30 Oct What The Bible Says About Self Defense
As Americans, we have a Constitutional right to the “security of person” that protects our right to defend ourselves from harm in situations such as assault, battery, domestic violence, theft, or destruction of property. But how does this translate into the life of a Christian? Are there limits to how we defend ourselves and our families? It is important to develop a Biblical view of self-defense that enables us to protect ourselves and our families while honoring God.
What does the Bible say about self defense? Although we do not find any straightforward statements on self-defense, we do find countless examples of people acting in self-defense. Additionally, Jesus Himself tells His disciples to carry a sword in Luke 22:36-39. However, there are times when the Bible does not condone acts of self defense such as when they are done in retaliation.
So, how do you know when self defense is deemed appropriate? Should you act in defense of the people around you if you are in a compromising situation? Does the Bible have limits on how far is too far regarding self defense? In this post, we will take a look into what the Bible says about self defense. We will also share a few examples of self-defense found throughout the pages of Scripture.
Understanding a Biblical View of Self Defense
It is important that we take time to understand what the Bible has to say about self defense. Only in doing so will we be able to confidently defend ourselves and our loved ones properly. Let’s take a closer look at this issue to learn what the Bible has to say about acting in self defense.
What is Self Defense?
Self-defense is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the act of defending oneself, one’s property, or a close relative”. It is the right to protect ourselves, our loved ones, or our property from the imminent threat of danger. Self-defense is acting in a situation where an unknown aggressor with an unknown intent presents a threat to your wellbeing.
What Self Defense in Not
It is important to establish that self-defense is not acting in retaliation for an offense or crime that has already been committed. Self-defense is an action that is done in the moment to prevent or protect against harm. It may be challenging to respond appropriately in these situations. However, it is incredibly important to seek justice through the proper authorities instead of taking matters into your own hands.
It is also important to note that self-defense must not be in excess. For example, if someone physically assaults you, it is not okay to automatically draw your gun unless there is a significant threat of serious harm or death. Excessive actions of self-defense will likely result in an “imperfect self-defense” ruling and legal consequences if action is taken on behalf of the aggressor.
What Does the Bible Say About Self Defense?
Surprisingly, the Bible has much to say regarding self defense! We see self-defense taught, used, and promoted throughout both the Old and New Testaments. In fact, even Jesus encouraged His disciples to purchase a sword in Luke 22.
In Exodus 22:2-3 we read, “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.” If the homeowner in this scenario killed a thief as they were breaking in, the homeowner would be acting in self-defense. There would be no consequence for the thief’s death. However, if someone entered the man’s home during daylight, there would be a price to pay for the thief’s death.
Acting in Self Defense is Responsible
The New Testament provides us with plenty of examples and teachings regarding self-defense. In Luke 12:39 we read, “But know this, that if the master of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have left his house to be broken into.” From this verse, we learn that the master of the house should protect their home. In this light, self-defense is not only the right thing to do but the responsible way to take care of the gifts that you have been given.
Preparing Yourself for Self Defense is Wise
We even find examples of Jesus instructing His disciples to carry swords in Luke 22:36-38. “He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.’ And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’”
As Christians, we have an obligation to promote a Biblical view of justice. In some situations, we may have to act in defense of others who are not able to defend themselves against physical danger.
As stated by theologians J. P. Moreland and Norman Geisler in The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues of Our Time, “to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is 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.”
As you can see, proper use of self-defense is not only taught in Scripture but exemplified in a variety of situations. Keep reading for a closer look at examples of self defense in the Bible.
Bible Verses About Self Defense
Are you looking for a quick reference on what the Bible says about self defense? Here are some key verses that share examples of self defense in the Bible:
- Luke 22:36-38
- Luke 12:39
- John 15:14
- Mark 3:27
- Luke 11:21
- Psalm 82:4
- 2 Corinthians 11:26-27
- Nehemiah 4:17-18
- Exodus 22:2-3
By educating ourselves on what the Bible has to say about self defense, we can have confidence while protecting ourselves, our families, and our property.
Examples of Self Defense in the Bible
As we mentioned previously, there are not many straightforward rules in the Bible regarding self-defense. There are, however, plenty of examples of self-defense in use. Here are a few examples of self-defense in the Bible.
Abram’s Rescue of Lot & His People
Genesis 14 details the story of Lot’s capture and his subsequent rescue by Abram. In this example, Abram is acting on behalf of Lot. Genesis 14:13-16 reads as follows, “Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.”
The writer continues, “When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. And he divided his forces against them by night, he and his servants, and defeated them and pursued them to Hobah, north of Damascus. Then he brought back all the possessions, and also brought back his kinsman Lot with his possessions, and the women and the people.”
