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Scripture and Self Defense
Scripture and Self Defense
The Bible couldn’t be clearer on the right – even the duty – we have to self-defense.
The Bible couldn’t be clearer on the right – even the duty – we have to self-defense.

The Seventh Commandment in it’s willful perversion by the
 Church states;
“Thou Shall Not Kill” 

In its original Hebrew 
translation, it stated; 
“Thou Shall Not Murder”

The true imperative is against unlawful killing resulting in bloodguilt. The Hebrew Bible contains numerous prohibitions against unlawful killing, but also allows for justified killing in the context of warfare, capital punishment, and self-defense.

Deuteronomy 5
Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in thy hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to thou face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and thou to declare to thou the word of the Lord, because thou were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
“I am the Lord thy God, who brought thou out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
“Thou shall have no other gods before me.”
“Thou shall not make for thyself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Thou shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
“Thou shall not misuse the name of the Lord thour God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
“Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord thy God has commanded thou. Six days thou shall labor and do all thy work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord thy God. On it thou shall not do any work, neither thou, nor thy son or daughter, nor thy male or female servant, nor thy ox, thy donkey or any of thy animals, nor any foreigner residing in thy towns, so that thy male and female servants may rest, as thou do. Remember that thou were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord thy God brought thou out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord thy God has commanded thou to observe the Sabbath day.”
“Honor thy father and thy mother, as the Lord thy God has commanded thou, so that thou may live long and that it may go well with thou in the land the Lord thy God is giving thou.”
“Thou shall not murder.”
“Thou shall not commit adultery.”
“Thou shall not steal.”
“Thou shall not give false testimony against thy neighbor.”
“Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife. Thou shall not set thy desire on thy neighbor’s house or land, his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to thy neighbor.”
These are the commandments the Lord proclaimed in a loud voice to thy whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

One after another we hear reports of shootings at this school or at this university or at

this shopping mall or at this church. Do you remember when churches were considered

places of “sanctuary?” They were kept unlocked so you could go in at any time and

pray, meditate or just find a quiet place. Even today when talking to someone

about a church burglary they often respond in surprise, “they would do that

to a church?”

In an article dated March 5, 2008, WorldNetDaily listed the following church


  1. • (December 9, 2007): After killing two people at a Christian training center in

  2. Arvada, Colo., 24-year-old Matthew Murray went to Colorado Springs intending

  3. more murder and mayhem. Murray shot and killed two girls in the New Life Church’s

  4. parking lot, then headed inside the building where thousands of worshippers were

  5. concluding a service.

  1. • Aug. 12, 2007: A lone gunman, Eiken Elam Saimon, opened fire in a Missouri

  2. Micronesian church, killing a pastor and two other churchgoers.

  1. • May 20, 2007: A standoff between police and a suspect in the shootings of three

  2. people in a Moscow, Idaho, Presbyterian church ended with three dead, including one

  3. police officer.

  1. Although not at a church building, the Oct. 2, 2006, attack in Lancaster County, Pa.,

by a gunman who killed five girls and then himself at an Amish school targeted a religious site.

• May 21, 2006: Louisiana. Four were killed by a man at Jesus Christ Church.

•    Feb. 26, 2006: Michigan. Two people were killed at Zion Hope Missionary Baptist Church by a man who reportedly went to the church looking for his girlfriend.

•    April 9, 2005: A 27-year-old airman died after being shot at a church in College Park, Ga., where he had once worked as a security guard.

•    March 12, 2005: A man walked into the services of the Living Church of God in Milwaukee and open fired immediately, killing seven people.

•    Oct. 5, 2003: A woman opened fire in Turner Monumental AME church in Kirkwood, east of Atlanta, killing the pastor and two others.

•    Sept. 16, 1999: Seven thoung people were killed when a man opened fire during a prayer service for teens at the Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas.

So what’s a church to do? Many churches today are concerned with their purpose and message being culturally relevant. What about the security of the people who attend? As more and more churches are attacked, will churches become more “culturally relevant” in their approach to security?

One student who attended a handgun class I taught told me the reason she and her husband were there. Early on a Saturday morning (around 2 a.m.) someone began trying to kick their apartment door down to apparently gain entry. She and her husband called 911 and then went to the door and began yelling back. Her husband turned to her and said, “If this guy gets in, what are we going to defend ourselves with, a spoon?” So, my question to a church is this: “If one of those crazies comes to your church, what are you going to defend yourself with, an offering plate?”

For the Church and the church-goer, it becomes foundational to see what the Bible says on the subject.

