There are two extremes on the subject of Christian self-defense: the pacifist and the solider saint. Both of them are wrong.
- The heart of self-defenders
- Offending God by defending yourself
- God’s chastisement for unbelief
- But Jesus said buy a sword
- Then why the instruction to buy swords?
- Did Christ teach pacifism?
- Putting faith in the Lord
- Weakness and fear
- Suffering for Christ
- What to do with your training and weapons
- But Jesus said don’t resist an evil man and turn the other cheek
Update: My thoughts on guns have changed. Basically, it’s not a sin to carry or learn martial arts just as long as you’re aren’t putting your faith in them and excluding God from your protection. In other words, ask God to aim your weapon and your foot. Be vigilant and brave because we live in a wicked world and self-respect requires self-defense.
There are usually two extremes on the subject of Christian self-defense: the pacifist and the soldier-saint. Both of them are wrong when it comes to self-protection. This article seeks to teach a balance between the two.
This article was sparked by a pastor who was justifying gun ownership specifically in relation to black people protecting themselves from KKK members and the like. And I’ve long known of a “Christian ministry” that teaches inner-city youth self-defense.
I don’t have a problem with people who practice some forms of self-defense. However, the scriptures are clear as to why these people do so and what will happen to them if they continue in such mindsets.
Thus saith the LORD; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm [strength], and whose heart departeth from the LORD. (Jer 17:5-6)
God is saying to everyone who puts faith or trust in their own means, or other men, that they are cursed. Cursed means to be without favor, having misfortunes etc. How does this pertain to gun ownership and self-defense? The keyword in the scripture is “trust.”
When it’s late at night and you hear rumbling at your back door, assuming it could be someone seeking to rob or harm your family, what do you do? Do you immediately reach for your revolver? If so, you’ve just shown that you trust in a gun to protect your family and not God.
If you and your wife are out walking and find yourself in the dangerous company of evil men bent on doing some harm, what do you do? Do you begin to size up your opponents and remember your Kempo training? If so, you trust in your martial art abilities rather than God. In both cases, you trust in your own human strength rather than God’s.
The heart of self-defenders
God exposes the heart of those who trust in their flesh when he says, “whose heart departeth from the LORD” (vs 5b). They trust in human flesh because their hearts have departed from the Lord. This is why Jesus said to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Matthew 22:37).
The children of God who practice self-defense and carry guns for protection haven’t given their WHOLE heart to God and therefore trust in their own strength for protection. They don’t really believe God’s word when he says that he is their protection. Christians who hold a black belt, or a gun permit, also hold the mindset of the world which states: “The strongest survive.“
The kingdom of Satan is like a jungle full of wild animals and its citizens are like infant bastards discarded to fend for themselves. But this is not so for the citizens of the Kingdom of God who have a loving father who loves and protects them.
So, for those apart of this perishing world, their mindset is perfectly acceptable and quite wise. But for the saints, this is perverted thinking.
Offending God by defending yourself
Kung fu Christians and gun-slinging saints is just another expression of pride. Show me a man full of pride and I’ll show you a man who carries a gun and who practices martial arts. He believes he can take care of himself. He doesn’t need God, nor does he want to submit to God and allow his creator to protect him.
For people like this, they must protect themselves because they don’t trust God to do it. And I encourage any saint with this mindset to continue carrying his/her gun and attending self-defense classes because God is NOT your protection right now and you don’t believe him enough to rest in his strength.
I repeat: don’t give up your guns or training until you’ve made the decision to trust God at his word. If you attempt to do this (outside of faith) it won’t work for you, and Satan will just put you in a situation where you wish you had your gun again.
A former army buddy of mine said, “I’d rather have it and not need it, than need it and not have it.” He put his trust in his small firearm because he didn’t have a heavenly father. His statement is true for him because of the world he’s apart of, but it’s erroneous for the saints to think this way.
Look at this from God’s perspective: He’s thinking to himself, “You mean to tell me, being the almighty God and your father, that I can’t protect you from some mere humans? … Protect yourself then!”
You’re offending God when you store up a weapon or rely on self-defense training as your means of salvation. No. God is your protection.
God’s chastisement for unbelief
For God’s stubborn children who maintain that their own flesh can save them, God allows them to fail. God will show them that their strength is insufficient. This means that that proud karate student might win those first few fights, but there’s coming a day when he’ll be defeated and humiliated badly.
