What Does The Bible Teach About Self-Defense?
Can A Christian Use A Gun In Self-Defense?
David L. Brown, Ph.D.
I have heard most of the arguments! “You can’t be Christian and against gun control!” “ Guns kill people!” “We need more gun control laws!” Or, another one is, “How can you claim to be pro-life and pro-gun at the same time?”
The reason I am against gun control is that it is the person, behind the gun, that kills people. Gun control laws do nothing to stop criminals from committing crimes and just make it harder for law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. Saying we need more gun control laws to keep people from being murdered is like saying we need to ban silverware so people will not get fat.
We already know that gun laws do NOT prevent gun crime. The criminal has neither a regard for the law nor the people he perpetrates crimes against. No law imaginable can prevent criminals from getting and using guns!
Now to another common argument used: How can you claim to be pro-gun and pro-capital punishment? Let me make my answer clear! God hates the shedding of INNOCENT BLOOD (Proverbs 6:16). Therefore, I am against the murder of INNOCENT human life in every circumstance, from the pre-born, the aged, handicapped, disabled and terminally ill, and every INNOCENT person in between. I assert that it is the God-given right of every innocent human being to have life, liberty, justice and the right to defend oneself, family, neighbor and country against any unjust aggressor who would attempt to violate our God-given rights. Therefore, I am anti-abortion, anti-infanticide and anti-euthanasia. On the other hand, I am pro-innocent human life, pro-second amendment, and pro-capital punishment. God clearly refers to capital punishment in Genesis 9:6 when he says, “Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”
The absurd gun control arguments reminds me of a sign I see when I am target practicing – “The theory of gun control advocates is that a woman found dead in an alley, raped and strangled with her own panty hose, is somehow morally superior to a woman explaining to the police how her attacker got that fatal bullet wound.”
As we will see, the Bible endorses self-defense.
That brings me to the matter of our United States Constitution. Per that document, citizens have the right to own guns and carry them. For years our previous Governor (I am from Wisconsin) thumbed his nose at the Unite States Constitution and would not allow law-abiding citizens to “bear arms.” That all changed when a concealed carry bill was signed into law July 8, 2011, by our current Governor making our state the second to last state to come in line with our United States Constitution.
The Second Amendment of our United States Constitution says, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Some people try to argue that militia means government military, but it clearly does not, and the very wording of the amendment places the right of arms ownership with the people and not the state.
What Does The Bible Say About Self-Defense?
Does the Bible endorse self-defense? Is a Christian a hypocrite if he owns a gun and uses it for self-defense if the occasion arises? Let’s examine the Bible and see what it says. But before I do that, let me explain the view of a pacifist.
I need to make it clear that God is NOT a pacifist and neither does His Word teach pacifism. We read in Exodus 15:3 “The LORD is a man of war….” Here is a hymn in the Hebrew songbook where David thanks God for teaching him to war and fight. We read in Psalms 144:1 “A Psalm of David. Blessed be the LORD my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight:”
Despite these and other references in the Bible, a pacifist believes that war or defending oneself is never right! Their reasoning is that there is nothing important enough to go to war over or ever shoot another person for in self-defense. All national and international disputes should be settled by peaceful means rather than by force. They are opposed to all military ideals, preparedness, war, etc. Further, many believe it is never right to kill anyone for any reason, under any circumstance. They would not believe in capital punishment for that reason.
Among those who label them-selves as Christian pacifists are the Quakers, Amish, and Mennonites.
In general they believe Christ’s teachings, such as that in Matthew 5:38-48 (turn the other cheek and go the extra mile), forbids believers from becoming involved in any form of violence, killing or warfare, even for the protection of their lives, the protection of their loved ones, their own property, and their country. But the true focus of this passage is how to handle persecution; it is not referring to self-defense when your life is in danger.
Perhaps the most common verse gun control advocates use to support their position is Exodus 20:13. The verse says, “Thou shalt not kill.” They mistakenly believe the 5th Commandment is a blanket command covering war, capital punishment, personal protection, etc. This is a clear misunderstanding of the word kill and the commandment.
The Hebrew word translated “kill” in Exodus 20:13, ratsach, is translated “murder” 14 times (Numbers 35:16, 17,18,19,21,30,31; 1 Kings 6:32; Job 24:14; Psalm 94:6; Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 7:9; Hosea 6:9) and “slayer” 17 times (Numbers 35:11,25,26, 27,28; Deuteronony 4:42; 19:3,4,6; Joshua 20:3,5,6; 21:13,21, 27,32,38). Bible Commentator Adam Clark says in his commentary, “this commandment, which is general, prohibits murder of every kind.”