Central to understanding what approach a church should take is the basic nature of man as revealed in Scripture. There are those in Christendom who espouse the basic goodness of all mankind. This view sees every person as basically good and, given the chance, people will choose what is right and good. But the Scripture teaches that man, although created good, made some bad choices and hence, continues to make bad choices and those bad choices come from his very core, “… there is none righteous, not even one,” and “for all have sinned…” (Romans 3:10b, 23a NASB).

What a church (or an individual believer) decides to do about security when dealing with a crazed person has much to do with their concept of how mankind is wired. If one goes into this with the idea that man can be talked out of the evil intent of his heart toward those he is getting ready to kill, then the decision is probably to do nothing and hope for the best.

On the other hand if you believe that someone intent on doing evil to you is probably going to do it no matter what you say or do, then your decision is to put some carefully considered plan for security in place. Because of the culture in which we live, to be culturally relevant in this instance, is to have some kind of security in place.

The shooter at the Colorado Springs church was not going to be talked out of his intentions. He killed two people the night before. Church leadership showed wonderful foresight and increased their security. In this case, the increased security was volunteers. For most churches security will most likely depend on volunteers.

In order to gain a balanced view of what the Bible says, we must look at both the Old and New Testaments. Some might suggest that the Old Testament is no longer relevant. Jesus Christ made it clear that it is, indeed, relevant, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to thou, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 NASB).

The Bible couldn’t be clearer on the right – even the duty – we have as believers to self-defense.

“If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him,” we are told in Exodus 22:2. The next verse says, “If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”

In other words, it was perfectly OK to kill a thief breaking into your house. That’s the ultimate expression of self-defense. It doesn’t matter whether the thief is threatening your life or not. You have the right to protect your home, your family and your property, the Bible says.

The Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons. Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. They didn’t send in the Marines. The people defended themselves.

In 1 Samuel 25:13, we read: “And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.”

Every man had a sword and every man picked it up when it was required.

Judges 5:8 reminds us of what happens to a foolish nation that chooses to disarm: “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?”

The answer to the rhetorical question is clear: No. The people had rebelled against God and put away their weapons of self-defense.

“Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight,” David writes in Psalms 144:1.

Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve. It’s God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time.

And what were those weapons? Swords.

They didn’t have firearms, but they had sidearms. In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus commanded His disciples to buy them and strap them on.

Luke 22:36: “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.”

I know. I know. Thou biblically literate skeptics are going to cite Matthew 26:52-54 – how Jesus responded when Peter used his sword to cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”

Read those verses in context. Jesus told Peter he would be committing suicide to choose a fight in this situation – as well as undermining God’s plan to allow Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection (the scriptures fulfilled).

Jesus told Peter to put his sword in its place – at his side. He didn’t say throw it away. After all, He had just ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason for the arms was obviously to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God. What Jesus was saying was: “Peter, this is not the right time for a fight.”

In the context of America’s current battle – as we make plans to rebuild after the devastation of Sept. 11 and defend ourselves at the same time – we should recall Nehemiah, who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.

“They which builded on the wall, and they that bare burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon,” we’re told in Nehemiah 4:17-18. “For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”

The Biblical View of Bloodshed

So we see we have a Biblical obligation to protect life. Now let's look at the Biblical view of bloodshed. When we come to this topic, we enter an area that requires cultural re-calibration. As you read through the Old and New Testaments, it's very clear that real blood, from animals as well as humans, has a significance not recognized in modern American culture. We must adjust our perception of blood to fit God's view of blood.

Let's look at some relevant passages and contrast them with what our culture thinks about bloodshed.

Genesis 9:5-6 And surely your blood, the blood of your lives, will I require; At the hand of every beast will I require it. And at the hand of man, even at the hand of every man's brother, will I require the life of man.  6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: For in the image of God made he man.

These words come in the days of Noah. This is pre-Mosaic law. Don't think this is obsolete thinking from the Mosaic law.

If a man was killed, the man or beast who caused the death must pay with his/its own life. God says here, "I will require the life of man." Killing or bloodshed was not always wrong. But when it was wrong, the penalty was ultimate.

We learn here that there is sanctity to spilled blood. Why? Two reasons:

  1. 1)Life is precious, and the life is in the blood. When blood is shed, something precious is lost. you might not think blood is precious. We tend to consider blood to be just a "bodily fluid". It is, however, precious to God.  

  2. 2)An attack on man is an attack on the image of God. At a trivial level, you're messing with sculptures in God's art studio. In God's view of bloodshed, it is not merely a physiological event, but it is an assault on the divine image. Why is murder punishable by death? It says, "For in the image of God made He man."

Self-defense here is defined as "protecting oneself from injury, or death 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 safety 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.