Gun Control and Meaningful Discussions

wolvesIf you expect me to get into the fray on Gun Control and the 2nd Amendment from a biblical basis here on ABF, allow me to disabuse you of that notion forthwith. I do that in other places and definitely have my biases, but this post is not about who is right and who is wrong in that particular discussion. Rather, the thing that impresses me the most as I watch people on both sides of the issue is how both sides talk past each other so much and how much caricature and misunderstanding goes on.

In this particular issue, among Christians I see those who believe in gun control often saying  that those who are 2nd Amendment supporters are more interested in their guns than about the Great Commission or Jesus’ admonition to love. In return, the gun rights folks call the gun control proponents sheep and communists who hate the Constitution and freedom.

Why the rancor? It is because each has their own particular worldview, and that worldview colors the issue to such an extent that they can’t really comprehend the other side. They are so convinced that they are right that they are convinced that anyone who doesn’t see the issue their way is clearly non compos mentis. Because they are so set, there is really no way to dialog about the issue with others of a different stripe.

This is why, in my opinion, so many issues have become so polarizing and so emotional in America today. Social media and the 24-hour news cycle have made expressing unprocessed emotions and ideas much easier and much farther reaching. For instance, I know people with 2,000 friends on Facebook. 20 years ago if they wanted to express an opinion to that many people it would have taken a significant investment in mailing letters or making phone calls. In that time my friend could have cooled off and thought through their ideas before publication. Now, though, with a couple of presses of their smartphone they put it out there for the world to see and share and comment on.

What’s the answer? In my opinion, it starts with having a meaningful clash. (this is a known topic in logic and debate and is not original to me, but I can’t find a good link…) A meaningful clash can only come when both sides of a discussion begin with areas of agreement and from there move on to areas of disagreement. If we do not start with areas of agreement we talk past each other and can’t have a meaningful discussion.

Perhaps an example can help. Let’s say that Bob, an atheist, believes that same sex marriage should be legal. Jim, on the other hand, believes that since the Bible forbids same-sex relations that it should be illegal. Bob does not believe that the Bible should be normative for relationships today. If Jim argues that God said same sex marriage is wrong so it is wrong, then he and Bob aren’t starting from areas of agreement and therefore they can’t have a meaningful clash.

This issue of gun control and the 2nd Amendment is the same. Gun rights advocates are arguing that modern sporting rifles protect the people against tyrannical government. Gun control advocates are arguing that assault rifles kill and maim and have no place in society. See how they talk past each other? There can be no meaningful clash of ideas because there are no meaningful areas of agreement.

But are there? Yes, there are. In this issue, for instance, we can agree that our main concern is safety. Both the NRA and Mayors Against Illegal Guns are interested in safety! They are interested in protecting the American people, and that is laudable and good. Now certainly they disagree on the best approach to accomplish that goal, but the goal is the same! Certainly the people arguing for gun control say that their goal is safe kids in schools and homes and malls. Gun rights advocates say that their desire to own guns is to keep their own family safe and to protect the republic from despotism. See how the desire is the same, just from a different angle?

How much better would this debate be if Wayne LaPierre would meet with President Obama and Ted Nugent and Michael Bloomberg and tell them all how grateful he is that they are concerned with the safety of our nation. Imagine how little rancor there would be if they listened to why they feel the way they do and affirmed their common desire for safety for our nation and its people. I have 4 kids in public schools, and regardless of what side I am on, my goal is for them to get a good education in a free and safe environment! That’s the same goal as everyone else in this discussion.

Take the singular issue away and the idea remains. In the church, take gender issues in ministry. What if we began from the common ground that we all want to honor God and help people use their spiritual giftedness in God-honoring ways? In society, what if we re-framed the immigration debate by realizing that our goal is to keep our nation free and prosperous, with liberty and justice for all? What if we began the abortion debate by realizing that our desire is to honor the foundational American governing principle of the sovereignty of a person over themselves? (and yes, this is an area of agreement…more another day perhaps)

So before having a debate on gun rights, find the place of agreement. In the gun control debate, it’s the safety, security, and prosperity of our nation. Gun control advocates think that the best way to accomplish that is to limit access to firearms to prevent Sandy Hook from reoccurring. Gun rights advocates think that the best way to accomplish that is by allowing more good guys to have tools available and on-hand to combat bad guys when events occur. It’s the method, not the goal, that is different, so instead of hurling invectives across the impassable chasm between us it seems to be a far better method to get on the same side of the chasm and make the problem the enemy rather than the people who are looking for solutions to the problem!