Dr. John Gill further explains in his commentary, “killing of men in lawful war, or in defense of a man’s self, when his own life is in danger, or the execution of malefactors by the hands or order of the civil magistrate (capital punishment), and killing a man at unawares (by accident), without any design, are not to be reckoned breaches of this law.”
The 5th Commandment has in view the taking away of the life of another through private malice and revenge; cold blooded murder.
There are at least four circumstances in the Bible when killing is not murder.
Military service and Law enforcement – Governments are charged with three responsibilities to their citizens: First, Protecting Her Citizens; Second, Punishing Evil; and Third, Promoting Order (Romans 13:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:2).
Martin Luther said, “War for the sake of war is sin, but war for the sake of defense is duty. The power of temporal rulers is to be turned only against the wicked, to hold them in check and keep them at peace, and to protect and save the righteous.”
It is not murder to kill a person in the line of duty in law enforcement or in the military. This is clearly stated in Romans 13:4 “For he [military or law enforcement] is the 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 the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”
Capital punishment – It is not murder to put criminals to death for heinous crimes. The Bible plainly says that the man who takes a life is to forfeit his own life (Genesis 9:6). The Law of Moses called for capital punishment in the case of murder (Leviticus 24:17; Deuteronomy 19:11-13), adultery (Le. 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:21,22), rape (Deuteronomy 22:25-27), incest (Leviticus 20:17), and other things as well. The avenger of death in Old Testament times was a relative or friend who put the murderer to death (Deuteronomy 19:11-13). God allowed for this, and made provision for cities of refuge for those who had killed someone accidentally. However that has changed today. In this dispensation, God has given only civil government the authority to put offenders to death. In Romans 13 we see that God has given nations the authority to “bear the sword” against evil. This obviously refers to capital punishment.
Accidental Death – As tragic as it is, it is not murder to kill someone accidentally (Numbers 35:20-23). It is a horrible thing to kill someone accidentally. My mother had twin friends. Their names were Sonny and Bunny. When Sonny was about 10, he got a rifle from where it was kept. He was fiddling with it; perhaps playing with it, it fired and killed his twin sister Bunny. That nightmare lived in Sonny’s mind the rest of his life.
NOTE: Parents, with this new concealed carry law, you have a huge responsibility on your shoulders if you are going to have guns around! You have an educational responsibility and a safety responsibility so that children do not injure or kill someone with a loaded gun you have left around.
Self-Defense – It is not murder to defend oneself or your loved ones and property (Exodus 22:2-3). If someone broke into the home at night and the intruder was killed, the one who killed him was NOT guilty of murder. If it is in the daytime and the intruder is there to steal and not to molest or kill, you are not to kill him. But, if possible, capture him so he can make restitution.
I also believe Proverbs 24:11-12 calls us to intervene if someone is taken by a lawless thief, robber, murderer, etc. we are called to do all we can to intervene and stop it. We read, “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; 12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?”
Then there is Deuteronomy 22:23-27 which deals with rape. Verse 27 has in view a woman who is raped and she calls for help and the verse says “and there was none to save her.” Clearly the implication is that if someone would have heard, there would have been a moral duty to intervene and protect her from being raped, by whatever means was available. To stand by and do nothing would be immoral.
In fact, God wanted his people armed to protect themselves! God did not plan for just the army to be armed! The Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons. Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. They did not send in the Marines. The people defended themselves. (see 1 Samuel 25:13).
A good example of people protecting themselves is found in Nehemiah 4:17-18 -- “They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. 18 For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trumpet was by me.”
Judges 5:8 reminds us of what happens to a foolish nation that chooses to disarm! “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” They were vulnerable to their enemies. They had no weapons to protect themselves.
That brings me to the New Testament. Did you know that our Lord instructed his disciples to buy a weapon? Look at Luke 22:36 “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
Our Lord wanted his followers to be prepared to protect themselves, because he knew he would not be around much longer to do it. It is obvious that they obeyed him. We see this in Matthew 26:50-54 “And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. 51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest's, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”
What was Jesus saying? Jesus told Peter he would be committing suicide to choose a fight in this situation – as well as undermining God's plan to allow Jesus' death on the cross for our sins and raise from the dead. Jesus told Peter to put his sword in its place – at his side. He did not say throw it away. After all, He had just ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason for the arms was obviously to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God. What Jesus was saying was: “Peter, this is not the right time for a fight. If you use your sword for improper purposes you will die!”
Having studied the Bible, my conclusion is that it is Biblical to own and use a weapon for self-defense purposes. However, I would warn you against using your weapon improperly! It is a huge responsibility to own a gun and an even bigger one if you choose to carry one and use it.