God and Guns: Your Biblical Right to Self Defense, by J.B.

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You have a biblical right to self defense. In a life and death situation, where you have to make a choice to defend yourself, you should know that God says it’s okay. This can prove extremely difficult for Christian believers that respect life so much that they don’t want to take it, even when it means it’s necessary to preserve it.

Survivalists/preppers have numerous creative and astounding methods to preserve their life in the event of a natural disaster or societal breakdown, including everything from food stores, clean water strategies, bug out bags full of all the essentials, hiding places, camping methods, and more. Some include hunting and fishing tools in their planning, which is taking life in order to preserve it. Even others go so far as to provide for self defense, such as with guns, knives, hawks, traps, and other tools.

Boiled down to its simplest level, every creature on the planet has the natural right to use whatever means necessary to defend itself. Life feeds on life. Nature is brutal and doesn’t show mercy. Wolves eat their larger prey hind end first while the animal cries out for help. Considering its horrific fate, are we to tell the buck being chased by wolves that it cannot turn on its attackers and gore them? Why then cannot we extend this simple logic to humans? Humans dress it up nicely in morality codes that can and do change (even though there is such a thing as universal truth), but at its simplest level every organism has a natural right to defend its life by any means necessary.

Libertarians have something good to say on the matter in the non-aggression principle, which simply stated says, “Do not aggress against others.” We should live and let live and not take what is not ours nor compel others by force or they have every right to defend themselves. This is similar to the biblical truths laid out by Jesus, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” or in other words, “Do unto others as you would have done to you,” for “He that loveth another has fulfilled the law.” This includes His teachings on turning the other cheek and being forgiving. If all people were to do this, we wouldn’t have to read an article on how God says it’s okay to defend the innocent from the wicked, even with lethal force. Striving with a man who has done you harm is allowed; striving with a man who has not is not, according to Proverbs 3:30. Some would define this as God’s most basic morality.

The Bible goes beyond the natural right to defend yourself and conveys a moral right to do so. Martin Luther even argued it was an obligation and, by not acting to save a life, you are just as guilty as if taking it. There are numerous examples that can give comfort and encouragement to the kind souls who have either made up their mind not to use self-defense or to use it but wrestle with its justification. Let’s start with soldiers. Being a soldier is highly respected throughout the scriptures and is consistent with a biblical worldview. God called on Israel’s citizen to be soldiers and later professional soldiers on numerous occasions to defend their people, property, and land. Even in the first book of the Bible– Genesis– Abraham rallied trained men to save his kidnapped nephew–Lot, and it was credited to Abraham’s righteousness to this very day. Abraham exercised the principal of self-defense, and God rewarded him for it (Genesis 14:18-20). Abraham tithed to Melchizedek, and Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 7:1-28). When Jesus was asked by soldiers what they should do, he didn’t tell them to quit being a soldier, but He told them to do no malicious violence (Luke 3:14). The imagery of the soldier abounds, such as when the apostle Paul refers to Christian workers as “fellow soldiers” (Philippians 2:25) or when he encourages believers to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20), which includes a breastplate, helmet, sword, shield, and more. Jesus even said that a Roman centurion had more faith (in Jesus and how stuff works) than all in Israel. A soldier by definition preserves life by taking life, if necessary. Why would God provide guidance and praise the soldier so highly if He did not approve (even when done right by human standards)?

How might the justified soldiering apply to the survivalist/prepper? It includes concepts such as discipline, skill, order, resourcefulness, and preparedness. It also conveys skill in arms to “best” an aggressor—something that can both morally and naturally be met with force. Romans 13 is often cited to teach submission to good governments; and their instruments (cops, soldiers, weapons) are ordained by God to not bear the sword in vain, to be a minister of God, and to execute wrath upon those that would do evil. Interestingly enough, in the American republic, the highest law of the land (the U.S. Constitution) expressly states that each person has the right to keep and bear arms without any infringement and additionally that citizen militias are necessary, expected, and welcomed. American Christian adherents to the Bible, in compliance with Romans 13, must realize they live under a government that recognizes the right to self-defense. This fact alone should prove the merit of self-defense with America’s Christians.

Let us consider the amazing story of Nehemiah in the Bible. Israelites get permission to rebuild Jerusalem with Nehemiah at the helm. These were civilians picking up the pieces of a city long laid waste by war and neglect. However, these were not soldiers; they were civilians. Even so, they took positions by families around the wall as they rebuilt it (Nehemiah 4:13), and they did so with swords, spears, and bows. They did what was right and good, and they defended their brothers, sons, daughters, wives, and houses. Also, they carried their self-defense tools with them while they did their work (Nehemiah 4:17).

The book of Esther also shows how God provides His protection for His people by the king’s decree because of Esther/Hadassah’s influence. (She was his Jewish wife.) Esther 8:11-12 notes the king’s permission for the Jews in every city to gather together and protect their lives—to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them. The point to be made is this: People who are attacked have every right to use self-defense, regardless of their vocation.

