by Anne Lang Bundy
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
~ Edmund Burke (1729-1797),
Irish statesman who supported American revolutionaries
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"Is self-defense biblical?"
~ Abbey S., Michigan
The question implies use of deadly weapons. The Bible provides interesting contrasts about "the sword." Consider two directives from Jesus on the night He was arrested:
"But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one." (Luke 22:36 NKJV)
"Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:52-53 NKJV)
Contrast brings balanced perspective. Context is critical.
In the second passage, Jesus asserts the adequacy of defense from God and the peril of living with reliance on weaponry.
Yet weapons can serve godly purposes. In the first passage, Jesus gives new marching orders for going out into the world with the Gospel, instructing self-sufficiency which prepares for hazards. One way to avert violence—whether on a personal or national level—is to display strength and ability of defense with refusal to use it offensively.
Weapons serve other purposes of God's will. Governing authorities are called ministers of God, entrusted with use of force to suppress evil (Romans 13:1-4). Soldiers who accepted the Gospel were instructed to not intimidate others rather than to shun use of force altogether (Luke 3:14).
God also employs human weaponry as His own sword (Deuteronomy 32:39-42; Isaiah 34:5; Ezekiel 30:25). This same principle is evident throughout the book of Revelation.
"You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
~ Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV)
These words of Jesus are sometimes used to argue against self-defense. The context is examples of how to bless others. Jesus observes that a directive for equity in payment of damages had become justification for retaliation. Scripture condemns vengeance and exhorts tolerance of insult, teaching there is blessing in suffering for the sake of righteousness (Matthew 5:10; 1 Peter 3:14). The early church set an example of enduring violence, but they also took measures to avoid being victims of violence.
Every person must apply these passages as faith and conscience dictate. There is room in Christianity for both pacifists and warriors. I'll share my personal application.
As a former police officer, and now the wife of a police officer, I know anarchy would result if government did not provide civilian and military defense. I also know the danger of displaying a firearm unless one is prepared to use it. Bluffing is more dangerous than being unarmed.
As a student of history, I know that oppression results when citizenry's ownership of arms is abolished by government. I support the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
If I were in a position to defend the lives of others from criminal violence, my preferred weapon is a pump action shotgun, which unequivocally communicates strength of defense so it might not be necessary to use deadly force.
But if my life alone was threatened, I'd guess my offender is less prepared than me to meet our Maker. As my King's ambassador, I'm less inclined to use a weapon of steel as I am to take up the sword of the Spirit for my defense.
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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below. Anonymous questions are welcome.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
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