That homeowner might successfully fend off that burglar with a few warning shots, but one of his children might find his gun and accidentally shoot himself. Anything could happen when man is at the helm and not God. It’s all left up to chance when God is not the protector.
The world is crazy. You simply don’t know how far people are willing to go in extreme situations. You don’t know their level of training or how many guns they’ve got, or how much ammunition they’ve stored.
To take your own limited mind into a battlefield jungle with unlimited scenarios and say to yourself, “I got this,” is just plain stupid. I’d rather let God handle all that. But if a man opts out of God’s protection for his own strength, he will eventually bear the curses.
The principle is clear in scripture: God is your protector (IF you are his child). Here’s what the word says:
- The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler [shield], and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. (Psalm 18:2)
- The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. (Proverbs 18:10)
- The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
- In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me. (Psalm 56:4)
- I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. (Psalm 91:2)
The word of God is clear as to who the protector of the saints are and it ain’t ourselves.
But Jesus said buy a sword
Let’s look at what Jesus said again:
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 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. 37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. 38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough. (Luke 22:35-38)
We see here that Jesus instructs his disciples to buy some swords. From this passage, Christian gun owners suggest that Jesus condoned self-defense and protection and that it’s OK to not only own a sword, but whatever type of weapon used to defend one’s self.
There’s a problem though. There were at least 12 men in this picture including Jesus. How is it that 2 swords is enough? Certainly everyone needs to be armed to defend against what was about to happen next. This is what happened after Jesus prayed for a little while and caught his friends sleeping:
47 And while he yet spake, behold a multitude, and he that was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them, and drew near unto Jesus to kiss him. 48 But Jesus said unto him, Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss? 49 When they which were about him saw what would follow, they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword? 50 And one of them smote the servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. 51 And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far [or, enough of this]. And he touched his ear, and healed him. (Luke 22:47-51)
There was a mob of men coming to arrest Jesus, and his disciples surrounded him to protect him. One of them asked if they were to use the swords Jesus mentioned earlier to defend Christ. At that same time, Peter just went ahead and slashed a man’s ear off (John 18:10). Jesus never told Peter or anyone to defend him.
Next, Jesus commanded his men to cease from that defensive posture and Christ healed the man that was injured by Peter. Jesus continues with these words in Matthew:
52 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. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:52-53)
Jesus is telling them that to live by the sword, one will perish by it. Jesus is echoing his father’s words in Jeremiah about being cursed for trusting in one’s own strength. Then Jesus reveals who he places his strength in: The Most High.
The Son of God said he could’ve called 12,000 angels to protect him and it would’ve happened. This is the faith of Christ and the same faith we should have in the Father as well.
Then why the instruction to buy swords?
If the swords weren’t for the defense of Jesus, because he was to be taken and die for the sins of the world, then what were they for? All we have to do is look back at the prior verse, 35:
35 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 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. (Luke 22:35-36)
The first time Jesus sent them out to preach the gospel it was for a short journey (Luke 10:2-9). They were ordered to bring nothing with them because they would be fed and provided for by the people they evangelized.
Now the time would come when this was not the case. After Jesus was to be tried and crucified, they needed to make provisions for themselves because the people wouldn’t be so open. So they were to take their wallet (purse), an extra pair of sandals (shoes) and a scrip (a large backpack or leather sack in which travelers carried their provisions). And if any man didn’t have a sword he should buy one. This was all about near future preparation. It’s important to note what kind of sword Jesus was referring to.
When you look up the word sword in the Strong’s Greek Concordance, it refers to a knife or a dagger as well:
Sword (G3162) – μάχαιρα
Probably feminine of a presumed derivative of G3163; a knife, that is, dirk [dagger]; figuratively war, judicial punishment: – sword.
I believe it was a multi-purpose knife. One that could be used for cutting food, killing small animals and defending one’s self against attackers. Here’s the close-up of the above painting:
We see here that the artist depicts Peter with a knife which was also called a sword and rendered so in most Bible translations. I’m not saying because the artists figured it to be this kind of knife, that it is. Another painting, which I won’t show here, shows Peter with the same kind of sword attempting to defend Jesus.