Running in the dark

One of our big foci in American Kenpo is what we call “situational awareness.”  We train to make sure that we are aware of our surroundings in order to minimize our exposure to the dangers around us and see any challenges or problems coming as far away as possible.  That way we can avoid them, mitigate them, or prepare for them.  I got a lesson in situational awareness last week that also speaks of our need for situational awareness in our spiritual lives.

Because I had a meeting before class last Wednesday, I had to get out for my run really early.  So about 6AM I laced up my kicks and headed out the front door for my 4.3 mile loop.  Laura and I like to run through the park near our house, through an underpass, and along the drainage canal that heads south from there.  It’s a quiet path and has no car traffic, so it’s great for running.  I took off in the pre-dawn, watching my breath plume out in front of me and thanking God for a healthy body that could run in the cold.

The first two miles of my run were uneventful; it was the third mile that taught me a valuable lesson.  The run is two miles out and two back, with the second and third miles being on either side of the canal.  The path on mile two had enough lights along the way that I felt safe.  I could see along the path and for a decent distance to one side of it, maybe 30 feet. (the other side is fenced canal…no dangers there!)  When I made the turn at the half-way point and got to the other side, though, I was in for a shock.  It was DARK.  No lights on the path, the moon was behind clouds, and I was nearly running blind.  I could barely see, but there was no way I would have been able to see a mugger before it was too late.

I was on high alert for that quarter mile!  I felt very unsafe and very uncomfortable running through the dark.  Not only was I worried about bad guys, but it was dangerous running when I had a hard time seeing where to put my feet!  As soon as I had the opportunity, I crossed back over to the lit side of the canal and enjoyed the rest of my run. 

When I got home I started thinking over my run and learned a couple of lessons from it.  First of all, from a self-defense perspective I should have turned around and run back the way I came as soon as I saw it was dark.  I didn’t heed the spidey-senses, and that was dumb.  I was also reminded that having the ability to see around me and know what is coming is critical to being prepared and ready.  Losing the ability to have advance warning of potential problems was scary!  When I could see around and ahead of me I was prepared for what was coming, but when that ability was removed I was in trouble.  I won’t make that mistake again!

As I thought and prayed about that lesson a few days later, God brought some spiritual insight from that run too, this time out of Psalm 119:105-106:

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
          And a light to my path.
106 I have sworn and I will confirm it,
          That I will keep Your righteous ordinances.

Just as I needed streetlights to keep me safe from harm on my run, the image Psalmist describes the Word of God as a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.  When I can see around me I am safe!  Even a little light is better than no light.  When I live life in the dark, I am constantly stumbling around and getting hurt, constantly in danger of stumbling and never able to plan for upcoming problems to avoid, mitigate, or defend against.  When I allow God to mold me and change me with the truth of Scripture, though, I have a light for my path and a lamp for my feet that keeps me from stumbling.

image
With that in mind, if a little is good a LOT is better!  I would rather have a giant floodlight showing me everything around me and lighting up the night than a small candle guttering and giving me glimpses of my surroundings.  Likewise, I would rather know MORE of God and His word than less; I would rather have MORE illumination of my world and how I should live than just a little.

I have seen this so much in Laura over the last month.  She started a ladies’ online Bible study in January where they read through a book of the New Testament every day for 30 days.  In January they studied Galatians; now they are in 1 Timothy.  I have seen more spiritual growth, and had more deep and meaningful conversations about life and ministry and God, with her in these months than in years!  It’s such a joy to see God lighting a fire in her through His Word and to talk about it with her.  It has also encouraged me in my devotions and study of Scripture.

