The Biblical View of Self-Defense
This study examines the Biblical view of self-defense. We’re looking at questions such as, Is it right to employ lethal force to protect the life of yourself and others? Is it right to take measures that might kill an attacker who is wrongfully threatening your life or the life of another?
Self-defense here is defined as “protecting oneself from injury at the hand of others.” Self-defense is not about taking vengeance. Self-defense is not about punishing criminals. Self-defense involves preserving one’s own health and life when it is threatened by the actions of others. When we speak about using potentially lethal force in self-defense, we’re talking about using weapons to protect ourselves and others, even if the weapons used could kill the attacker.
Now why in the world would we take time to look at this subject? First, as Christians, we want to know how to apply the Bible to current issues in society. We live in a country with approximately 250 million guns and approximately 300 million people. Furthermore, in our country, it is estimated that law abiding citizens defend themselves using guns approximately one million to two million times a year. Almost 200,000 people in this state alone have a legal permit to carry a concealed handgun. What does the Bible have to say about that many guns actively being used for self-protection?
We live in a time where the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, current possibilities of economic and societal collapse, and crime have people buying guns and ammunition in large quantities for self protection. What does the Bible say about that? What does the Bible say about so-called “assault weapons”?
As always, we want our hearts and minds to be ruled and informed by Scripture–not by our emotions, not by our experiences, and certainly not by the World. And because the Scriptures have much to say about this topic, it is relevant and worth examining in the Church.
The focus of this study is specific. I am not dealing with whether lethal force can legitimately be used in wartime. I am not dealing with capital punishment. I am not dealing with Biblical principles involved in the American Revolution or the War Between the States.
This study is organized in five sections. First, we will look at the Biblical obligation to preserve life. Secondly, we will look at the Biblical view of bloodshed. Thirdly, we will look at passages dealing with the application of lethal force in self-defense. Fourth, we will look at what the Bible says about possession of weapons and skill in using weapons. Finally, we look at limitations and warnings about self-defense.
The Biblical Obligation to Preserve Life
We begin by first looking at the 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 6:19f teaches that our bodies are not our own. Rather, our bodies belong to God. Our bodies are His property and so we are not permitted to treat or destroy them as we please:
19 Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit which is in you, which ye have from God? and ye are not your own; 20 for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body. (1Co 6:19-20 ASV)
Not only are we to take care of our bodies and the life contained. We have an obligation to preserve the body and life of other people. Psalm 82:4 even cites an obligation to protect those who are in danger:
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