On several different occasions I’ve sat with tenderhearted, wholesome Christian folk who do not believe it’s biblical to engage in any form of violence, even that of self-defense. Ironically, the Good Book is full of violence and gore. The bible does specifically condemn murder, which is the deliberate, unlawful killing of a person with malice. But killing in self-defense does not fit that definition.
Some Christians have a confused view about self-defense and the application of lethal force. Use of lethal force is often considered to be unbiblical and ungodly. But is this really true? If this was true, many biblical heroes such as Abraham, David and even Jesus himself would be great sinners. So what does the Bible have to say? Let’s look at the biblical laws and examples regarding self-defense.
The Old Testament
The Old Testament gives clear biblical laws and examples showing when we may use lethal force to defend ourselves and others. Exodus 22:2-3 tells you that you should have no guilt for protecting your home. If you catch someone breaking into your home at night, you have no way of establishing his intent. He may have come to steal, kidnap, rape or murder. The passage justifies defending yourself with lethal force to prevent potential crime. If you kill the intruder, God will not hold you accountable for that death.
If self-defense was a sin, Abraham would not have trained men at his disposal. In Genesis 14:13-16, we see how he responded to the news of Lot being captured. He assembled his men and led them to rescue Lot and his people with force. The Israelites were required to have personal weapons for use when required. This is clearly illustrated in 1 Samuel 25:13 when David told all his men to strap on their swords.
In the book of Nehemiah, we come across ordinary citizens who were ready to use lethal force to defend themselves. Nehemiah, a man of God, led the people in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. Some of the Arabs, Ammonites, Ashdods and Samaritans were not happy about it and even plotted against the Jews. Nehemiah acted accordingly by devising a self-defense plan for the Jews. Nehemiah stationed people around the city. Everyone including the builders was armed with swords, spears and bows.
Esther 8-9 describes the legal authority granted to the Jews to protect their lives using lethal force. This was a time when the Jews were under the immense threat of racial violence. King Xerxes gave them permission to kill and annihilate. It was obvious to the king and the Jews that non-violence means were not going to work.
The New Testament
God’s principle of self-defense is also shown in the New Testament. In Luke 22:35-39, Jesus shows that it is useful to be appropriately armed. Jesus expected his disciples to carry swords. He had anticipated a time when they would be needed. The disciples already had two swords. He consented to them possessing these weapons. He brought out their importance by saying one should sell is clothes to buy one.
In John 18:10-11, Simon Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. Jesus asked him to put his sword back in his sheath. That was not the right time to fight. God’s plan of Jesus’ death and resurrection had to take place. We can clearly see that the disciples were armed. Moreover, Jesus asked Peter to put the sword back into its place but did not tell him to completely get rid of it.
Evidently, it is biblical to apply lethal force in certain situations. Although we hope to never be put in a position where we have to make the choice between our physical existence and that of another. Life is precious and we should be ready to do everything possible to preserve it.
What about you? Does your religious convictions prevent you from engaging in any forms of self-defense?