So let’s rededicate ourselves to the study, memorization, and meditation upon Scripture.  God’s Word only illuminates our life if we take it in; it has to get inside our souls to make us new.  Open the book today and ask God to change you from the inside out!  Read Galatians every day for a month like Laura and her friends have and see what happens in your life.  Crack the Gospel of John and meet Jesus for who He really is.  Study Genesis and watch God change your life through an Old Testament soap opera!

Wherever you start, making God’s Word a lamp and a light for our lives is the way to having the insight in life to keep from stumbling and getting attacked by the many forces that are against us.  So crack the book today and tomorrow, build a habit, and watch Him start to change you from the inside out.

Self Defense and Christianity Part 4: Application

Please begin your reading of this thread, if you have not already done so, by reading Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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[1], 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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[2]. 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.
  7. 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!


[1] 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.

[2] There are restrictions on this in terms of where a firearm may be brought; see ARS for more.

Self Defense and Christianity, Part 3: An Evaluation of Christian Pacifism

Please read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series before reading this post.

While the evidence for Christian pacifism initially seems strong, further exploration of the biblical text shows that Christian pacifism has a difficult time understanding several significant texts in both Old and New Testament. It is true that Jesus taught His disciples to “turn the other cheek,” but many if not most evangelical scholars do not believe that pacifism or nonresistance is the central point of Jesus’ words.[1] Rather, to the point that Jesus is making here is continued reaching out in the face of insult. The Hebrew concept of the insult is contained in Job 16:10:

“They have gaped at me with their mouth,

They have slapped me on the cheek with contempt;

They have massed themselves against me. (Job 16:10)

Part of Job’s lament is that his adversary (v. 9) slaps him on the cheek with contempt. This was commonly associated with expulsion from the synagogue in Jesus’ day[2] and pictured far more of a social and personal insult than a physical assault. To a Jew in Jesus’ day being slapped in the face was a grave insult akin to someone spitting in our face today. Any physical damage is almost incidental to the insult. Jesus’ intent, then, is to command his disciples to continue to reach out to their enemies, even in the face of grave personal insult. In its historical and cultural context the command to “turn the other cheek” does not command nonresistance or pacifism in the face of criminal assault but rather continued outreach to enemies despite insult. When Christians are insulted or slandered we must continue to reach out to those who insult us. This ethic has no bearing upon our response to rapists or armed robbers, however.

Pacifism’s understanding of Isaiah 2:4 is also suspect. Certainly the text tells us that when the Lord reigns He will bring an unprecedented time of peace. However, that time of peace appears to be awaiting Christ’s Second Coming. We must keep verses like Luke 12:51 in mind when looking at descriptions of the reign of the King of Kings, which says, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division…”. The fault of the interpretation in pacifism can be called an “overly realized eschatology,” where the “already” of the kingdom of God is focused on so much that the “not yet” is completely obscured. Christ will bring amazing peace to the nations when He comes again, but in the interim between His comings we will not have peace between nations. Jesus says as much in Matthew 24:7, when He prophesies that “nation will rise against nation” before He comes again.

The command of Exodus 20:13 deserves careful consideration, but at the end of the day does not prohibit all taking of human life. The command “You shall not murder” is clearly a command designed to protect the sanctity of human life. However, by looking at its use throughout Scripture it becomes apparent that it is not a universal command with no limits. The verb translated “murder” is found twenty times in Numbers 35[3], and these uses prove helpful in understanding the limits of the command. Numbers 35 discusses the “cities of refuge” of the Levites and lays out appropriate punishments for those who take life without authorization. Particularly important are Numbers 35:27 and Numbers 35:30, which both make mention of the taking of human life without any guilt before God. Clearly, then, all taking of human life cannot be sin. These are not coordinated actions of a national army, but individuals taking the life of another person.

It is very instructive in Matthew 26:52 that Jesus did not command Peter to rid himself of his sword. Instead Jesus told Peter to put it away in light of Jesus’ fulfillment of God’s plan. Christ’s nonresistance to His crucifixion is a manifestation of His unique mission to die for the sins of the world. Even with this in mind there are clearly instances in Scripture of Jesus using physical violence; in John 2:15 Jesus used a “scourge of cords” to drive the sellers and moneychangers out of the temple. All violence cannot be evil if Jesus used violence to protect the holiness of the temple.

