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Friday, October 1, 2010

Question of the Week:
Is Self-Defense Biblical?

"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.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
Image source:

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This post originally appeared at Bullets & Butterflies. To see additional comments containing ongoing dialogue, click here.


  1. This should be interesting ... I'll head that way.

  2. Susan, I just love that you took the time to say that ... :D

  3. Hey,

    Just giving my opinion

    Been strongly considering this. The only measures the disciples took to avoid violence was flight. Jesus Christ did not tell them to buy swords for the sake of self defense, it was for the purpose of proving the "ridiculous" gospel He preached; love your neighbor as yourself. When peter tried to DEFEND the innocent man (Jesus), Jesus told him to put the sword away. Jesus Christ took the Old Testament and translated the physical into Spiritual. Warfare, defense, and victory no longer being physical but spiritual.

    1st Peter 2:23 "Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously."

    The God of the universe, who holds every right to kill all humanity, neglected his own body and refused to use self defense....who are we to think we have any right to defend our bodies. Paul never DEFENDED himself. He ran from stonings but He never lifted a hand toward his attackers. Steven just preached the gospel and counted his own body worthless.

    I believe the problem is that we are more American than Christian. Our Christianity is based off our American traditions instead of our American Traditions being based of Christianity.

    We are full of The Constitution and empty of the Spirit of God. I dont think we can be American Christians. Let the Americans be Americans, and let the Christians follow only Jesus Christ, filled with love and self denial. Following peace with all men, not by our power, but by the power of Jesus Christ in us.

    Email me back!

  4. Tim, I appreciate your comment and point of view. Thanks for sharing it. I agree that our eyes are far too filled with the visible and temporal, far too blind to the spiritual and eternal. I agree that force is often misappropriated. Even if I eliminate the New Testament view from the discussion, I still believe force is only rarely called for, whether by individuals or government.

    I struggle with my own patriotism. You may be interested to read another post I wrote, "I Pledge Allegiance ..., along these same lines.


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