One night, a good friend and I were discussing the escalating situation, and since we were walking out of Bible study, he said how can we justify killing in self defense, or, in a larger context, justify civil war, especially against people who might call themselves fellow Christians.
Granted, this conversation was months ago, pre-canonization of St. George of Floyd, and just prior to the lockdown.
For me, this is a simple issue, yet for others I understand how it can cause conflict. I’m going to discuss the general morality of it, as well as a Biblical justification.
The first pushback most people present to our side is the claim that Moses brought down from God a command, Thou Shalt Not Kill (Exodus 20:17). That’s a gross mis-characterization. The actual literal translation comes out to “Thou Shalt Not Murder”. There’s a difference between killing and murder. If God had meant not to kill at all, then He wouldn’t have commanded Joshua to kill his enemies and put their heads on poles in front of the city (Yes, that cool battle story is in the Bible).
As a legal concept, nearly every civilization and culture has recognized the ultimate right to self-preservation, and have not considered killing in self-defense to be murder.
From even Biblical times, war has also been set apart from murder. If you truly read the stories in the Bible (which are cool adventures), rather than just listening to sermons, you’ll find countless times that God himself ordered Moses, Joshua, David, Nehemiah, and dozens of others to wage war, and destroy the enemy’s will to fight by being merciless and destroying their resources.
In the 1930s and 1940s, Germany was a majority Christian nation. Do you feel like God would have wanted us to allow them to continue unopposed?
Rescue those being led away to death,
Hold back those staggering towards slaughter.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
Deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Those 2 verses seem to definitely authorize force in the defense of others.
In fact, in Exodus 2:11-12, we see Moses doing just that. We can all agree that Moses was a good man, can’t we? Moses came upon an Egyptian overseer beating an Israeli slave. The overseer would have been the modern-equivalent of a police officer, I suppose. Moses killed the overseer, and then hid the body. I’d think that if God didn’t approve of the killing of an oppressor by the oppressed, they would have left that story out and Moses would have been punished, not exalted.
But what about in defense of your home?
When a strong man, fully armed,
Guards his own house,
His possessions are safe.
If a thief is caught breaking in at night
And is struck a fatal blow,
The defender is not guilty of bloodshed
Well, seems clear. Defending your home is fully justified.
At this point, most people bring up the “Yeah, but Jesus said turn the other cheek” argument. That’s taking Jesus 100% literally, which is not the way Jesus spoke. He spoke in parables and circular turns of phrase. The “turn the other cheek” also has to be taken in context. He was discussing “en eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” in the same sentence, and He was simply saying don’t take VENGEANCE. Defending yourself isn’t vengeance.
If Jesus truly didn’t want people to defend themselves, how can you then explain His actions in making a homemade whip and then chasing the money changers out of the Temple? He was taking offensive action there. Jesus wants you to stand up against injustice and regularly commented this. Jesus was a man of righteous action, not a timid appeaser.
Like a muddied spring or a polluted well
Are the righteous who give way to the wicked.
Appeasement of wickedness and evil only gets you more wickedness and evil. That’s what we’re seeing right now. The rioters were trying to burn down Portland and demanded we withdraw the federal agents, and when we did, they just kept on burning buildings and have expanded into the neighborhoods.
That’s the exact same lesson that the Western World learned when Neville Chamberlain appeased the evil of Adolf Hitler by consenting to the surrender of Czechoslovakia. How’d that work out?
Never give way to the wicked.
But how does God feel about carrying weapons? I’m glad you asked….
David said to his men “each of you strap on your sword!”
So they did, and David strapped his on as well.
1 Samuel 25:13a
“…If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak & buy one”
There you have it. You should be armed.
In the Book of Nehemiah (or as I call him, the Father of Combat Engineers), Nehemiah mentions dozens of times that he and his men were armed at all times, even when sleeping, eating, and working, because they were surrounded by people hostile to their cause. Sound familiar?
In Mark 6, Jesus sent the disciples out on a mission, telling them “take nothing for the journey, except for a staff”. In those days, a staff was common self defense weapon. Even Jesus wouldn’t send His boys out into the field unarmed. He wanted them to be able to defend themselves. That’s also why He told them to sell their cloaks and buy swords.
In District of Columbia v Heller (2008), the Supreme Court ruled that self-defense is an inherent right and is inherently justified. It also held that the Second Amendment guarantees you the right to defend yourself with firearms, and that you don’t have to keep them in a locked state; you may keep them ready to use at all times.
In conclusion, the right to self defense has existed throughout history, and is morally justified by Judeo-Christian morality. The defense of your home and others is also inherently moral, as is the carrying of weapons.
Go forth and defend thyselves, my disciples.