The scriptures tell us that they already had two swords or knives with them prior to them buying more later and Jesus said it was enough. The type of sword is important because is shows that it wasn’t a fighting sword. Jesus’ disciples were not soldiers for the Lord’s earthly kingdom because Jesus said plainly to Pontius Pilate:
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. (John 18:36)
This is why I know the sword was not one of those army swords but rather a large multi-purpose knife used for cutting food, killing small animals and deterring robbers. So all Jesus was telling his disciples to do was to make provision for yourself as you journey to preach the gospel after I’m gone.
Did Christ teach pacifism?
Since Jesus told them to buy swords, and Peter knew their type of swords could also be used defensively, while he was out of line for protecting Jesus, it’s clear in scripture that Jesus was fine with self-defense and didn’t teach pacifism.
Jesus was not a pacifist himself. Christ defended his father’s house when he overturned the tables, slashed his wipe, and drove out the merchants from the temple (John 2:15). That was an aggressive and violent move on the part of Christ—something you’d never catch a pacifist doing. The Messiah is also coming back to destroy the wicked with the sword of his mouth—again, not passive.
But where are the scriptures where the disciples physically defended themselves with those knife/swords Jesus said they should purchase? Just because there’s no scriptures showing the saints defending themselves, doesn’t mean they didn’t.
If someone startled you, attempting to hit you with a stick, what’s your first bodily reaction? Your arms would raise to protect your head, and if you end up on the ground, your body would curl into a fetal position. In that instant you would be defending your vital body parts from harm. It’s natural. God built that into us. We all practice a form of self-defense in certain circumstances.
Likewise with your family or your children, it’s righteous to protect your loved ones. In the case of someone trying to hurt me and my wife in the street, my first reaction is to shield my wife. I’m defending her. God isn’t looking down and saying, “What are you doing? You’re suppose to let me do that!” No. God is protecting my wife through me; and it’s up to us to trust him for the continual protection of both of us.
The disciples of Christ didn’t need to physically defend Jesus because he was sent to die anyway, but we also see prior to Jesus’ ordained time to die, there were at least five attempts on his life, but God made a way of escape (Matt 2:13, Luke 4:28-30, John 8:57-59, John 10:31, 39).
Just like Christ, we have a God that will make a way of escape in the mist of danger if it’s in his will. We also have angels to ward off evil people and we have the Holy Spirit to help us avoid danger altogether.
Putting faith in the Lord
If someone is breaking into your home at night, I believe we are to deter them as much as possible and prevent them from hurting our family. While items can be replaced, we have a duty to protect our family. The first thought should be the Lord’s deliverance. If we have a pistol, we should brandish it, or burst some warning shots off. If the intruder still wants to advance, they could be killed.
Your focus should be on the Lord and his ability to protect you. You should be in prayer for his deliverance and asking him what to do. Your attitude shouldn’t be, “I got this, I wish somebody would come up in my crib!” That’s a proud attitude, one that doesn’t rely on God, and one that could get you or your family hurt.
Your reliance and strength should be in the Lord. Be like David when he said:
For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. But thou [the Lord God] hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. (Psalm 44:6-7)
The sin is when we place our faith in our weapons, our swords, our guns, and our martial art training with the fallback being God (if we consider him at all). When you buy that gun, or attend those classes thinking to yourself, “This is my salvation,” you are cursed.
Weakness and fear
Taking up physical training and purchasing a weapon has everything to do with how weak you know you are, and the fear that comes with knowing that, but how a black belt or a pistol makes you feel strong.
Knowing how weak you are is healthy, but putting your trust in your own means of deliverance is faulty (if you are his son or daughter). And of course, we know he hasn’t given us a spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).
Do you think the matured apostles of Christ walked around fearful? No they didn’t. They knew they were in the hands of God. This scripture probably roamed their soul:
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
So my point is this: We don’t need guns and self-defense training, just reliance on the Lord. But if you got them, use them, but don’t rely on them. Put your faith in the Lord for protection. Look to the Lord for his protection and not your fists and your revolver. I believe God’s power in us is more than enough than our own flesh even with these carnal extensions.
This passage comes to mind:
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
Suffering for Christ
Just because it’s righteous to protect ourselves or others from harm doesn’t mean we get to opt out of experiencing persecution for Christ’s sake.