As you can see in this passage, Abram used force, acting in self-defense to rescue his nephew Lot and his people. In some cases, we may be called upon to act in self-defense on another person’s behalf. When you are acting to protect someone from an imminent threat of danger, forceful action is permissible.
Jesus Advising His Disciples to Carry Swords
As Jesus was preparing His disciples for His imminent capture in Luke 22, He advised the disciples to carry a sword. Luke 22:36-38 reads, “He said to them, ‘But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.’ And they said, ‘Look, Lord, here are two swords.’ And he said to them, ‘It is enough.’
He knew what was about to come after His ascension into heaven. He wanted His disciples to be properly armed in the event that they had to defend themselves or each other.
Nehemiah Arming His Builders
Nehemiah chapter 4 details the events of Nehemiah rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. There was great opposition to the work that was posing a threat to both the progress they were making and the people within the walls.
Nehemiah made the decision to arm his builders. Nehemiah 4:16-18a reads, “From that day on, half of my servants worked on construction, and half held the spears, shields, bows, and coats of mail. And the leaders stood behind the whole house of Judah, who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built.”
He armed his builders so that they could act in self-defense should the enemies plot an attack against them. In this way, Nehemiah was protecting both the people and the land for which he was responsible at that time.
These are just a few examples of self defense in the Bible. Throughout the pages of Scripture, we find countless accounts of individuals, people groups, and nations acting in self-defense to protect themselves or their property.
What About Turning the Other Cheek?
So far, we have discussed the Biblical passages that support self-defense. But, what about the other passages? Matthew chapter 5 presents perhaps another view on the topic.
Matthew 5:38-42 reads as follows, “‘You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.’”
Where does this passage fit into the big picture? Many scholars, pastors, and theologians have wrestled with this topic for decades. A common perspective on this passage is that Jesus was not talking about responding passively to a physical attack. Rather, He was speaking of an attack on your honor.
If someone simply insults your honor, responding in a physical act of self-defense is not permissible. You must simply “turn the other cheek”. However, if someone poses a physical threat to your, your family, or your property, it is permissible that you act in self-defense against the attacker.
Should Christians Own Guns for Self-Defense?
Gun use and ownership is a hot topic in America today. Obviously, the Bible doesn’t have anything to share regarding the topic of gun use for self-defense. As a Christian, it is important to carefully consider your personal convictions regarding this topic. You should also seek the wise counsel of people that you trust. Guns can be an incredible tool for protecting yourself, your family, and your property. However, they are also a massive responsibility.
If you choose to own a gun for self-defense, it is imperative that you learn to operate and store the firearm safely. Pursue gun safety training with an emphasis on self-defense to learn how to properly use a firearm in this scenario. If you use a gun in self-defense, it is imperative that you fully understand the implications of your actions.
As Christians in America today, we have the privilege of experiencing many freedoms. One of these freedoms is the right to defend ourselves. As with every area of our lives, it is important to establish a Biblical view of self-defense, establishing our boundaries and a plan for protection before it is needed. In doing so, we are able to properly equip ourselves and our homes for a situation that would require self-defense.
Along with reviewing Biblical principles on self-defense, it is also important that you review your state, local, and federal rules and regulations on this topic. Each state has its own unique version of self-defense laws that regulate how you can legally respond to events. You must remember that God calls us to respect and obey the authorities that have positions of leadership over us. This is true in all areas of life, including that of self-defense. You can learn more about self-defense laws here.
At the end of the day, we can safely conclude the Bible promotes actions of self-defense. Acting in self-defense is the right and responsible way to respond to an imminent threat of danger against yourself, your family, or your property. However, it is never okay to act in self-defense once the event has occurred in retaliation. If you find yourself in this type of situation, you must contact the proper authorities and allow them to work towards justice on your behalf.
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Is self-defense legal in every state? While every state has unique rules and laws regulating self-defense, some form of self-defense is legal in every state. It is important to familiarize yourself with where your state stands on issues such as Duty to Retreat, Stand Your Ground, and Castle Doctrine. In doing so, you will be able to create a plan for self-defense that abides by both your religious convictions and government authority.
Are there legal consequences for acting in self-defense? In almost every situation where you act in self-defense, you will be required to participate in some type of legal interaction. This is why it is so important to carefully investigate your rights regarding self-defense in your state. Most cases of self-defense are ruled in the victim’s favor unless it is proven that they acting in imperfect self-defense. Imperfect self-defense is anytime a victim incorrectly perceives a threat of danger. It also includes instances of self-defense where the action was greater than the threat warranted.
Can a Christian act in self-defense against an animal? Yes. Acting in self-defense against an animal is the same as with a human. You must safely assume a reasonable level of threat in order for an act of self-defense to be justified. The animal must also be the aggressor and the sole instigator of the situation. You must never act in self-defense with the intent to kill. This is true regardless of whether a human or an animal is the aggressor in the situation.