As a Christian, Apostolic Teacher, and former Pastor, I am asked a lot of questions about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. I have always been a Second Amendment supporter. In light of recent National and International Terrorist attacks I have found myself in more open discussions concerning guns. Many of the questions and discussions have centered on whether or not it is appropriate for Christians to use guns in the defense of their lives and the lives of their families, friends, and other innocents. I have always believed that it is appropriate for a Christian to defend innocent life. Not only is it appropriate, it is their obligation. How that defense happens is perhaps the question of many.
In order to give an apologetic (defense) answer, I feel that I need to define a couple phrases. Almost inevitably, someone asking the question about deadly force in reference to guns, will use the phrase “shoot to kill”. That phrase seems to come with a lot of assumptions and attitude behind it. That negative connotation is expressed, especially when in reference to property and protecting the “stuff” in life (not people). In my Concealed Handgun License classes in Florida this was brought up and discussed. The point is that there are many circumstances surrounding protection of property, and “what if” questions are always abundant. The main point, to me is about the threat and the circumstances around the threat towards yourself and other innocents.
The other phrase though should be more common than deadly force, or shoot to kill is: “shoot to stop the threat”. Shooting to stop the threat is much less ominous, and in fact more appropriate for all cases when you need to react to that threat. Before continuing remember that all states treat various situations differently (unfortunately), and you need to be completely and fully aware of your state’s (and sometimes even city) laws and eccentricities when it comes to owning, carrying and using a firearm.
- In Psalm 82:4 (Lexham English Bible) it says that we are to “Rescue the helpless and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
- Nehemiah 4:14b (LEB) we are told to “…fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” These passages and others in like contextual reference, show us that we are required by biblical principles to defend innocent life, be it our families or merely the “helpless and needy”.
This defense is especially compelling when it comes to our own household.
- I Timothy 5:8 (LEB) states that “…if someone does not provide for his own relatives, and especially the members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” In New and Old Testament scriptures we find command in reference to providing for the defense and safety of our loved ones?
Now that we have mentioned defending yourself, loved ones and innocents, how this is accomplished in our fallen world is the next phase. I believe that scripture is clear that we can not only arm ourselves in response to life threatening situations; but skill at arms is presented in a positive light as well. We are expected to have the tools and to acquire the skills needed to fulfill our obligation in protecting innocents from the evil that is loose in the world. This is clearly demonstrated Psalms:
- Psalm 144:1 (LEB) “Blessed be Yahweh, my rock, the one who trains my hands for battle, my fingers for war—” and again in
- Psalm 18:34 (LEB) “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”
Yes, thee is the context of war, and not self-defense, but he the Lord’s teaching if focused on the training and the center of faith of being prepared in the proper use of arms.
- Luke 11:21-22 (LEB) tells us that “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his possessions are ⌊safe⌋. But when a stronger man attacks him and conquers him, he takes away his full armor in which he trusted and distributes his plunder.”
This passage of scripture not only allows specifically for armed defense, but serves as a model for what we refer to as the Castle (your home is your “castle”) Doctrine. The peoples of the New Testament were fully aware of our lost and fallen world. So, for me, stopping the threat is something that is part of my worldview and awareness of what’s around me. The most grand and exotic worldly possessions do not have the value of any human life. I would probably not use deadly force in defense of property, but I would not hesitate to stop the threat, to save the lives of family and innocents. Home invasions are not uncommon and having armed intruders is reason for defense and an attitude of wanting to stop the threat. Make no mistake, malicious people are in the fallen-world these days, in droves.
This “stop the threat” way of thinking is supported by scripture. On the other hand, we see clearly that murder is not permissible, but we should also understand that not all killing is the same as murder. Biblically speaking, we see that if the break-in occurs in light of day, deadly force is not automatically mandated. The point here, as I mentioned previously is that deadly force is not commanded simply to defend property. It shows that in the light of day it is possible to discern whether or not the intent of the malicious person(s) run deeper than mere theft. Today, as in Exodus-Bible-days, thieves who would enter your home under cover of night often have intentions that include violence, home invasions stand out in my mind. In the dark it must be assumed that there is a deeper level of threat and stopping the threat with deadly force can be an acceptable response.
