Should a Christian defend himself?

As you probably already know, I make no secret of the fact that I am a devout follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, you might be thinking, “Wait a minute. How can you claim to be a Christian and still be a gun-guy who carries a gun?” That’s a great question. Following Christ and yet being willing to defend oneself even to the point of taking another person’s life is not a simple thing to reconcile. Still, I’m willing to give it a try.  Just keep in mind that I am not a minister, priest, rabbi or theologian. I’m just an average blue-collar American Christian.  Nothing more.  That said, I recently received an email from a YouTube viewer on this very subject. His question was as follows:

“As a Christian, I don’t think I should kill someone because that takes away their chance to know Jesus. (If they’re threatening me then I don’t think they’d be a believer!) How have you settled this in your mind?”

Here is the answer I sent him:

Thanks for the note. I understand your dilemma. It is sometimes difficult to reconcile our desire as Christians to bring every soul to Christ with the concept of taking a life in defense of our own. When my wife and I studied this out, I was carrying a gun for a living. I have spent some time providing high level protection to VIPs of various types and serving felony warrants as a bail bondsman. Both of those jobs can be, and often are, dangerous.

When studying this question in my Bible, I was struck by the following:

– The ten commandments include “You shall not murder.” They do not include “You shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:13)
– The book of Ecclesiastes explains that there is a time for everything.  In Ecclesiastes 3 we find:

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:  2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal…”

And later in verse 8:

“…a time for war and a time for peace.”

– A clear example of killing a criminal in self-defense is given in Exodus 22:2-3. The example relates to a specific instance and not to self-defense in every situation. Still, it is clear that the homeowner was not required to submit to the violent intentions of the criminal, particularly at night when intentions are more difficult to establish. This provision in Scripture also states that killing a thief in the daylight is wrong. From this, I gather that we must not kill simply to defend property. While the thief’s intentions may not be easily decipherable at night and in the dark, it would be more clear in the daylight. Therefore, if the thief has no weapons and does not attack, but simply came to commit a theft, one may resist and attempt to restrain the thief, but deadly force is not warranted and, therefore, not permitted. That said, if the thief presents a weapon or attacks, then resistance up to and including that which would cause the death of the criminal appears to be permitted.

– Jesus instructed his followers to purchase a sword, if they didn’t have one (Luke 22:36). He was preparing his followers for a time when he would no longer be with them. Swords are only good for one thing. We are not to live by the sword, but that does not appear to restrict us from defending ourselves with one.

– Some of Jesus followers were professional soldiers. The story of the faith of the Centurion is told in both Mathew 8 and Luke 7. We pick up the story right after the Centurion speaks to Jesus in Mathew 8 verse 10:

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Notice what Jesus did NOT say. He did not condemn the Centurion for doing his job, for being a professional soldier, for killing his enemies and executing criminals. Neither did Jesus instruct the Centurion to quit his job and do something else.

– We find a similar reference in Acts 10 to the Centurion Cornelius, who is described in verse 22 as: …

“a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people.”

In fact, the messenger goes on to say about Cornelius:

“A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.”

– John the Baptist also was approached by soldiers in Luke 3. John was preparing the way for Christ by teaching the people how they should behave. We pick up the story in verse 14:

Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”

Notice again what John did NOT say. He did not say, “Stop killing criminals and enemies” or “Quit your job and become a pacifist.”

From these examples as well as others, I have come to the following conviction. I should do everything possible in my life to avoid causing harm to others. However, when faced with a threat of violence that I cannot avoid or escape, I am permitted, even as a faithful Christian, to defend myself, my family and others even to the point of causing the death of the attacker. The blood of the attacker is on his own head, not mine.

Obviously, we must all come to our own convictions about such things based upon what we find in God’s Word.  Still, as Christians our convictions MUST be based upon the Word of God and not upon our own opinions and desires.  Proverbs 3:5-6 makes this abundantly clear:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Based upon what I have learned in God’s Word thus far, I have reached the conviction explained above.  However, if I find that I am wrong in my understanding, I will surrender to the will of God in all things, as should we all.

7 comments

  1. Thanks Joel for shedding light on something that I SHOULD have spent some time studying out. I have generally found myself at the “those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and a overall sense that justice is not to be served by us, but rather God. However, I have also wondered what I would do if the safety of my family was at stake. This post has re-opened my internal dialogue about my feelings. Thanks!

  2. This is a great topic as I think it commonly misunderstood. Thank you for your insight, as always and thank you for being open about your faith. We appreciate your efforts. In our house, you’ll now be referred to as ‘brother Gun Guy’.

  3. Good exposition of the texts, Joel. You are, IMHO, right on track. I agree that Scripture, correctly exposited, is our foundation. I appreciate that you do not hide your Faith while not throwing it around in our face as well. You just live it and it appears when it does.

    Blessings to you and your family.
    Eric G.

  4. Wow, thanks so much for doing the work sharing this. I have also struggled with this, especially since we are new testament Christians, but this really opened my eyes. I also want to make sure I am following the truth, and this helps. I thought that you may be a Christian by the way that you carry yourself on your videos, I am happy to find this out. God Bless and keep up the good work and the faith.

  5. Very well explained Joel. I just signed up on Patreon and have followed you for some time. I too have been asked the question and I appreciate that I can now effectively respond. Looking fwd to updates on 2nd Amnd and Ca cases pending…thank you

  6. Amen well studied and understood. I so agree. Praise GOD dear brother, I knew I saw goodness and kindness in you even through your videos! I too love and trust The LORD so desperately and want to be in His will and do what is right in His sight.

    Renée

  7. Excellent! Well explained.

    As a Christian, I have often struggled with these same questions. You have provided much insight into the subject, and I thank you.

    All the best to you. God bless…

    ~Alan

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