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The Biblical Case for Self-Defense

I. The Biblical Case for Self-Defense.

It is noteworthy that the Bible records many accounts of fighting and warfare. The providence of God in war is exemplified by His name YHWH Sabaoth ("The LORD of hosts"–Exodus 12:41). God is portrayed as the omnipotent Warrior-Leader of the Israelites. God, the LORD of hosts, raised up warriors among the Israelites called the shophetim (savior-deliverers). Samson, Deborah, Gideon, and others were anointed by the Spirit of God to conduct war. The New Testament commends Old Testament warriors for their military acts of faith (Hebrews 11:30-40). Moreover, it is significant that although given the opportunity to do so, none of the New Testament saints–nor even Jesus–are ever seen informing a military convert that he needed to resign from his line of work (Matthew 8:5-13; Luke 3:14).

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus revealed to His disciples the future hostility they would face and encouraged them to sell their outer garments in order to buy a sword (Luke 22:36-38; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:26-27). Here the "sword" (Greek: maxairan) is a dagger or short sword that belonged to the Jewish traveler’s equipment as protection against robbers and wild animals. A plain reading of the passage indicates that Jesus approved of self-defense.

Self-defense may actually result in one of the greatest examples of human love. Christ Himself said, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:14). When protecting one’s family or neighbor, a Christian is unselfishly risking his or her life for the sake of others.

Theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler say that "to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally."?

II. Another Article on Biblical Self-Defense:

The Concept of Self-Defense
Our Lord would be contradicting Himself or Scripture by saying that one must never defend himself or his family in any circumstance. The Word of God does allow and encourage self-defense. In the Scriptures we do not find God encouraging His people to be either "hawks" or "doves" when dealing with self-defense. They are just to be reasonable.

In the early part of redemptive history we see the patriarch Abraham mustering one of the first armed militias (without the approval of any state or federal government, I would note) to rescue his kidnapped nephew, Lot (Gen. 14:21ff). This was not revenge but was purely defending and protecting (here rescuing) a family member and retrieving property. This can be labeled as a biblical example of self-defense. It is interesting to note that later "[t]he Israelite army was a militia army which came to battle with each man bearing his own weapons – from the time of Moses, through the Judges, and beyond." (Pratt; ibid.)

In Exodus 20:13, part of the Ten Commandments, we read "Thou shalt not kill" (KJV). The accurate English translation would be "You shall not murder". This commandment does NOT forbid the taking of life under certain circumstances. A good interpretation what this commandment does mean (requires of us) is found in the Westminster Larger Catechism:

What Are the Duties Required In the Sixth Commandment?
Answer: The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding, all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physical, sleep, labour, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behaviour; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succouring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent. (Q. &A. 135; emphasis added).

Note that the Catechism says to "preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting…" (emphasis added). The writers of this fine document understood the necessity, at times, to use defensive measures to aid others when necessary. They also say "by just defense thereof against violence." This is a call for the legitimate use of self-defense. The Scriptures they use to defend (no pun intended) this statement are Ps. 82:4; Prov. 24:11-12; 1 Sam. 14:45.

Another passage of Scripture in Exodus tells us that protecting your family and possessions by using physical force when an intruder enters your home at night is legitimate: " If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft." (Ex. 22:2-3). This passage simply means that one can defend his home and life and that of his family if a thief or intruder comes in at night and threatens them. If it is during the daylight hours and the situation is not life threatening then lethal force can NOT be used.

In 1 Samuel 13:19,22 (see main page for the verses and a short comment) we see what happens when individuals of a nation no longer have the equipment to make and bear arms and defend themselves, their families and their nation. An open invitation to be attacked and plundered. Is this not, in reality, what the anti-self-defense people are setting us up for?

In Nehemiah 4 we see that the Jews were instructed to defend themselves and the wall they were building from those who wanted to use any means to keep it from being built. " They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me." (Neh. 4:17,18; KJV).

There are other Old Testament passages could be given but these ought to suffice. In the New Testament we have such passages as Luke 22:36, which says: " Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it,and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one". Our Lord encouraged His disciples to get protection for use in self-defense. Elsewhere in the NT we have Paul saying that one must take care of his own family (1 Tim. 5:18) and, as I said on the main page, this also implies defending them as well. The New Testament does not contradict the Old Testament instruction on self-defense by saying "turn the other cheek".

Conclusion

This short article is not meant to be the last answer on the issue nor do I expect to necessarily change the pacifists’ minds. However I hope that I have shown that "turning the other cheek" does not forbid one to use self-defense when one’s life and/or family is facing life threatening situations. Referring to the Matt. 5:38-39 passage to prove pacifism is misleading and wrong.

I am thoroughly convinced that the Scriptures allow us to defend ourselves. That means that I have God-given rights to "bear arms"in order to do so. Only God can take away that right. I conclude with a quote from the late Dr. A. T. Robertson, a Greek language scholar, on the Matthew passage:

Jesus protested when smitten on the cheek (John 18:22). And Jesus denounced the Pharisees (Matt 23) and fought the devil always. The language of Jesus is bold and picturesque and is not to be pressed too literally (he is speaking here of the passage in question, GC). Paradoxes startle and make us think. We are expected to fill in the other side of the picture….Aggressive or offensive war by nations is also condemned, but not necessarily defensive war or defense against robbery and murder. Professional pacifism may be mere cowardice. (A.T. Robertson. "Word Pictures in the New Testament", Vol. I, p. 48).

This last section contains some quotes from Biblicalselfdefense.com. To read the full article please visit his site.

Permission granted by MT

III. The Biblical Obligation to Preserve Life

We begin by first looking at the Biblical obligation to preserve life. The Bible clearly teaches that we must preserve life–our own lives and the lives of other people. 1 Corinthians 6:19f teaches that our bodies are not our own. Rather, our bodies belong to God. Our bodies are His property and so we are not permitted to treat or destroy them as we please:

19 Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; 20 for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body. (1Co 6:19-20 ASV)

Not only are we to take care of our bodies and the life contained. We have an obligation to preserve the body and life of other people. Psalm 82:4 even cites an obligation to protect those who are in danger:

Psalm 82:4 Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.

Consider also Proverbs 24:11, which indicates we have a duty to preserve the lives of those who are harming themselves:

Proverbs 24:11 Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.

Ezekiel 33 is a well-known passage:

Ezekiel 33 "… 6 ‘But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’

If you know danger is coming to others, and you deliberately fail to warn the others of the danger, you are guilty of harming the victims. This is not to say that you can make people heed your warning. The surrounding verses also say that if the people refuse to heed the warning of the watchmen, the watchman is not guilty if they are harmed.

We also see principles in Mosaic law teaching that if we fail to guard the lives of others, we are guilty. In Deuteronomy 22:8, if someone falls from your roof, and you failed to install a safety fence around the edge, you would be held liable for the death of that person. Likewise, in Exodus 21:29-31, if a man has an ox which is prone to harm people, the owner is held liable if he fails to confine it and the ox harms or kills others. If the ox harms someone, the negligent owner is fined. If the ox kills someone, the negligent owner is to be put to death.

The principle could hardly be stated more forcefully: you must protect your life and the lives of others.

© 2010 – 2011, Matt. All rights reserved.

2 Responses

  1. jim pasket says:

    Please help my wife and I to get in touch with a tribulation survival group in or near Houston,Tx.

    God Bless You, Jim

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