It would seem, therefore, that though Christian pacifism is correct in upholding the sanctity of human life there is not a universally binding command to pacifism in Scripture. There are clearly times in Scripture that God allows the taking of life without guilt, and even times when He commands one person to take the life of another. Pacifism does not adequately address these issues in Scripture.

The Biblical Case for Self-Defense

The Bible does present evidence that self-defense is acceptable within the guidelines of wisdom. One of the titles of God in the Old Testament, “The LORD of hosts” (Exodus 12:41) pictures God as the omnipotent Warrior at the head of His army. The author of Hebrews commends many Old Testament saints for their military acts of faith in Hebrews 11:30-40. Gideon, Deborah, and others were anointed by God to lead others into battle and conduct war.

We are commanded not to murder (Exodus 20:13), which may be defined as the unauthorized taking of human life. Not all loss of life can be defined as murder, though, as evidenced by God’s command of the Israelites to go to war. (Numbers 21:1-3) That command against murder must be seen in light of some expansion on the topic of the taking of life given in Exodus 22:2-3:

2“If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. “3But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. (Exodus 22:2-3)

In context the Lord is authorizing the death of a thief that is caught in the act of thievery. However, if he gets away with his thievery only to be apprehended later then he cannot be killed without incurring guilt. The death of this thief is authorized, presumably because he represents a threat to the owner of the home and his family such that deadly force is justified. Once the thief leaves the threat is removed and therefore deadly force is not authorized.

Perhaps one of the most significant passage with respect to self-defense is Nehemiah 4:14:

When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and 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 houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)

Nehemiah was authorized by Artaxerxes I to perform his work, but because of the criminal activity of Sanballat and Tobiah was in danger of assault and attack. His response is a rousing call to defense of the walls of Jerusalem. After the immediate attack was averted the men maintained their armed state (verses 16-18) and readiness to defend themselves if necessary.

In the New Testament we see examples of the same ethic.

36And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37“For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘And He was numbered with transgressors’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” 38They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36-38)

In Luke 22:36 Jesus commands his disciples who do not own a sword to go and sell their outer garment to buy one. Jesus is preparing His disciples here for ministry and evangelism after He has departed, and in verse 38 when they reply that they are armed Jesus approves of their ownership of the swords. The Greek word here for sword (μάχαιρα, machaira) referred to a relatively short sword that was used by the people of Palestine to defend themselves while travelling from robbers and wild animals. Jesus commanded His disciples to have such an implement for their own defense.

While Jesus commands the disciples to have some form of defense, we also see that wisdom and discernment are vital to the application of self-defense. In Matthew 26:52-54 Jesus rebukes Peter for cutting off the ear of the servant of the high priest. In the context of Jesus’ fulfillment of His mission He is rebuking Peter for his failure to discern the true nature of the situation as necessary in God’s plan. Likewise, in Exodus 22:2-3 God tells us that discernment must be used; if the thief is caught in the act he may be considered hostile, but capture after the fact removes the threat of injury and thus the need for deadly force.

In the final post in this series we will consider applications of a biblical theology of self defense, including a discussion of the consequences of both acting and failing to act in defense of ourselves or others.


[1] See Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1-9:50. Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1994), 592. See also Marshall, I. Howard. The Gospel of Luke : A Commentary on the Greek Text. The New international Greek testament commentary. (Exeter [Eng.]: Paternoster Press, 1978), 260; Stein, Robert H. Luke. The New American Commentary. (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2001), 207; Nolland,: Luke 1:1-9:20. Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 35a. (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 2002), 296.

[2] See 1 Esdras 4:30 and Didache 1:4

[3] For a more thorough analysis, see Keith Essex, “Euthenasia” in The Master’s Seminary Journal 11:2 (Fall 2000), 205.

Self Defense and Christianity, Part 2: Christian Pacifism

Don’t start here; read Part 1 of this series first (it can be found here).

If we are going to have an honest discussion of the compatibility of self defense and Christian discipleship, we must understand the opposing positions. The discussion of self defense and Christian discipleship tends to generate a lot of heat and not a lot of light. One of the greatest challenges we face with the discussion is working hard not to create “straw man” arguments that don’t really interact with the arguments of those we disagree with.

