The Christian And Self-Defense

Our society, in many ways, is a violent society. Headlines in the newspaper, breaking news on television, reports on talk radio, all testify to how many people can be prone to use destructive and deadly force against others. Scripture recognizes the God-given authority of government to, in accordance with God's will, punish evildoers. "For he is a minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is a minister of God, an avenger for wrath to him that doeth evil" (Romans 13:4).

 What about the case for self-defense? What about those situations where an individual=s life is being threatened, where a person could face death if he or she doesn't respond? What does Scripture say can be done by those who could face the imminent reality of their own demise if they do not respond? There are those who would point us to Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount; "but I say unto you, resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matthew 5:39). In context, Jesus was addressing a backhanded blow to one's face, as the Greek term for smite, or strike, indicates an opened handed slap, in contrast to a blow with a clenched fist. Jesus was not addressing a life threatening event in this passage, but an insult.

 There are other passages to consider. God established a basic principle when he told Noah, "And surely your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require; At the hand of every beast will I require it. And at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man" (Genesis 9:5-6). In the Law of Moses, God said, "If the thief be found breaking in, and be smitten so that he dieth, there shall be no bloodguiltiness for him" (Exodus 22:2). To His disciples, Jesus said, "But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that hath none, let him sell his cloak, and buy a sword" (Luke 22:36).

 In considering the possibility of defending one's life, or that of another, from harm or destruction, it must be emphasized, Scripture is speaking of acting in defense, not taking vengeance or acting as a vigilante, not initiating hostile actions against others. We pray no one would find themselves in such a situation in life, but the truth is, some have and some will. To respond in defending oneself has Biblical precedence. Every Christian's ultimate goal, however, is to reach others with the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, which transforms lives and offers the peace of God. "And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2).

 Robert Johnson, Longview, TX