When you build a new house, make a parapet around your roof so that you may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on your house if someone falls from the roof. -Deuteronomy 22:8
Unless you are a builder or an architect, you probably have never heard of the word parapet. A parapet is a barrier that marks the boundaries of a roof. Its purpose is to protect human life. Specifically, parapets are designed to keep people from unintentionally falling off a roof. Parapets set a boundary between life and serious harm. During certain seasons in biblical times, inhabitants would sleep on their rooftops. The Israelites did not have air conditioning units in their homes, so houses would often become muggy and stifling during the summer.
How many times have you stepped on a lego or stubbed your toe in the morning? Now, imagine what it would be like to wake up on your rooftop and unintentionally step off. Parapets were designed for this very purpose. Because our God cares for His creation, He commanded the Israelites to construct a parapet on their rooftops, so that they may not bring the guilt of bloodshed on their home.
Some might wonder why God would include a building code in the list of laws given for the Israelites. Was God really that particular? But this law was not given for fashion or exterior design, it was given to preserve life. Our God is the supreme life giver. Jesus even refers to Himself as “the life”. God created both man and woman in His image, he sustains them by his sovereign power, and he commands his creation to seek one another’s welfare by choosing life
So what does this command mean for us? I believe it teaches us to value the importance of preserving human life at any cost. God wants his people to be keenly aware of how their freedoms affect the lives of others. As citizens of Gods kingdom, we should always put the needs of others in front of our own, especially if those needs preserve life within the community.
Like most topics in these divisive times, having a conversation on gun rights or gun control is incredibly polarizing. A common misconception is that you are either for the absolute ownership of all firearms, or you believe that all weapons should be banned and forcibly removed. This topic has become so incendiary that neither side wants a conversation; they simply want action, i.e. their way. And when conversation does not take place, both sides slander their opponents while speaking past one another.
Full disclosure: I am a gun owner, having inherited a couple firearms from my grandfather who was an avid hunter and outdoorsman. Most of my family hunts. Our holiday seasons consisted of gearing up for an early morning in the woods, telling stories and reminiscing over previous hunts. Although I rarely hunt anymore, I would have no problem doing so if the need for food was there.
However, I believe it is time for Christians to sit down and seriously consider whether we have turned our guns into idols. Try to answer these questions honestly.
- Am I more concerned about my freedom to own guns than I am about the increasing gun violence in our nation?
- Is gun ownership up for debate, or has gun ownership become a sacred, almost religious right for me?
I have been wrestling with these questions for a few years now, and to be honest, gun ownership was a sacred idol of mine for many years. In my walk with Christ I have discovered many idols and letting them go or even questioning their validity is a very tough task. As Christians we must realize that we are citizens of Gods kingdom first, and the United States second. This means that there are going to be times when we prioritize the rights of others ahead of our own. This may feel very foreign to us…perhaps even un-American, but this distinction is what separates believers from the world.
Here are the facts on gun violence in the United States.
- 306 school shootings since 2013.
- Seven children and teens (age 19 or under) are killed with guns in the U.S. on an average day.
- On average, 50 women are shot and killed every month by their partners.
- 96 Americans are killed by guns every day.
- On average there are 13,000 gun homicides per year.
- There have been at least 60 unintentional shootings by children in 2018.
I propose that instead of immediately getting defensive, we reason with one another and explore every avenue that leads to a safer existence for mankind. This can be hard for us, because even our freedoms as American citizens can become idolatrous. For example, if I have the freedom to purchase, own and possess a powerful semi-automatic weapon with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, all within 24 hours; if that freedom causes more harm than good within society, should I fight for those freedoms?
Please note that I am not arguing against gun ownership. I am simply asking Christians to value what God values: human life. If stricter gun laws can be proven to reduce gun violence, why would Christians not consider them? Why would Christians fight for the inclusion of novelty weapons, such as the AR-15, if their inclusion made it easier for mass shootings to take place? The refusal of many within the church to even consider these options reveals to the world how distorted our priorities are.
I am sure there were many Israelite’s who did not want to construct parapets on their rooftops. Perhaps many considered this law as an infringement of their personal freedom. But as we look back in time, we know what was most important: the preservation of human life. Perhaps we should do the same today.
A special thanks to Dr. Dan Doriani, professor of Christian Ethics at Covenant Theological Seminary for providing and giving permission to use the parapet illustration. Also thanks to Sam Rogers, PHD candidate at the University of Manchester for editing the final draft.
 1st Samuel 9:26
 John 14:6
 Genesis 1:27
 Colossians 1:16
 Deuteronomy 30:19
 Matthew 20:16