The Christian and Self Defense
I believe it is the supreme responsibility of every parent (Dad, Mom, Grandparent, etc.) to protect their family from anyone or anything that might do them harm. [1 Timothy 5:8]
Our First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression, free exercise of religion, and many times freedom of association are being attacked on an almost daily bases.
There are evil people in this world, seemingly without conscience, who would seek to do others injustice. They’ll steal your identity, prey on senior citizens and abduct children. They often look for ways to bring lawsuits against you for personal gain. Many make a living out of getting something for nothing. Even some government officials seem to be on their side.
First of all, let me briefly explain, though some may disagree, my view on Christian passivism and when Christians may or may not be permitted to defend themselves and their families from an attack either spiritual or physical.
The Scriptures tell us in Psalm 62 verse six, “He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defense;…” Then again in Proverbs 24: 29, the Scripture says, “Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work.” I do not believe that Christians have a right or mandate to retaliate when slandered or insulted. Such insults do not threaten the personal safety of a Christian. Defending one’s self against a mugger, robber, or rapist is a different story, however. As author Don Boys, Ph.D says, “Christians don’t shoot to kill. They shoot to stay alive!”
There are those who attempt to apply Exodus 20:13, “Thou Shalt Not Kill” to a self defense situation. The Hebrew word for kill literally means “the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice;”. Matt. 19:18 clarifies the meaning of this Scripture as “Thou shalt do no murder.” Murder is defined as an unmitigated offensive killing of another human being, whereas “kill” is sometimes defensive, whether it be at a personal, civil, or military level. The words and definitions are significantly different, and Exodus 20:13 cannot rightfully be applied to a self defense or defense of others situation. Now, I do not advocate taking another human life but sometimes it may become necessary to protect what God has given us to protect.
From my studies and experienced observation, a Christian doesn’t have a right to retaliation or personal vengeance. However, one does have a Scriptural and Constitutional right to defend himself, his family and his or her property. Remember also that Jesus, as gentle and mild as he was, drove the moneychangers out of the temple with a whip then turned over their tables. He also stood in their way so they couldn’t pass through. (Mark 11:15 & 16).
It is clear to me that God holds mankind responsible for being armed and prepared to protect and defend his family. Jesus taught in Luke 22:36 that if one doesn’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. Pacifist beliefs do not stand up to the harsh reality of our fallen world nor is pacifism to be reconciled to the clear teachings of Scripture. Consider Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
There are a number of passages of Scripture that encourage escaping from danger or even using force in self-defense, if necessary, and encourage us to defend other people against wrongful attacks. Jesus’s disciples carried swords, even after three years of traveling with Jesus. In the garden of Gethsemane, they had swords. Swords in the first century were used for self-defense. So, I think there are times in which self-defense to prevent us from suffering significant bodily harm is justified.
Jesus himself told us in St. Luke 11:21, “When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace”. English Common Law states that a man’s home is his castle (or palace). I believe that includes your family and possessions occupying or associated with your castle. A burglar (rapist, robber, pervert,predator, etc.) who has no regard for the sanctity of your home would likely have no more regard for your physical well being. He or she is not breaking into your home accidentally and presents a “clear and present danger”. In my opinion, the use of force to stop violence is not the same as the initiation of violence. I fully agree with Don Boys when he says that if you permit a murder or rape of an innocent child when you could have stopped it, than you are morally responsible for it! (see also, Matthew 24:43)
1 Timothy 5:8 teaches, “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” I believe these provisions are not only food, clothing, shelter, proper education and medical care, etc., but protection from harm as well (Exodus 22:2).
Nehemiah 4:14 states, “….Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives and your houses.”
Proverbs 25:26 teaches us that, “A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.”
Exodus 22:2 says, “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.”
Psalms 144:1 says, “Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:”
Then, Ecclesiastes 10:4 states, “If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place; for yielding pacifieth great offences.” Therefore, from these and other Scriptures, it is clear to me that God holds men responsible for being prepared to stand up for his family and acquaintances and even for being armed, if necessary, and prepared to protect his family. I would never want to be found to be “worse than an infidel” by allowing someone to harm my family when I have a means to stop them.[see Matthew 24:43]. Revenge is in God’s hands; protection for our family and Christian brothers and sisters is our responsibility.
God, himself, says he is our defense. However, I do believe we, as individuals, have a definite mandate from God to defend and provide for our families.
