Self Defense and Christianity, Part 1

The issue of self-defense is a pressing one for Christians today. It is not an issue that we can ignore or sidestep. American Christians view physical persecution as a problem faced by the church in countries like Sudan and the Philippines, but the reality is that violence against Christians is increasing here in the United States as well:

  • On December 8 and 9, 2007, a young man killed two people at a Youth With a Mission center and two more at New Life Community Church in Colorado Springs, CO.[1] His stated motive on his MySpace page was “to kill and injure as many of you…as I can especially Christians…”
  • On August 12, 2007 a gunman entered First Congregational Church (a Micronesian church), killed three people and injured five others.[2]
  • In March 2005 a gunman in Milwaukee murdered seven people attending church services at a hotel before taking his own life.[3]
  • On March 8, 2009 a pastor was shot and killed in his pulpit during morning services at First Baptist Church in Maryville, IL. [4]

These are just a few of the many examples that have made national headlines over the last couple of years. These were attacks on Christians gathered in their places of worship on Sunday mornings and do not include all of the violent acts against individual Christians that are not connected to their worship services. There number of attacks such as these are clearly increasing.

In 2005 Arizona ranked 13th in the nation in violent crimes[5] and first for overall crime in 2003. Clearly this is a major issue for all Arizonans (other states are also included, of course), and as Christians we are not immune to violence simply because of our allegiance to Christ.

Christians have faced the threat of assault from the beginning of the church. Many examples from the New Testament can be shown of Christians being the subject of physical assault, but perhaps none better than the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:25-27:

25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. (2 Corinthians 11:25-27)[5]

The issue we must consider as Christians is how we should respond to violence done against us. What does the Word of God (our standard for faith and practice) have to say about the subject? Should we adopt a passive stance of non-resistance or preach the gospel of “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition”?

This issue is hotly debated among Bible-believing Christians and therefore we must approach the subject with humility and with caution. We must seek to understand the view of other Christians to refrain from making incorrect caricaturizations of their position. In order to interact with Christian pacifism as well as with views that espouse just war and strike first doctrines we must know what they teach.

Over the next several posts I will open this big ol’ can of worms to discuss it. Obviously I am not without bias, but the goal of the next several posts is to encourage discussion of the issue of the proper role of resistance to violence for a Christian.

What are your initial thoughts and ideas? Would you categorize yourself as “kill them all and let God sort them out” type or do you believe in nonresistance at all costs as a matter of discipleship? Is there a particular view of this that you were raised with, or that your background leads you to?

As a mea culpa, perhaps having two USMC grandfathers, 8 years of active duty Navy experience, and growing up around tough guys and construction workers colors my vision more than a little. This is all the more reason to consider the issue biblically, because when we allow our background and biases to guide our understanding of life and Scripture it can lead to disaster.

So post a comment with your thoughts and opinions (remembering to be respectful of others, please!). I will post my understanding of the biblical witness over at least 2, if not 3 more posts over the next several days.

You can keep reading in part 2 of this series here.


[1] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,316387,00.html (accessed 10/15/09)

[2] http://www.yokwe.net/index.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1882 (accessed 10/15/09)

[3] http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/03/12/national/main679761.shtml (accessed 10/15/09)

[4] http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/03/08/national/main4852326.shtml (accessed 10/16/09)

[5] http://azcjc.gov/pubs/home/Crime_Trends_2005.pdf (accessed 10/16/09) This document was compiled by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission using data from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data, making it a valuable statistical tool.

5 thoughts on “Self Defense and Christianity, Part 1

  1. Well, I'm not afraid to comment. I am a gunowner and have been for years. I do believe that it is our duty as men of God to protect those weaker than ourselves from those that would hurt them. Evil thrives when good men stand idly by. I personally have been in a situation of using a pistol and the threat of violence to protect a woman who was escaping from a rapist. I have no doubt that the situation would have turned out differently if I had ignored the screams like most of the rest of the apartment complex did.

    With that said, I have to be honest that it is hard to picture Paul saying, “three times I was beaten by rods, but when I'd had enough, I whipped out my .44mag and busted a cap in their asses” (of course I'm referring to their donkeys there).

    There is a tension in this with my Christian walk. I am looking forward to this series, John.

  2. John, Thanks for bringing this issue to the front-lines and for also being objective. My father, in the early days of WWII wanted to be a “CO” when he was drafted but was denied. He served in the Navy but when his enlistment was up, he gave up any benefits. He was of the generation that didn't talk about this stuff. Years later, during the Vietnam conflict, I met another man who was became a “CO” to avoid the draft. Am looking forward to your comments. I presently have two children serving in the Navy.

  3. I'm a typical guy, I just happen to love Christ. I'm not perfect, I don't take shit from others, and I'll do what it takes to protect my family. I'm sure that makes me wrong in some way when you compare my actions to the bible but I have to believe that God made me they way I am – passionate for Him and protective of my family. And in my opinion, in a world that tries to feminize any hint of masculinity, we need more Men like me to stand up and represent God. So start fighting a few battles worth fighting Christians.

  4. Let me start off by saying that I am not a “religious” person. I do, however, follow Jesus the best that I can. I am a husband and father of two young boys. It is my duty as the man to defend my loved ones from evil, of both physical and spiritual nature. I have a hard time believing that by “turn and offer him the other cheek” means “let those thugs break into your home to rape and murder your wife”. That’s why I carry everywhere I go, even church. Some say they don’t need a gun because God will protect them, but I believe God provides me with the means to defend my loved ones.

  5. I’ve met Christians who say that Jesus would not have harmed anyone for any reason. I remind them of the temple incident, in which He flipped over tables and whipped people (aka, assault with a deadly weapon).

    The return argument I invariably get is that Jesus is God and can do as He likes, or that Jesus was passionate for the temple but that that is someone different from other forms of violence.
    First off, Jesus was without sin, and if all acts of violence are sin, then how could Jesus act violently without sinning? I humbly submit to you that not all violence is sin. Wait for it… Yes.
    Secondly, people argue that He acted passionately without thought… but Jesus went to the temple the night before, looked around, and then went back again and sat down and calmly braided a whip… Yes. Premeditated violence… and since Jesus was without sin, not all violence can be sin.
    Secondly, I ask people if Jesus would have allowed a woman to be raped. The answer is always no, but most people try to argue that He would have somehow supernaturally stopped the assault. Either way, Jesus would not have allowed it. He didn’t allow the woman caught in adultery to be stoned.
    Next, Jesus commanded that if we do not have a sword, we should sell our cloak (Luke 22:36) and buy one. There is a place for self defense, or Jesus would not have commanded us to own a sword. And no, swords were not used to prune trees or chop wood. A sword is not an axe or a hammer or a machette. He said SWORD.
    People invariably rebut by mentioning Jesus condemning Peter’s attack on the temple guard/servant.
    Well, whether it was a just arrest or not, Jesus was being arrested by the authorities (yes, the religious leaders had that right, even under Rome, to arrest for religious reasons). Jesus was being arrested, not mugged.
    Finally, God and his son Jesus spoke highly of King David, who killed many enemies of God in war. David even praised God for training his hands for war (Luke 22:36).
    People then argue that David was not allowed to build the temple because he had blood on his hands. That was because of the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, not because he took the lives of evil men in battle.
    Our Savior was not a pacifist.

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