by Samuel Brooks
Even though I’m a Christian, is acting in self-defense Biblical? Is it right to employ lethal force to protect myself and the life of others?
As stated in Biblical Self-Defense: What Does the Bible Say About Self-Defense?, “Self-defense here is defined as ‘protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others.’ Self-defense is not about taking vengeance. Self-defense is not about punishing criminals. Self-defense involves preserving one’s own health and life when it is threatened by the actions of others. When we speak about using potentially lethal force in self-defense, we’re talking about using weapons to protect ourselves and others, even if the weapons used could kill the attacker.” There’s a stereotypical belief that ALL Christians are “pacifists” and should “never own a firearm(s), defend themselves, etc.” Well, I’m going to explain how that’s NOT 100% true; even though there’s only a small pocket of believers that fall into that stereotype.
Coming from someone that has over 7 years of experience in the martial arts industry, I can honestly say that self-defense IS Biblical; as they say, “this is my forte”. I also have firearm experience where I learned gun safety between the ages of 5-8 years and then learned how to shoot at 9 years. I’m going to briefly explain how it’s the case by organizing this topic into four sections – 1) the Biblical obligation to preserve life, 2) the Biblical view of bloodshed, 3) passages that deal with the application of lethal force in self-defense and possession of weapons, and 4) the limitations and warnings about self-defense.
The Biblical Obligation to Preserve Life
The Bible is very clear that, as Judeo-Christians, we have an obligation to preserve life! Psalm 82:3-4 NLT says “Give justice to the poor and orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute. Rescue the poor and helpless; deliver them from the grasp of evil people.” In Proverbs 24:11 NLT, it says “Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death”, which indicates that we’re obligated to preserve the lives of those harming themselves. Also read Ezekial 33:6, Deuteronomy 22:8, Exodus 21:29-31 and 1 Corinthians 6:19-20!
A guest preacher came to our church around the end of May or early June, and he used elephants and gazelles as metaphors during his sermon. He stated that while gazelles will scatter in different directions and leave the sick and weak behind as bait when fleeing from predators, elephants will form protective circles around the young and needy in the middle with the strong facing out, using their tusks and trunks to defend them. As Christians, we need to be more like the elephant when it comes to preserving life!
There’s a quote from an unknown source that says “…The woman came out of a man’s rib, not from his feet to be walked on, and not from his head to be superior, but from his side to be equal. Under the arm to be protected, and next to the heart to be loved.” Men, it’s YOUR job to protect your families – women and children…that’s one of the reasons why God created YOU! Ladies, it’s YOUR job to protect your children…that’s one of the reasons why God created YOU! You need to be willing to defend your family even if that means the possibility of losing your own life (John 15:13). 1 Timothy 5:8 NLT says “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”
The Biblical View of Bloodshed
In the Bible, there’s a handful of instances where bloodshed occurs: wars, animal sacrifices, the crucifixion, capital punishment and when Peter cuts off the soldier’s ear, for example (also read Genesis 9:5-6, 1 Chronicles 22:8 and 28:3).
There’s two reasons why blood is precious from a Biblical point of view:
1) Even though we tend to see blood as just a “bodily fluid”, life is a precious thing and blood is our life source.
2) Attacking individual(s) is an attack on God because we’re created in His image.
Killing a person is not a light thing, nor should it be! When it comes to my generation and the generations after me, we’ve become so desensitized to killing, murder and death because our culture and society depicts killing very lightly through television, video games, music, printed publications, and movies just to name a few.
The Biblical View on the Application of Lethal Force and Weapons
First, I’ll start with the 10 Commandments…particularly #6 in Exodus 20:13 NLT: “You must not murder.” Some translations say “kill” but the original meaning is “murder”. Murder is the “premeditated killing of others.” This also includes killing in a fit of emotion and accidentally taking the life of another. There’s no passage of Scripture – Old nor New Testaments – that states that you shouldn’t defend yourself and the defenseless! The passage in Matthew 5:39 that says that we should “turn the other cheek” doesn’t mean in lethal situations against your life and/or the life of others but in non-lethal situations! Now, I’m not trying to cut down those that choose to not use lethal force to defend themselves because of their faith and beliefs. For example, Desmond Doss, an Army combat medic during WWII, was a conscientious objector as he wasn’t willing to kill nor carry a firearm; his only “weapons” was a Bible and his faith in God. Even though he experienced ridicule, harassment and temptation from his Army unit, he managed (with God’s help) to rescue 75 American lives at Hacksaw Ridge without taking a single enemy’s life! As a result, he was awarded several medals including the Medal of Honor. I also recommend seeing the movie on his life, Hacksaw Ridge! Personally, I don’t think that I could’ve gone as far as Desmond Doss by not carrying a firearm but I do give him a lot of credit for putting his faith in God first and what he was able to accomplish because of it!
Now, in terms of the Biblical view on the application of lethal force as well as possessing weapons and the skills to use them, Exodus 22:2-3 NLT says “If a thief is caught in the act of breaking into a house and is struck and killed in the process, the person who killed the thief is not guilty of murder. But if it happens in day-light, the one who killed the thief is guilty of murder” and Psalm 144:1b NLT says “He trains my hands for war and gives my fingers skill for battle.” Jesus says in Luke 22:36 NLT “take your money and a traveler’s bag. And if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one!” Jesus told His disciples this because He anticipated a time when those without swords (or weapons in general) would need to acquire them. The possession of weapons is never discouraged in Scripture! Also read Leviticus 24:16-17, Exodus 21:12-15, Numbers 35:6-34, Deuteronomy 19:1-13, Nehemiah 4:8-23, Esther 8-9, Luke 22:49-53, Matthew 26:51-56, John 18:10-11, 1 Samuel 13:19-22, and Psalm 18:34. Some warning passages about trusting in the “sword” and improperly resorting to use a weapon include Psalm 44:6-7, Nehemiah 4:14, 1 Samuel 17:47 and 25:32, Titus 1:7, Luke 6:27-30, and Romans 12:19.
The Limitations and Warnings About Self-Defense
While acquiring weapons and the skills to use them in self-defense is permitted by Scripture, it is not required! Self-defense, especially when it involves lethal force, should never occur unless it’s the last resort! Never out of anger, jealousy, hatred or revenge since these would make the act a sin. If you can avoid a negative situation, I strongly advise that you do so! If not, the reason needs to be justifiable (i.e. self-defense). Personally, I would much rather have my hand gun in my possession and not use it than to be in a life-threatening situation where I’d need it and not have it at all, much like having insurance! Basically, it’s better to be over prepared than not prepared at all, which is why I have both martial arts and firearm training and experience. At the end of the day, you better have your trust in Christ and “not in the sword” (or any weapon in general) because those who love violence and live by it will die by violence (Matthew 26:52). Persecution for Christ is another instance where using the “sword” or any other weapon is not appropriate.
If you’d like to read more into the topic of how self-defense is Biblical, I recommend reading Biblical Self-Defense: What Does the Bible Say About Self-Defense?