The Christian and Self-Defense

By Beth Hyduke

What does the Bible say about self-defense? Is it biblical to fight — or even kill — an attacker? Throughout the Bible we are told we have a general obligation to protect life, which would apply to preserving and protecting our own life as well as the lives of others. The Bible also tells us, however, that not all killing is wrong; the soldier killing in the line of duty and the civil government executing its God-given authority to enforce capital punishment are two examples of this. Exodus 22:2 offers a third example: "If the thief is found breaking in and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed." This is talking about a situation in which a citizen uses lethal force to defend himself, his family, and his property. The Bible says that it is not wrong to use violence in such a scenario in order to protect one's life and property, but delineates between self-defense (protecting oneself during an attack) and revenge or vigilante justice (getting even after an attack).

So we see that it is justifiable for someone to act in self-defense. But is preparing to defend oneself in some way showing a lack of faith in God to act on our behalf? Nehemiah 4 provides a great account of everyday citizens preparing to defend their homes and lives. The Israelites, newly returned to Jerusalem from captivity, were forced to deal with the threat of enemy attackers as they attempted to rebuild their city wall. These were not trained warriors or professional soldiers. These were common citizens like you and me. Verse 13 says that Nehemiah stationed "people according to their families" around the city they were preparing to defend against its potential attackers. These people had armed themselves with "their swords, their spears, and their bows" (v. 13), all lethal weapons of their day. There is no implication that by arming themselves in preparation for an attack they are in any way sacrificing their trust in God. In fact, Nehemiah 4:14 shows us that trusting in the Lord and being willing to fight for what is right are paired together: "And I [Nehemiah] looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, 'Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.'"

This pairing of belief and action continues throughout the crisis. Verse 20 says: "Then I [Nehemiah] said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, 'The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.'" Though these common citizens had armed and equipped themselves with weapons to meet a very real threat, they fully recognized that God was the key element and the only reason for their ongoing and final success. No weapon or tool can guarantee protection any more than owning a fire extinguisher guarantees that your house will not burn down. The Psalmist proclaims this truth when he says, "I will not trust in my bow, nor shall my sword save me. But You have saved us from our enemies..." (Psalm 44:6-7).

This doesn't mean that God will always protect us from harm. The combination of free will and God's sovereignty means that He will not always come to our physical rescue. But it may be that He will use our readiness to protect in His plan to protect. Provided we understand, acknowledge, and rely on that same crucial truth — that God alone saves — we can reasonably conclude that it is very wise, on both a spiritual and physical level, to adequately prepare and equip ourselves for days of battle.

Image Credit: Jennuine Captures Photo; "Whaddya Lookin' at, Sparky?"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues  |  Sin-Evil

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Published on 11-16-15