The Bible & Self-Defense
Updated: Mar 30
“The times, they are a-changin”.
Bob Dylan penned those words to a song that became a hit on his 1964 album by the same name. How true those words ring today in 2020.
There was a time in the United States when no one would have dared to shoot up a church. Churches were respected by all people, even those who were not Christian. But, “the times, they are a-changin”. Now, godless people with an atheistic, evolutionist, and moral relativistic world-view no longer consider churches sacred places to be respected. In fact, such deviants no longer respect human life itself. There is a reason for such a belief. It is a logical outcome for those who are consistent in their atheistic and evolutionist beliefs. But I digress.
In light of the recent church shootings that have taken place, Christians are debating if self-defense is a viable biblical option. In other words, should people in churches be armed and ready to respond in self-defense if they find themselves under attack? I wish to go on record by stating that self-defense is absolutely a viable biblical option. I will make an even stronger statement. It is our duty to be prepared to defend ourselves and those who worship in our churches. There are numerous biblical examples of being armed and prepared to defend oneself. However, I will point you to Nehemiah.
Nehemiah was given the task to rebuild the walls surrounding Jerusalem. When the enemies of God’s people heard that they were rebuilding the walls, they conspired to attack them. Nehemiah responded by arming his citizenry and giving them orders to defend themselves. When the enemies heard that Nehemiah had armed his men and that they were prepared to defend themselves, they had second thoughts about attacking.
Consider the following information preserved for us in Nehemiah 4:7-15 (ESV)
“But when Sanballat and Tobiah and the Arabs and the Ammonites and the Ashdodites heard that the repairing of the walls of Jerusalem was going forward and that the breaches were beginning to be closed, they were very angry. 8 And they all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and to cause confusion in it. 9 And we prayed to our God and set a guard as a protection against them day and night. 10 In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.” 11 And our enemies said, “They will not know or see till we come among them and kill them and stop the work.” 12 At that time the Jews who lived near them came from all directions and said to us ten times, “You must return to us.” 13 So in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, in open places, I stationed the people by their clans, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 14 And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes. When our enemies heard that it was known to us and that God had frustrated their plan, we all returned to the wall, each to his work.”
Notice that Nehemiah and his men did two things to protect themselves. First, they prayed. Secondly, they took it upon themselves to get armed and to be prepared to defend themselves in case they were attacked (v9). They asked the God of the universe to protect them and to bless their efforts of self-defense.
Like it or not, “the times, they are a-changin”. Churches can no longer assume that they are safe places and that the enemy of Christ and His Kingdom will sit idly by as we work to rebuild the walls of our cities and our nation. We must be armed and prepared to defend ourselves and the people who worship in our churches.
It is absolutely biblical to be armed and to practice self-defense. This truth applies to individuals, family men, homeowners, and to churches.
I realize that there will be those who disagree with me on this issue. Such detractors usually point to Jesus’ command to “turn the other cheek” found in Matthew 5:38-39. However, there is a huge difference in someone slapping you or insulting you, and someone coming into your home or church to murder you, or to ravage your wife, your children, or those who worship with you on Sunday. Actually, the Law deals with this very issue in Exodus 22 and give us the case law we need to make a sound biblical judgment regarding self-defense.
Exodus 22:2-3 (ESV) - “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, 3 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.”
In other words, a homeowner can assume that someone breaking into his house at night has nothing but bad intentions. The homeowner can logically and justifiably assume that the intruder has come to harm him and/or his family. The homeowner can, and should, respond by striking the intruder “so that he dies.”. The homeowner is cleared of all guilt in the intruder’s death. However, daytime is a different story because the homeowner can make a better assessment of intent.
Now, let’s assume that someone enters a sanctuary of a church in the middle of the morning worship service brandishing a gun, points it at someone, or worse, actually fires the gun. It is logical to assume that the assailant has evil intentions. Therefore, it is the right and biblical thing to do to “strike the intruder so that he dies” so that others will be saved. Turning the other cheek simply does not apply.
Jesus never taught against self-defense, or being armed for that matter. In fact, He seemed to teach the opposite.
Luke 11:21-22 (ESV) – “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.”
You see, when a man is armed and prepared to defend himself, his family, and his goods, it serves as a deterrent to a thief. The only way to harm or plunder an armed person is to be prepared for a battle that aims to do harm or to steal. The thief has to count the cost, and will usually bypass those who are armed and prepared to defend themselves, and will usually go to a “softer target”.
Then, there is Luke 22:35-36 (ESV) – “And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 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.”
Jesus was indicating that “times were a-changin”. He was soon to return to Heaven. In His physical absence, His followers should get armed and be prepared to defend themselves.
It is absolutely biblical to be armed and to practice self-defense. This truth applies to individuals, family men, homeowners, and to churches. An armed person, homeowner, or church member rarely has to defend himself, because an evil person with evil intent will usually find “softer targets”, or un-armed people and places, to attack. It is Christian, biblical, and loving thing to be armed in order to defend oneself and others.