With all the media attention on Jack Wilson’s single shot that quickly ended the attack in a TX church and the previous execution of 9 people inside a South Caroline church, there is a lot of chatter on this subject, including church security, guns and self defense. Some folks argue that Christians should never fight and ‘turn the other cheek’ even unto death. Many use the argument that since Jesus told Peter to ‘put away his sword’ that God doesn’t want violence or self defense. The other side might argue that the fact is Peter had a sword shows he was carrying his weapon and so should we.
What is the Christian to do?
I know hundreds of verses that suggest God calls us to make peace. I also know verses where Moses spoke to the people, saying, “Arm men from among you for the war, that they may go against Midian to execute the Lord‘s vengeance on Midian.” (Numbers 31). Psalm reads “Blessed be the Lord, my rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle;”. And Romans 12:19 “Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”
Lets look at scripture. First off, self defense is not vengeance. Self defense is “protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others.”
There is a Biblical obligation to preserve life. The Bible clearly teaches that we must preserve life–our own lives and the lives of other people. (1 Corinthians 6:19) Psalm 82:4 even cites an obligation to protect those who are in danger: “Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” Proverbs 24:11 encourages us to help others “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.”
Ezekiel 33 is a well-known passage that goes so far to tell us that if the watchman doesn’t protect others “his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.” If you know danger is coming and you don’t warn others you are guilty of harming the victims. We also see this principle throughout the Mosaic law.
Then there is Luke 25:35-39. Let’s set the context….Jesus just had communion. He is heading to the garden and says to them….”When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So they said, “Nothing.” 36 Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one. 37 “For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” 38 So they said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” 39 Coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives, as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him.
Whatever your interpretation of this passage, we can make this observation: Jesus expected them to have swords and anticipated a time when those without swords would need to acquire them and he expected them to carry their weapon.
Christ did tell Peter to put away his weapon and “No more of this.” He also went on to say “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” “Put up your sword… or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father… all this was done that the Scriptures…might be fulfilled.” “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup…?” Remember, Jesus was up to something big. He knew why he was there. He was there to shed His own blood for mankind.
Here is the point.
- Christ is willingly laying down His life, though He has the right to use sword and angelic legions to deliver Himself from this unjust arrest (Luke 22:51, John 18:11).
- If you are quick to violence you will die by violence (Matt 26:52). The Lord hates the one who “loves violence” (Psalm 11:5).
The sword is not always the appropriate response, especially in persecution for Christ. Additionally, we have the right to employ our weapon in defense of a unrighteous act of evil. There is a Biblical obligation to preserve life.
Keeping it all in perspective
I believe self protection of one self and others is important, necessary and Biblical. Paul said a man has a obligation to protect his family and if he won’t he is worse than an unbeliever. Given that, we also must never forget the larger point, there is greater protection than weapons. Don’t simply put trust in mere tools (weapons). Be aware of improperly resorting to your weapon, specifically never employ a weapon out of hatred, never in revenge, never in jealously. Don’t envy a violent man.
We do see more emphasis on Godly living, suffering affliction and persecution for Christ, and grasping the doctrines of Christ and the Gospel more than anything else in scripture. The possession of weapons and acquiring the skill to use them in self-defense is without doubt permitted.
Moral decisions of this nature require heroic bravery and thoughtful wisdom. – Warner Wallace