These straw man arguments are common in this discussion. Christian Pacifists are often painted as sissies or weenies who aren’t willing to get behind the Lion of Judah, and believers in just war theory are sometimes painted as hate mongering war hawks. Neither of those descriptions are accurate.

In the spirit of understanding, then, we first turn to a discussion of the biblical underpinnings of Christian pacifism.

Christian pacifism is the theological and ethical position that any form of violence is incompatible with the Christian faith. Prominent American thinkers such as the great 19th Century evangelist D.L. Moody (of Moody Bible Institute fame) and Martin Luther King, Jr. have advocated one form or another of Christian pacifism.

John Howard Yoder presents a modern adaptation to the classic Mennonite view of passive nonresistance in his book The Politics of Jesus.[1] He argues that Jesus is interested in social and political issues, but His strategy is to stay away from the game of socio-political control and instead adopt the practice of nonresistance. Yoder believes that Christians must reject the world’s system of violence and follow their Savior to the cross.

Though there is much debate on the passage, a central issue is the sixth commandment contained in Exodus 20:13: “You shall not murder.” There is some debate over whether the prohibition here is best translated “Thou shalt not kill” (as the KJV has it) or “you shall not murder” as all modern English translations render it.[2] The ESV translation notes that the Hebrew verb used here[3] refers to any unauthorized taking of human life, whether intentional or through carelessness or neglect. The taking of human life, then, is specifically disallowed by God and a violation of His command. Because of that, self defense should be avoided as a matter of obedience to the revealed will of God.

Another influential verse for pacifists is Isaiah 2:4, which says,

4 And He will judge between the nations,

And will render decisions for many peoples;

And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will not lift up sword against nation,

And never again will they learn war.

This verse teaches the peace of the reign of Messiah. He will be the judge between people, and Isaiah prophecies of the tranquility that will reign when Messiah comes. His reign will be one of peace, as nations “hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” In other words, Messiah (i.e. Jesus) brings with Him peace for His people. To break that peace by means of violence, even violence toward those who are violent to us, is a breaking of the peace that He sought to bring and is sin.

Proponents of this position also point to Matthew 26:47-52 in support for the idea of Christian pacifism:

47While He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” 49Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 50And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. 51And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 52Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword. (Matthew 26:47-52)

Verse 52 is very important to advocates of nonresistance, as Jesus rebukes Peter’s violence and commands him to put his sword away. Thus within the view of nonresistance Jesus does not allow for self-defense, instead commanding Christians to suffer wrong rather than retaliate with violence against violence. The other passage that nonresistance advocates view as central to their position is Jesus’ admonition to “turn the other cheek”:

27“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30“Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31“Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. (Luke 6:27-31; cf. Matthew 5:38-42)

This is the main passage that advocates nonresistance in the eyes of Christian pacifists. Even in the face of physical assault Jesus commands his disciples to “turn the other cheek” and forego self-defense. Whether the offense is physical (a strike to the cheek) or financial (the taking of the outer garment) the response of the disciple must be nonresistance. In this way the Christian follows Christ’s example of nonresistance in the face of rejection and assault, emulating their Savior.

There are more really good discussions of Christian pacifism out there on the web. David Hoekema presents a well written article in Religion Online, and Myron Augsburger also penned a nice discussion for Intervarsity shortly after 9/11. They are worth reading if you want a more in depth presentation of Christian pacifism.

There is some biblical evidence, then, that points Christians toward an ethic of nonviolence. At the very least it is apparent that when searching the Scriptures we find that violence must not be the priority nor the desired option in dealing with conflict from a biblical perspective.

Next post we will consider the evidence for Christian self defense.


[1] John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, 2nd Ed. (Grand Rapids, MI; Eerdmans, 1994)

[2] The author consulted the ESV, HCSB, NET, NASB, NCV, NIV, NKJV, NLT, and NRSV. RSV and ASV, both older translations, had “kill” rather than “murder.”

[3] The Hebrew verb is רָצַח (ratsach)