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Jehovah’s Witnesses

English

The Watchtower—Study Edition  |  July 2017

Questions From Readers

Questions From Readers

Would it be fitting for a Christian to keep a firearm, such as a handgun or a rifle, for protection against other humans?

While Christians may take reasonable steps to ensure their personal security, they do so within the framework of Bible principles. These advise against the use of carnal weapons, such as handguns, rifles, or other firearms, for protection against other humans. Consider the following:

In Jehovah’s eyes, life​—especially human life—​is sacred. The psalmist David knew that Jehovah “is the source of life.” (Ps. 36:9) Hence, if a Christian chooses to take reasonable measures to defend himself or his property, he would do everything in his power to avoid taking a human life and becoming bloodguilty.​—Deut. 22:8; Ps. 51:14.

Although using any number of objects could lead to incurring bloodguilt, guns make it easier to kill someone​—accidentally or deliberately. * Moreover, if an attacker​—who may already be tense—​sees that the other person has a firearm, the situation is very likely to escalate and a death might result.

When Jesus told his followers to equip themselves with swords on the final night of his life on earth, he did not have protection in mind. (Luke 22:36, 38) Rather, Jesus had them bring a sword for an object lesson to teach them not to resort to violence, even when confronted by an armed crowd.  (Luke 22:52) After Peter wielded one of the swords against the high priest’s slave, Jesus commanded Peter: “Return your sword to its place.” Then Jesus stated a fundamental truth, a principle that guides his followers to this day: “All those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”​—Matt. 26:51, 52.

In harmony with Micah 4:3, God’s people “beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears.” This identifying trait of true Christians harmonizes with the apostle Paul’s inspired exhortation: “Return evil for evil to no one. . . . If possible, as far as it depends on you, be peaceable with all men.” (Rom. 12:17, 18) Despite the many troubles that Paul experienced, including “dangers from robbers,” he lived by his words, never putting personal security above Scriptural principles. (2 Cor. 11:26) Instead, he trusted in God and in the wisdom found in His Word​—wisdom that “is better than weapons of war.”​—Eccl. 9:18.

Christians consider life to be far more valuable than material things. “Life does not result from the things [a man] possesses.” (Luke 12:15) Thus, if a mild tongue fails to stop an armed robber, wise Christians heed the principle embodied in Jesus’ words: “Do not resist the one who is wicked.” It may even require that we give up our inner and outer garments, so to speak. (Matt. 5:39, 40; Luke 6:29) * The best strategy, of course, is prevention. If we shun “the showy display of [our] means of life” and are known by our neighbors as peace-loving Witnesses of Jehovah, we may avoid being targeted by violent criminals.​—1 John 2:16; Prov. 18:10.

Christians respect others’ consciences. (Rom. 14:21) If it became known that a member of the congregation kept a gun for protection against humans, some fellow believers might be shocked, even stumbled. Love moves us to put others’ interests ahead of our own, even when that means putting aside what we may feel is a legal right.​—1 Cor. 10:32, 33; 13:4, 5.

Christians strive to be exemplary. (2 Cor. 4:2; 1 Pet. 5:2, 3) After receiving Scriptural counsel, a Christian who continues to keep a gun for protection against other humans could not be considered exemplary. He would therefore not qualify for responsibilities or special privileges in the congregation. The same applies to a Christian who continues to carry a firearm as part of his secular work. How much better to seek other employment! *

How a Christian chooses to protect himself, his family, or his possessions is, of course, largely a personal matter, as is his choice of employment. That said, Bible principles reflect God’s wisdom and his love for us. Out of regard for those principles, spiritually mature Christians choose not to keep a firearm for protection against other humans. They know that true and lasting security comes to those who demonstrate trust in God by living in harmony with Bible principles.​—Ps. 97:10; Prov. 1:33; 2:6, 7.

During the great tribulation, Christians will rely on Jehovah and not try to defend themselves

^ par. 3 A Christian might decide to own a firearm (such as a rifle or a shotgun) for hunting animals for food or for protection against wild animals. When not in use, though, such weapons are best kept unloaded, perhaps even disassembled, and safely locked away. Where gun ownership is illegal, restricted, or regulated in some other way, Christians obey the law.​—Rom. 13:1.

^ par. 2 Regarding the matter of defending oneself against rape, see the article “How to Prevent Rape” in the March 8, 1993, issue of Awake!

^ par. 4 Further details on the question of accepting employment that involves being armed are found in The Watchtower of November 1, 2005, p. 31; and July 15, 1983, pp. 25-26.