal--in every alleyway, on every corner. Trusting in this power assures us of safety and will ultimately bring to our communities lasting freedom from violence. We have the right to begin carrying the spiritual arms that Jesus did. These arms--love for God and love for man--are our real weapons, and using them is everyone's true right.

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