Psalms tells us to defend the weak and the fatherless, to uphold the cause of the poor and oppressed, to rescue the weak and needy, and to deliver them from the hand of the wicked (Psalm 82:3-4). Ezekiel tells us to be watchmen, but if we are watchmen to tell people of the danger they face, we are obligated to tell them or the blood of the victims will be on the watchmen’s hands. This is a great verse for a survivalist/prepper. This verse can be applied literally or metaphorically. If the alarm is raised and people don’t heed it, it’s not the watchmen’s fault. God has enormously strong adherence to justice, because He is a perfect God. If a man would shed another man’s blood, it must be justified, such as in the case of a thief breaking into a house to do violence (Exodus 22:2-3). It makes perfect sense. We must operate in love, and love includes proportionate punishment. Some would say it’s about grace or mercy, or else humanity would never have made it this far. God Himself provided ways for mercy through His grace, including cities of refuge for those who accidentally shed blood and also for propitiation for sins (John 3:16). It is important to remember that killing should never be taken lightly, especially in the biblical worldview where a person only gets one life to live and after that there is judgment—no reincarnation or do-overs. God hates hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17).

It might surprise people that even Jesus had an expectation that his disciples might need self-defense tools– swords, specifically. (All of his disciples but one would be martyred when it was their time.) See Luke 22:35-39. Also, Jesus allowed the carrying of swords in his presence. That is seen not only in Luke 22:38 but also when Peter cut off the ear of the person seizing Jesus later that night when He was betrayed (Matthew 26:51-56). Though the intent of these verses are debated, it must stand that Jesus told them to get swords and He allowed them (for whatever purpose) at the dinner and prayer. He didn’t want them used wrongly. He scolded Peter for raising swords at that time, because the scripture needed to be fulfilled through Jesus’ capture, trial, and crucifixion. (Luke 22:49-53, Matthew 26:51-56, John 18:10-11).

Jesus was not a pacifist. A pacifist is opposed to violence (especially war) for any purpose. They refuse to bear arms. Jesus was and is the Prince of Peace and desires that all be saved (1 Timothy 2:4), but He is associated with war and weapons as being part of God (John 1:1-5, 10:30). In Revelation, he has a two-edged sword coming from His mouth, likened to the Sword of the Spirit– the Word. It has been said that His peace is so powerful, it is almost violent, as nothing can possibly stand against it. Jesus has been there since the beginning and will be there until the end (Revelation 22:13), so He is no stranger to violence and self-defense. He lived as an Israelite under Roman rule, and even as He was being kidnapped He stated, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53). No doubt these could have included some of the same angels sent to intercede on Elisha’s behalf in 2 Kings 6:17. Ironically—or most excellently—even though God strikes the Aramean army looking to capture Elisha with blindness (selective sight) because Elisha asked Him to do so, Elisha prays for their sight to return after delivering them to the king of Israel as a show of might and wonder to stave off their killing. It is believed God used that same angel army to get the Arameans to flee in 2 Kings 7:6. God also used an angel with a fiery sword to strike down Balaam, but his donkey saved his life. Two classic examples widely known of people pushing God’s patience to the limit that ends in justified violence is Noah’s flood (Genesis 5:32-10:1) and Passover, where the Angel of Death struck down every Egyptian first born human and animal male (Exodus 12:1-2, 6-7, 11-13). One story not commonly known is about a man, Phinehas or Phineas, whose line was eternally blessed with a “covenant of peace” for spearing a couple mid-coitus. The couple defied God’s commands and had sex in front of everyone at the tent of meeting. “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites. Since he was as zealous for my honor among them as I am, I did not put an end to them in my zeal.” (Numbers 25:11).

The scripture never discourages having self-defense tools. The condition of the slave throughout history is that slaves could not be armed; only free men could. This is a very profound realization. Once the Israelites got past their ignorance of self-defense and just cause (we can see their ignorance in how they responded to Moses’ defense of an Israelite) and God interceded, they went up armed out of the land of Egypt (Exodus 13:18). They were disarmed under the Philistines, who wouldn’t permit the Israelites to be armed (1 Samuel 13:19-22). (We know this region today by the Roman designation–Palestine–which is meant to be an insult to Jews.) Two of the Bible’s great and faithful warriors are Joshua and David. King David had nearly immeasurable experience with war and hardship, but he was a man after God’s own heart, and God blessed him for it. David tells us, “Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war and fingers to fight.” (Psalm 144:1) Don’t forget that as a youth, David used self-defense tools against predators of mere sheep—let alone humans—and even slew the mighty Philistine Goliath with them.

David’s son, Solomon, who was the wisest of all men (at least in the first half of his life) tells us that, “Oppression makes a wise man mad.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7). To submit to wicked men and institutions that deny the right to self-defense could be seen as submitting to Satan’s rule, and that is idolatry. God commanded government rulers, officials, and people to, “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” (Jeremiah 22:3). Any person or group that denies the right to self-defense, even if severely curtailed, are servants or dare we say slaves to those they must get permission from. “The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.” (Proverbs 12:24).

God reminds people again and again in scripture to care for those less fortunate, the oppressed, to protect what is ours and God’s (including our bodies, which are temples of the Holy Spirit). The Ten Commandments lay out love for God and humans, including codifying morality and private property rights (Exodus 20) and demand that we care. We must remember to be righteous, to be virtuous, to be just, and to be reasonable in our exercise of the natural and moral right of self-defense. A person could even make the well-thought out and self-aware choice that they are mentally or physically or ethically incapable of self-defense against people. However, it must never be said we do not have that right in God’s eyes—just that we shouldn’t ever have to, if we all loved one another.

Be mindful of what force will run amok as society decays, and what force loves us so much as to ordain the instruments of our protection.

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