The New Testament affords fewer references to arms and an armed defense. But Jesus does give us some insights into his thoughts on the matter:
- Luke 22:35–39 (LEB) 35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out without a money bag and a traveler’s bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” And they said, “Nothing.” 36 And he said to them, “But now the one who has a money bag must take it, and likewise a traveler’s bag. And the one who does not have a sword must sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this that is written must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was counted with the criminals.’ For indeed, what is written about me ⌊is being fulfilled⌋.” 38 So they said, “Lord, behold, here are two swords!” And he said to them, “It is adequate.” 39 And he went away and proceeded, according to his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples also followed him.
We see that Jesus wished for at least some of the Disciples to be armed, presumably for the purposes of defense. It is Important to note that the sword was the “assault rifle” of the day, so Jesus not only wanted his men armed but well-armed. Even when Jesus allowed himself to be taken by the Pharisees, and stopped his disciples from using their weapons to defend Him, he did not condemn arms.
- John 18:10–11 (LEB) 10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. (Now the name of the slave was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into its sheath! The cup that the Father has given me—shall I not drink it?”
Simon Peter was told to sheath his blade, not to abandon or relinquish it. Armed defense, although appropriate at times, was the path that Jesus wanted to follow at the moment. He had other things to do on our behalf, but that is another story.
Is it appropriate for Christians to keep arms for the purpose of defending innocent life from evil people in this currently, fallen world? It is. God in his infinite wisdom has seen to it that we are cleared to use this option should it be necessary. There is no inconsistency in followers of Christ, while striving for peace, using arms when called upon to do so. The use of deadly force to stop the threat is a tremendous responsibility though. One that should not be entered into in any but the most pressing of circumstances.
There are some home defense points and comments that I would also like to make that are part of the overall relationship in stopping a threat. The first thing I want to say is that whether your state laws require a permit or license and you have had training, owning a firearm does not make you invulnerable. Many times, especially people that choose to legally carry a firearm, tend to think that because they have this tool, that it will somehow keep them from violence. That way of thinking is a false dichotomy and incorrect. Every situation is different and always being aware of your surroundings should always be kept in the forefront of your mind.
Some firearms owners believe that a pistol is only there to help them “fight their way to their rifle or shotgun”. This too, is an incorrect perception of firearms in actual use. The majority of gun fights start and finish in less than 20 seconds. And they’re even more likely to be over in 10 seconds or less. As with any other tool, you should try to master it. Training and practice will help to make every shot count. Train and practice at every opportunity you get.
Training isn’t merely shooting paper targets at the range, though this may be the best available way to practice. Real threats move, and they’re fighting back. Nothing will ever make you 100% prepared for an active threat that needs to be stopped. However, the closer you get to the real thing, the more prepared you’ll be to stop the threat and defend your life and the lives of other innocents.
For firearm owners, there’s talk of something that is referred to as “stopping power”. Don’t let anyone tell you differently, in reality and this fallen and cursed world, there is no such thing as stopping power. It doesn’t really matter the caliber of choice. More often than not, the threat you face, will be on drugs. Illegal/illicit drugs have a way of numbing the mind and senses. There are many stories of drugged up criminals taking over a dozen shots, and still fleeing the scene. With that said, there is something to be said for larger caliber and specially made self-defense ammunition. But the best stopping power is whatever you have that you have trained and practiced with and are not afraid to use to stop the threat.
I really hate to say the next one, but keep in mind your particular neighborhood and where you live. You may want to think about whether you let your children answer the door and at what time of the day. Seriously, most home invasions aren’t initiated by kicking in the door, they generally knock first. And as soon as your child opens the door, they’ve got a hostage… or worse, their first victim. Just something to think about. Speaking of home invasions, they are not as rare as we might hope. Thinking that it might happen to you isn’t paranoia. There are more than 40,000 of them each year. Just go to Google and type in “home invasions”. The sheer number of stories that pop up will shock you. Again, of course, you will want to know your local area and ascertain your risk or not. The important thing to remember is that your home is your “castle”, and it needs a well-trained, armed, intelligent defender.