Many so-called Christians seek to integrate and never say anything that would offend the world because they’re trying to avoid persecution. Here’s what the word says about that:
- For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake (Philippians 1:29)
- Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)
- Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… (Matthew 5:10-12)
- And whosoever doth not bear his cross [which includes suffering], and come after me, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27)
- Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. (Luke 17:33)
I also suggest further study of 1 Peter 4:12-19. Anyone actively avoiding persecution for Christ’s sake isn’t a follower of Christ.
What to do with your training and weapons
For all those who have education in the martial arts, I’m not saying don’t use it. If you’re in a hostile situation, put your confidence in the Lord and make your move.
If you were about to sign up for a class, I’d encourage you not to. You should meditate on the scriptures about God’s protection and trust in him (Hebrews 11:6).
There’s no record of his disciples practicing some form of martial art or creating some Christian self-defense academy. You know why? Because it ain’t necessary when you’ve got an almighty God in front of you!
True saints trust in God and put no stock in their flesh. So I would say it’s a sin to pick up training after understanding that God is your protector, and it would be a sin to continue your training in such a class after knowing this truth.
Another reason why I’d avoid self-defense classes is because some have a foundation in spiritualism where demons give you power to kick, jump and punch. Now you’re possessed with devils and can’t even be used by the Holy Spirit!
A false Christian once told me, while encouraging me to join a class like that, that “We’d just replace those spirits with the Holy Spirit.” What?! The Holy Spirit is not the Force from Star Wars where you can wield him for your own use. That was just verification that this man knew nothing about the Holy Spirit!
Trust God, saints, you don’t need defensive education.
If you’re own a gun and feel convicted to give it up, do so, but don’t do it until you’ve made the decision to trust God. If you were planning on buying one and getting a permit, I’d encourage you not to. You should meditate on the scriptures about God’s protection and trust in him (Hebrews 11:6).
If you’re not convicted by the Holy Spirit to give up your gun, keep it. Certain types of guns can be used for other means like hunting for food. But if used for defense, be led by the Spirit and look to your Lord as your protector and not your weapon.
Remember, the swords Peter and they had were more like large butcher knives in your kitchen. That’s a multi-purpose item. Yeah, you could defend yourself with it, but it’s really for cutting up meat and vegetables.
What the disciples carried was not equivalent to the revolvers and the 9mm of today. You are not like Peter and the disciples. You’ve got more than a kitchen utensil. You’ve got a device specifically designed to kill men.
But Jesus said don’t resist an evil man and turn the other cheek
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. (Matthew 5:38-41)
Jesus was not prohibiting us from self-defense. He was teaching us to give up personal revenge. Let’s briefly study that passage in context. First, the book of Matthew was written to the Hebrews. They all knew that Jesus was speaking about the Law referenced in Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20.
These were laws given to Israel to limit punishment in return for personal injuries. Without them, people would go too far with retribution. Jesus was now calling his followers to give up revenge and allow the Lord to handle it.
Jesus’ extreme words aren’t to be taken literally just the same as when he said we should cut our eyes out, or our hands off if they stumble us (Matthew 5:29). However, our abnormal response to insults will look that extreme to those of the world.
So basically, if someone provokes you to fight, don’t engage them. Let the insults go. Back then, a fight was initiated with a slap on the cheek. Today, we are not to “clap back” in revenge, but to let the Lord avenge us.
It’s the same in a lawsuit where we lose—just let it go. We need to understand that the Lord is our protector and our avenger (Romans 12:19).
This was a new mindset Jesus was trying to install into his followers. A mindset that trusts fully in God in all areas of life. Before, people provided for themselves, avenged themselves and protected themselves. This is the way of the world, but not for the children of God. God is the one that will take care of us. All we need to do is seek his kingdom first (Matt 6:33). And this is how the kingdom of God works: Everyone just gets taken care of by the Most High. Plain and simple. There’s no need to take care of ourselves.
My wife and I are personally experiencing that provision, protection and even the vengeance of the Lord as we watch him remove and punish people who’ve spoken against us.
But in circumstances where someone persists in doing us harm (aside from the gospel’s sake), we have the right to deter, deflect and defend ourselves and our loved ones. Even strangers. It wouldn’t be right to see someone being attacked and not do anything about it.
However, in all instances, we must be led by the Spirit, and we must put our trust in the Lord. Remember, “Cursed is the man that puts trust the flesh” (Jeremiah 17:5).