A question often asked, and a very important one is, can someone be forgiven for killing in war? Another question is, Can I forgive myself for killing in war? My answer would simply be this. Killing in war is usually considered self defense and self defense is always justified except in rare cases where someone is being persecuted for their faith. War is generally not one of those cases.
The Holy Scriptures teach us that if anyone provides not for his own, especially those of his own house, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel. Again, I believe providing for your own is not only providing food, clothing, shelter, etc. but protection from harm as well.
One may not have intended to kill A person in an encounter but instead acted in self-defense. For something to be sinful, one has to have intent to commit the act and have full knowledge that the act is sinful and then, has to actually carry it out. Only an individual, however, really knows if they willfully murdered someone when they could have gotten by without it.
You cannot apply Exodus 20:13, “You shall not kill,” to war.
Again, the Hebrew word for kill literally means “the intentional, premeditated killing of another person with malice; murder.”
In a battle where you might have to kill someone, that is not “murder” according to the Bible. The correct translation reads, “Thou shalt not commit murder”, and there is a significant difference in the words. (Matt. 19:18) Murder is defined as an unmitigated offensive killing of another human being, whereas “kill” is sometimes defensive, whether it be at a personal, civil or military level. The words and definitions are significantly different, and it won’t be you that needs to be forgiven.
God often ordered the Israelites to go to war with other nations (1 Samuel 15:3; Joshua 4:13).
God ordered the death penalty for numerous crimes (Exodus 21:12, 15; 22:19; Leviticus 20:11). So, God is not against killing in all circumstances, but he is against murder.
War is never a good thing, but sometimes it is a necessary thing.
In a world filled with sinful and fallen people (Romans 3:10-18), war is inevitable. Sometimes the only way to keep sinful people from doing great harm to the innocent is by going to war.
War is necessary and God knows it. Think of all the biblical men in the whole Bible. Most all of them went to war and killed hundreds. But in the Bible it never speaks of any of them being punished for it, unless they were just plain evil people who caused the war. It’s part of life….You need to think of it more as “Killing in Self Defense”. You have enemies trying to kill you! You have to protect your country and yourself from being killed. That is not Murder! That is self defense.
This rights-based justification for killing does not rely on any particular religious belief, but it is consistent with Judeo-Christian assumptions about human rights as well as the principles of American civil law.
Our starting point in justifying wartime killing is the conviction that every person possesses the “right not to be killed.” Again, there is a saying that says, “Christians don’t shoot to kill. They shoot to stay alive.” That saying is not only for Christians, but it is the philosophy of many who believe in the right to protect themselves or others from serious harm or death. The ultimate source of our human rights is arguable. Some would say that source is God and the Scriptures, others cite human reason, and still others refer to implicit social contracts or even man-made laws. But I hope we can agree that all persons do possess rights—whatever their source—and that the most fundamental and basic right is the right not to be killed, followed closely by the right not to be enslaved.
So, by virtue of our humanity, every person possesses the right not to be killed. If a person intentionally threatens to violate the right of someone who possesses their right, he forfeits his own right. If someone kills the aggressor who has forfeited his rights by threatening an innocent person, that person does nothing wrong. The defender violates no one’s rights, and he does not forfeit his own. However, When an attacker is no longer a threat, he regains his right not to be harmed or killed.
Professional soldiers, police, security personal, etc. are entrusted to defend the innocent by using force. Every act of using lethal force is a very serious, permanent action that requires moral justification. We kill only those who, by their own rights threatening actions, have temporarily forfeited their own right not to be killed. Killing someone, even justifiably, is upsetting at some level. That’s normal and healthy. If the killing is morally unjustified, the psychological impact will likely be much greater.
PTSD with guilt is mind boggling to say the least. I was a helicopter door gunner flying search and destroy missions and special operations. I received a Bronze Star Medal and Air Medal with 10 Oak Leaf Clusters. I flew nearly 300 combat hours in just a few short months. I myself have been rated 30% PTSD because of my combat service and experiences in Viet Nam. Interestingly, the VA has officially stated on my records that my “faith” in God has helped me overcome the effects of PTSD in my life. Although the problems are still present, they are not controlling.
Having to take a human life is never good. Having someone take your life is worse, in my opinion. Also, self-defense must be considered as a last resort and in response to a reasonable threat.
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