Can a Christian husband defend his wife against rape with deadly force, even if it involves a tyrannical regime or corrupt police?
Some Christians believe the sixth commandment, Exodus 20:13, prohibits them from defending their spouse, family, friends, or neighbors when their lives are in danger. They might think that Jesus’ teaching to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) is a reason. Other believers are convinced they should be able to kill someone in order to defend family members and others. Therefore, the question we are concerned with is, “Can a Christian use deadly force to defend self and family?” Deadly force can include knives, scissors, arrows, chainsaws, hammers, bats, clubs, sticks, pokers, guns, and more. We will examine Bible verses related to both non-defense and self-defense in this article.
Some passages that seem to prohibit the use of deadly force in self-defense will be considered first. For many, the sixth commandment of the Ten Commandments seems to prohibit self-defense. The King James Version (KJV) Bible says,
Thou shalt not kill. Exodus 20:13
But the actual Hebrew word that is translated as “kill” does not mean to cause someone to stop living. It literally means “murder.” In 1611, “kill” had the meaning of murder, and “slay” had the meaning of our current definition of “kill.” This means the sixth commandment does not prohibit self-defense.
Another passage that seems to prohibit use of deadly force in self-defense is Matthew 5:38-42. In this passage, Jesus taught that we are not to resist an evil person. If they slap your right cheek, then let them slap your left cheek. If they force you to go one mile, then go with him two miles. If he asks for your money, then give it to him. If we take this to its logical conclusion, then you would become a beggar on the street. For example, if a person wants your home and all of the money in your back account, then you would be obligated to give it to them. Should we force our wife, and children to be homeless?
An important example that reveals we have the right to defend ourselves is that the apostle Paul defended himself in Acts 22:23-25. When the apostle was arrested and they were about to beat him, he told the soldiers that he was a Roman citizen. According to Roman law, they were about to violate his legal rights. Paul defended himself. He did not “turn the other cheek.”
A third example, is given in Acts 8:1-4. There we learn that Christians fled when persecution broke out in Jerusalem. They did not remain in the city and wait to be killed. In Matthew 24:16-21. Jesus encouraged people to flee when organized persecution breaks out.
In summary, neither Jesus nor Paul encouraged us to be victims, but Jesus encouraged us to not seek personal revenge.
The rest of Scripture encourages self-defense, while encouraging us to not seek personnel revenge. A good example of self-defense is given in Genesis 14:1-16. In that passage, Abraham took a force of 318 men and rescued Lot and his possessions from an army of five nations. In the opening book of the Bible we find this example of self-defense.
In Exodus 22:2, Moses gave us this law,
If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. Exodus 22:2 (NASB)
You are allowed to kill a thief who breaks into your home. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that God allows us to kill someone who also threatens to murder you, a spouse, a child, a friend, or your neighbors.
Throughout Scripture we are encouraged to defend the weak, fatherless, the afflicted, poor, and those in need.
Vindicate the weak and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and destitute.
Rescue the weak and needy;
Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:3-4 (NASB)
Nehemiah 4:18 reveals that Nehemiah had directed protection for those rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. The verse says that the builders each wore swords. Why wear swords if you do not plan to use them?
The principle of protecting others also occurs in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 29:7 teaches that the righteous is concerned for the rights of the poor. But the wicked are not concerned. Proverbs 12:10 says that the righteous are concerned for their animals too. The verse continues to say that the passion of the wicked is cruel.
Maybe the strongest statement in all of Scripture about self-defense comes from Jesus Himself. In Luke 22:36-38 He told the disciples to sell some of their clothes in order to buy a sword. After the disciples said they had two swords, Jesus said, “It is enough.”
And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its 1fulfillment.” They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.” Luke 22:36-38 (NASB)
It is obvious that Jesus did not prohibit them from buying weapons that can kill someone. It is obvious that Jesus did not intend for them to use the swords to cut fruit. Mathew 26:52-53 tells us that Peter used his sword to cut-off the ear of the slave of the high priest, Jesus told him to put the sword away. It is an error to conclude this means we cannot use the sword in self-defense. That would be inconsistent with the above passages. Instead, the correct conclusion is that Peter’s action could have hindered Jesus’ arrest, and eventual death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
Scripture encourages self-defense while also warning us to not seek personnel revenge. The righteous will defend his wife, his family, his friends, his neighbors, the poor, the needy, the fatherless, the weak, afflicted, and his animals. So, can a Christian use deadly force to defend self and family? Yes!
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