What we’re seeing today is not a gun problem; it’s a violence problem, it’s a moral problem; it’s a sin problem. We are witnessing the rapid deterioration of a nation, and Christian worldview. We have lost our moral compass and we have lost the fear of the Lord. When the fear of the Lord decreases, evil increases. “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both” (Dwight D. Eisenhower).
One of the Scriptures often used to support banning weapon-use (especially for Christians) is found in Proverbs:
- Proverbs 20:22 (LEB) – “Do not say ‘I will repay evil’; wait for Yahweh and he will deliver you.”
This Scripture is dealing with vengeance and vigilantism, not self-defense. Those who want to do harm will always find a way around the law. Restricting firearms is not the answer. For the Christian, self/personal defense is not about vengeance at all, let alone vigilantism.
Many people, including Christians misapply some scriptures, because they don’t understand that there is a different sphere of understanding when it comes to the authorities versus, or over and against the individual.
- “Men, in a word, must necessarily be controlled, either by a power within them, or by a power without them; either by the Word of God, or by the strong arm of man; either by the Bible, or by the bayonet”. (Robert Winthrop)
As Christians, I believe that we are to seek peace at every turn and not drape the cross with the flag. But what about self-defense and biblical mandates to protect when spouses or children are involved, especially? The Old Testament offers a plethora of examples, but what about the New Testament?
- Matthew 26:52 (LEB), Jesus says to Peter, “Put your sword back into its place! For all who take up the sword will die by the sword.”
Interesting scripture, but what you won’t find is Jesus denouncing the sword, instead He clarifies it’s place. When we take premature, emotionally charged action, it may cost us our lives. Then in
- Luke 22:36 Jesus says, “But now, let him who has a purse take it and also a bag. And let him who has no sword sell his garment and buy one.”
As a Christian, err on the side of peace, but this isn’t always an option. One thing is certain: A sword was for defense. Jesus initially sent them on a peaceful mission trip where they did not need these items, but now Jesus may have been saying, “I was your provision and your safety, and I still am, but I also want you to be prepared … to use wisdom.”
But some may argue, “Didn’t Jesus say to love our enemies, and bless those who curse us, and do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute us?” (Matt. 5:43-48.) Yes. However, these references refer to personal assaults, offenses and character assassinations. It is a quantum leap to believe that Jesus is saying, “Do good to those who are trying to physically harm your family.”
Paul tells Timothy that if “any do not care for their own, and especially for those of their own house, they have denied the faith and are worse than unbelievers” (1 Tim. 5:8). But those who seek to protect their family, which is often a greater responsibility (if not equal), are often labeled war-mongers, violent and accused of misapplying the Scriptures, if they believe in having and training to use a gun.
The Scriptures must be read in their totality. For example, when Jesus was slapped, He didn’t turn the other cheek. He said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why do you strike me?” (John 18:23). Although we are to err on the side of grace and peace, there is a time and a place for confrontation and protection. Understand that I’m not advocating violence or aggression; I’m advocating scriptural consistency and continuity. Context is the key factor here. Forgiving is not being passive, and granting grace is not being gullible.
Are we called to guard our families spiritually, emotionally and financially but not physically? This makes no sense. However, my concern with the current gun debate is that we are buying into the fear frenzy. A minimizing of sovereignty is directly related to a magnifying of worry.
- “Most Christians salute the sovereignty of God but believe in the sovereignty of man” (R.C. Sproul).
Many are prepared militarily but not spiritually, instilling unhealthy fear in their families. We are putting the fear of man into them rather than the fear of God. I hear all about Colt, Glock, Smith and Wesson and Remington, but little about brokenness, surrender to God and humility. Our gun safes are full, but our prayer closets are empty. This is the real problem—we need to spend less time listening to and watching conservative talking-heads, and more time reading Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Every time God’s people trusted in their weapons and armies, He called them to repentance. Our protection is in daily submission to Him.
- Psalm 121:1-3 adds: “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.”
Our current trend beckons us to be very careful about who, or what, we “worship.” Who, or what, we place our trust in.
This is an article, which I have taken some literary freedom with, but which I believe is a very timely article for today’s Christian.