An invitation for President Falwell to read the rest of the story.
Yesterday President Jerry Falwell Jr. responded to the mounting criticism of his earlier comments on guns and Muslims. I truly believe it must be hard to be President of a University in the 21st century. Considering the safety of students gathered in large numbers on a consistent basis is understandably daunting in the age or terrorism. While I am still frustrated at the initial words of President Falwell, I want to believe his heart is truly toward keeping the student body safe.
With that being said, yesterday’s comments might have been worst than his initial comments. These were not some off the cuff comments at the close of convocation, these were planned out words written on paper. And most of the words were what I expected. No more gun free residence halls. Continued talk about the narrative of a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun. Nothing different than what I have come to expect from Liberty University and President Falwell.
What I did not expect was the President of the largest Christian University in America to completely and utterly botch the exegesis of Luke 22:36.
President Falwell said, “It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:36, he told them, if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it, he knew danger was coming and he wanted them to defend themselves.”
Here is what Jesus tells his disciples in Luke 22:36, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one…”
There it is.
Jesus said it.
Go buy a sword or in our case today a gun.
Jesus was clearly pro-concealed carry.
If you chose to read this passage in isolation from the following passages and refuse to follow the larger story that plays out then it would be easy to come to that conclusion.
The very next verse Jesus gives us the reason for asking his disciples to get swords, Jesus says, “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” (Luke 22:37, NIV)
It was prophecy that Jesus would be numbered among the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12) The Greek word for transgressor is ä’-no-mos which translates as without law, wicked, lawless, or unlawful. Jesus told the disciples to get swords for the fulfillment of prophecy. It is a negative thing for the disciples to carry swords, the goal is that they would be wrongfully consider lawless just for having them.
Yet, that might not be convincing enough, so lets continue to read the story. The disciples come to Jesus and say, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That’s enough!” Jesus replied. (Luke 22:38, NIV).
That’s enough? Enough for what? Surely not enough to defend themselves. If defense was the issue then they should be dual wielding. So with two swords the disciples (minus Judas) and Jesus head into the Garden of Gethsemane.
Fast forward a few verses and Judas kisses Jesus on the cheek as a symbol to show the soldiers who to take into custody. Then the disciples ask, “Lord, should we strike with our swords?” (Luke 22:49, NIV) If Jesus answered yes to this question then I might very well be cheering at the words of President Falwell myself, but Jesus doesn’t get a chance to respond.
We are told, “And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.” (Luke 22:50, NIV) Peter with his terribly bad aim lops off the ear of the servants high priest, Malchus. Jesus then disarms Peter by saying, “No more of this!” and offers healing for the guards ear. (Luke 22:51, NIV)
The story of the arrest of Jesus is covered in all four Gospels. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew are actually quite interesting. Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52, NIV)
As we all know the story continues and Jesus is killed, then of course resurrection takes place, and eventually accession. The interesting thing is that the early church never took Jesus’ words in Luke 22:36 to mean they should strap up and defend themselves against the powers that surrounded them.
Stephen, the first martyr of the church, took seriously different words said by Jesus. While Jesus hung on the cross he cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NIV) While Stephen was being stoned to death he didn’t cling to his sword which he was conveniently carrying because he took seriously the words of Jesus in Luke 22:36, instead there exists no sword. Stephen followed the cross centered example of Jesus and said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60, NIV)
When we read the rest of the story it is clear that Jesus is not advocating for the outright purchase of weapons.
Remember President Falwell said, “It just boggles my mind that anybody would be against what Jesus told his disciples in Luke 22:36, he told them, if they had to sell their coat to buy a sword to do it, he knew danger was coming and he wanted them to defend themselves.”
It takes audacity to say that those who disagree with you on the issue of the peace teachings of Jesus are going “against what Jesus told his disciples.” When in reality you are proof-texting the Scriptures to support your position. Just go the way you desire President Falwell and leave the Bible and the words of Jesus out of it.
I have two degrees from Liberty University. The very institution that President Falwell presides over would’ve given me a failing grade if I would’ve brought that kind of exegetical disregard to a Master’s level paper.
I urge President Falwell, faculty, leaders, and students at Liberty University to reexamine their understanding of Jesus’ words in Luke 22:36. It is fine if you want to carry a gun, but don’t try to convince the rest of us that you are doing it because Jesus told you to. If there is anything Jesus says in the entire scope of The Last Supper to his arrest that is prescriptive of how we should live today in relation to guns it is the warning that if we live by the gun then we will die by the gun.