Christian and Self-Defense
"Should a Christian own a gun and use it to defend themselves?"
This question has been posed to me several times in the past week and it was in response to what tragically happened in White Settlement, Texas. On December 29th, a gunman entered the sanctuary of West Freeway Church of Christ and opened fire, killing two before he was stopped by Jack Wilson, a longtime member of the church and gun safety instructor. Jack Wilson was able to draw his weapon and take down the gunman in one shot, invariably saving the lives of those in the sanctuary.
It is no doubt that a bad guy was stopped by a good guy with a gun.
However, how do we reconcile self-defense with Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:39 where he says, “to turn the other cheek” and in verse 44 where he calls us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you”?
Well first off, we need to understand the context of what Jesus is teaching. Jesus is teaching about our response to religious persecution. In other words, if I am persecuted because of my faith, I am not to retaliate. Instead, I am to pray for their conversion and repentance and seek to do them good in the hopes of winning them to Christ. Even that persecution involves violence, I am to trust God and love my enemies, praying for them like Stephen, the first Christian martyr, “Lord, do not hold their sin against them” (Acts 7:60).
But not all violence is persecution. There are many things done with violence to Christians that have nothing to do with their faith. Case in point, what happened in Texas. As more details about the shooter are coming to light, it has been revealed that the reason why he walked into the church armed to kill people was not that the church believed in Jesus but rather, they didn’t give him the money he asked for. So, what Jack Wilson did was right. He defended people from an evil act and although tragically three people lost their lives, it could have been significantly worse if Jack Wilson hadn’t acted so speedily.
Biblically speaking we have a right to defend ourselves and others from evil. Rescuing people is a command that is taught in Scripture. For example, in Proverbs 24:11 says “rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter” and in Psalm 82:4, “rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked”.
Also, the Bible is not silent about defending your home from intrusion. Exodus 22:2 states, “if a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no blood guilt for him”. Let’s be real here, if I was awakened to someone breaking into my house, you better believe that I will do whatever it takes to protect my wife and family. I am certainly not going to stay in my bed and just pray him away. After all, God gave us reason and common sense.
Men especially need to understand our call to rescue and defend. God in his design has given men a measure of strength to protect and even though our culture so adamantly is about tearing down the institutions of gender roles, there is still a faint glimmer of respect and admiration at seeing a man uphold his duty to be a defender. Look at the popularity of comic book heroes for example. They are popular because they tell an old truth—a Biblical one—that those who have the strength and the ability to defend ought to do so and when they don’t, we recoil and consider them rightly villainous and cowardly.
How and when to use force requires discernment. If it comes down to using deadly force to stop an assailant, it should only be done when it is the absolute last resort.
Lastly, it is not sinful to own a gun or even carry a gun. As Christians we recognize the State as the one who governs and makes laws and up to this point, we do have the right to bear arms according to the Constitution. However, we should respect that right with wisdom, safety and ultimately faithfulness to God.