01 October 2010

Question of the Week:
Is Self-Defense Biblical?

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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  1. "I'd guess my offender is less prepared than me to meet our Maker." - that puts it all into perspective with His wisdom shining through. Great job. Thank you.

  2. Anne,

    I've actually been thinking about this lately. My mom had a strange visitor late the other night and I'm praying hard for her protection. She didn't open the door, so I'm proud, but he did find out that my dad is no longer there. Stirred all kinds of thougths you bring up in this post.
    ~ Wendy

  3. Really like your take on this ...

  4. I figure if I have a weapon of any kind in my hand poised against an intruder, I'd better use it and think later. You are far kinder than I am, but I already knew that. ;)

  5. Denise ~

    Thanks for the affirmation. : )

  6. Doug! How wonderful to see you! I miss your own words of wisdom, and still remember some you've shared. Stay warm ... : )

  7. Wendy ~

    I'm sorry to hear about your mom. Whether or not she's not prepared to defend herself, your prayers are a worthy covering. Don't sell them short. Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.

  8. Susan ~

    Thank you. The Bible says plenty on the topic, and the Holy Spirit leaves plenty of room for personal application.

  9. T ~

    I do understand what you're saying. And I trust you'll take the time to be 100% certain of your target, as well as what's behind it in case you miss. (The spray pattern on a shotgun is less likely to miss the target, of course—and more likely to also hit something else.)

  10. You know that praying to God has already helped me in a life threatening situation years ago. There is truly no better weapon!

  11. In my case, it's not so much a case of me wanting to "defend" myself, as a knee-jerk response to help/protect others. Most of the time, when something serious occurs,we aren't going to have a chance to think things through with great care; we're going to do what our "instinct" causes us to do... and all I can hope for, when the instant situation arises and the pressure is on, is that the "instinct" will be from the Holy Spirit.

    Just thought I'd toss this your way. Haven't been on line to read many posts for a couple months so this is my first time with you. Always appreciate all you put into the mix for us all to see and do some "hmm-ing" about it.

  12. Some good thoughts to chew on here, Anne.

  13. Mary ~

    Your testimony of protection through vocal prayer from an armed robber intent on rape is a powerful story I've often shared. That God's protection through prayer and His Word exceeds the power of sword is proven in your experience.

  14. Carryjo ~

    Funny, I was just re-reading an old post where you'd commented, so it doesn't seem so long since I've seen you. :D

    You bring up an EXCELLENT point! I agree that we respond with our instincts. And I've seen instincts trained by study and practice of the right response. The more time we spend reading God's Word and speaking with Him, the better trained we'll be to respond to every situation, whether one of self-defense, of not becoming angry or impatient, of responding with a kind word ... etc.

  15. Warren ~

    I'm grateful to hear your response. Doing Q&A here makes me think long and hard on these topics, both to align answers with Scripture and to articulate them as concisely as is practical. I pray that readers are prompted to respond Berean style, and be drawn back to the Bible to discover how to apply biblical principles in their own lives.