While the Scriptures indicate that absolute pacifism is not in agreement with the whole counsel of God, we must still use discernment and wisdom in the application of that understanding. Just because we can defend ourselves and others in some instances does not give Christians a blank check to use violence to achieve our own ends.
The Word of God in review does not prohibit self-defense and in fact commands us to take precautions to protect innocent life and liberty. However, we must always temper our response to line up with the biblical witness of wisdom in application. Knowing how to apply truth to life is every bit as important as knowing the truth as an abstract concept!
- The most obvious way to win a fight is not to be there. We must be, in Jesus’ words, “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) The wise Christian seeks to avoid physical confrontation and the need to defend themselves or others by practicing Paul’s admonition in Romans 12:18.
- It is perfectly acceptable for a Christian to study self-defense and martial arts. However, Christians should avoid those arts that deal with idolatry such as ancestor worship or practices that come into conflict with a biblical worldview. Martial arts training can add to our awareness and understanding of how to avoid potentially dangerous situations and can therefore prevent situations in which physical self-defense is necessary. They can also increase our ability to effectively end a conflict when it arises.
- We must obey the command to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) and understand that while a particular instance may be defensible biblically it may not be defensible under the laws of our state. (and vice versa) In such instances we must be prepared to incur the penalty that our state’s laws mandate for our actions.
- As we learn in Exodus 22:2-3, deadly force is biblically authorized when an intruder threatens our lives or the life of someone else. In Arizona, the standard that is applied is the test of a “reasonable person.” In other words, would a reasonable person resort to self-defense in the situation in which you did? The standard of “reasonableness” is sound and should guide us as we seek to apply truth to life. Other states use different standards, but biblically it appears that Castle Doctrine is sound.
- We are authorized to use force to prevent assault on another person (such as rape, violence, or murder) as if they were ourselves. We must always heed the biblical injunction to use wisdom in our dealings and respond properly to the situation at hand. Unless a loss of life or grievous bodily harm is imminent, it is not biblically defensible to use deadly force to defend property. From a personal perspective, my attitude is that I am not willing to escalate a conflict to a deadly force scenario to save my insurance company a claim!
- Arizona is considered an “open carry” state and a “shall issue” state, meaning that it is permissible to private citizens without violent criminal convictions to carry a firearm as long as that firearm is holstered and visible to a casual observer. It is also possible to be permitted by the state to carry a firearm concealed. Each state has unique firearms laws (access your state’s laws here), so YMMV. It is not biblically defensible to violate the laws of your jurisdiction and carry a firearm or other defensive tool illegally. Also, each individual must assess their own comfort level with tools such as firearms and whether it is wise (not merely acceptable) for them to use such tools.
- As Christians we must live in subjection to our authority. If a person wants to take martial arts training or other unarmed defense that is fine. A person who wishes to carry a weapon should have the consent of their authorities when doing so. That means that if a person wanted to carry a firearm at work they should have the approval of their supervisor or manager; if someone wanted to carry a firearm at church they should seek the approval of their church leadership to do so. (in states where this is legal) While I know a lot of people who carry concealed who decide that they need no approval from anyone, in light of the touchy nature of firearms usage it would seem wise to be under authority in cases such as this.
At the end of the day, we must remember that the world is a fallen place and we may be called on to stop evil when we see it. We must be wise in application of the biblical ability to defend ourselves, but we must also remember that James 4:17 tells us that if we know what we should do and do not do it, then we have sinned. Since our calling as Christians is to a life of holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16), sinning by commission or omission is never our desire.
It’s a dangerous world; be safe out there!
 This is not to be construed in any way as legal advice or binding upon any person. It is my understanding and application of the Arizona Revised Statutes regarding the criminal code, which may be found online at http://www.azleg.state.az.us/arizonarevisedstatutes.asp?title=13 (accessed 10/28/09). In particular, misconduct involving firearms in AZ may be found in ARS 13-3102.
 There are restrictions on this in terms of where a firearm may be brought; see ARS for more.