Do Christians Have a Right to Defend Themselves?

I wanted a friendly discussion of a topic (that could not possibly get political) that we don’t really discuss–at least, not in the right way.

Do Christians, under the New Testament covenant, have the right to defend themselves? And I’m talking physically, violently, even. As in, if someone breaks into your house with a gun, do you have the right to shoot them, or even attack them? If someone tries to mug you in a dark alley, can you fight back? What does a Christian do in wartime?

This thought came from Sacred Struggler, who talked about the hypocrisy of being Pro-Life, but also being pro-violence. We value life in the womb, but do we value life outside of it?

First, I’ll give my thoughts, then I’ll open the floor to you guys. These aren’t necessarily Biblical, just what goes through my head.

My initial reaction is “yes, we do,” but I can’t quote a scripture to prove it. As a man and husband, I believe it’s a duty of the husband to defend his family, to prioritize their lives over the lives of other people. I believe that is a Biblical view of the husband–protector of his castle.

There’s a slight hypocrisy in taking life to save it, but then again, if one person will take lives and another person will not, do you do the ugly duty or not? This is where “Pro-Life” gets a new meaning. If the baby is going to kill the mother, then refusing abortion will actually kill two people, not save any life at all. And in the case of mom-or-baby decisions, well…that’s a choice I wouldn’t wish on my enemies.

The Bible says, “Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:24). But if a thug shoots you in the alley, is that losing your life for Jesus? Or is that someone else TAKING your life for their own purposes? I think that verse talks about sacrifice, not death in general.

In that vein, I don’t think someone is going to Hell just because they don’t want to die. To compromise values for the sake of life is one thing, but do enjoy life is not a sin. I can see an argument that it is not fully mature, but not sin. Paul said, “to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21), so that means both life and death are good.

I don’t think war is a good thing to pursue, but I do believe it is inevitable. We live in a broken world and war will happen. Do we sit back and take it? Let some foreign power (or God forbid civil) take over without resistance? And when our friends are in danger, do we raise our hands and say, “Can’t help you; I’m a pacifist!” I think war changes things.

“Thou shalt not murder” is not the same as “thou shalt not kill.” Murder is an act of hatred, and hatred is the real sin (as Jesus illustrates in Matthew 5:21-22). To kill, however, is simply to take life. Is it possible to take a life without hate for that person? I believe so.

NOW FOR YOUR THOUGHTS–But a couple of ground rules!

  • I’m looking for Biblical arguments; this is a Christian question–try to back your arguments up with Bible, not just opinions.
  • However, if you have just a thought or a question rather than an argument, I welcome those, too.
  • I don’t care what the Constitution says. This isn’t about American rights; this is about Christian responsibility, which takes precedence over politics.
  • Play nice. Someone who disagrees with you is not necessarily your enemy. Remember: I moderate all comments. Those that exhibit hatred will not be permitted.

Ready? Set? GO!

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7 thoughts on “Do Christians Have a Right to Defend Themselves?

    1. There’s a lot of good stuff about seeking peace and not enacting revenge, with which I wholeheartedly agree.
      I wonder, however, about when peace cannot be attained. We live in a broken world that doesn’t accept peace. It is good to lay down our rights and let Jesus be king, not ourselves. But when does it cross the line into servility? And how could we say we are friends of another if we will not help them in dire need? What if the life to be saved is not our own, but, say the lives of our children? Do we walk into the enemy camp and hand them over?
      My problem is that if you take such theology too freely, the will of God becomes the will of the guy with the biggest stick. Whatever he demands of you, you do. Whether it’s your life, your spouse, your children, your freedom, anything, save your faith.

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  1. Well, you obviously know what I think about it. I think that being pro-life does extend to being anti-war. However, I do think that the lives lost need to be taken into account. If a man is a raving murderous lunatic and has killed and will kill, the lives that you are taking by not doing something (even killing said person) is blood on your hands.

    But you know too, all the other ways I’m pro-life I think… Since I’ve posted on it so much, I think I probably should just listen. Lol. Glad I could make you think, Blessings on journey my friend.

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  2. I think the answer can be found in the character of God Himself. He is a Father who protects and provides. So earthly fathers will be at their best when they protect and provide for their children. He is a Judge who can be trusted to seek out a matter and bring justice. So earthly authorities (parents, church leaders, government) will be at their best when they are fighting for and administering justice (re: government, sometimes that may mean the death penalty or war).

    So to rightly answer the question, you must ask yourself “What is my role?” On my blog, where you can imagine things can easily get heated, for the most part I allow people to say what they please about me/to me. But I strive to be protective of those who visit my blog and defend them if they are attacked by others. (I do this imperfectly to be sure.) We teach our kids to walk away when wronged, and not to enact punishment on those who have wronged them. AND we teach them that they are to zealously stand up for others. Those who serve on jury duty are in a role of authority and therefore “turn the other cheek” is does not apply. They are now to diligently seek out the matter and enact justice.

    Like Christ, we are to lay down our own rights. And like Christ, we are to protect/cover/take responsibility for others.

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    1. I agree. There’s a difference between revenge and justice, and I think turning the other cheek meant laying down your rights for revenge and sometimes justice, too. But you have no right to turn someone else’s other cheek. You can’t say, “tought luck, sucks to be you because I’m a Christian.”

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  3. Have you ever listened to/watch/read Mark Driscoll? I know he has a sermon that speaks about this. Specifically he makes comments about when to be sheep and when to be wolves. I’ll butcher it trying to type it out, but I’ll see if I can find the link for you.

    To sum up my own personal opinions, it’s pretty straight forward. When the final line has been crossed (and I mean, absolutely final, down to you vs. them), then you can and should defend yourself. But, there’s a huge difference between killing and murder (as you mentioned). So go forth not with anger and hate in your heart, but with love and sadness. You don’t get mad at a rabid dog and strike in anger, but with love and sadness as to what must be done.

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    1. That rabid dog illustration was great! Sometimes people are like that. It’s like Alfred told Batman: Some men just want to watch the world burn. Some can’t be reasoned with, bought, sympathetic…the only language they speak is violence, and the only way to stop them is physically.
      You know, like Christians. 😀

      Yes, I’m a big Marc Driscoll fan, but I have not seen that sermon. I’ll have to look it up. Thanks!

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