Does God Approve of Christians Protecting Themselves
and Their Families with Weapons?
Lorraine Day, M.D.
The majority of Christians believe that the Bible approves of Self-Defense to defend one's own life, or at least the lives of one's family. Let us look at the arguments given by the Christian proponents of Self-Defense. The following are the texts they use to support their view:
"And if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." 1 Timothy 5:8
"If a thief be found breaking in, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him." Exodus 22:2
"A righteous man who falters before the wicked is as a murky spring and a polluted well." Proverbs 25:26
"And I looked and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, "Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." Nehemiah 4:14
"Then He (Jesus) said unto them (His disciples), "But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag (containing his money): and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. . . and they (the disciples) said, "Lord, behold here are two swords.' And He (Jesus) said unto them, "It is enough.' " Luke 22:36,38.
God, Himself, through Moses, gave the following law:
"If men fight, and hurt a pregnant woman, so that she gives birth prematurely, he shall surely be punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine.
"If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, an eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe." Exodus 21: 22-25
The sixth commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill," (Exodus 20:13). Since the word "kill" used here in the Bible is more accurately translated "murder," (Thou shalt not murder), Christians, including many Christian scholars, conclude that this commandment demands that there be pre-meditation and motive before the act of killing can be designated as "murder." Thus, it is argued, Self-Defense is EXCLUDED from the sixth commandment. Therefore, Self-Defense, it is believed, because of the evidence given in the other texts listed above, is approved by God.
The beliefs of pacifists, it is said, do not stand up to the harsh reality of our fallen world, nor can pacifism be reconciled to the clear teachings of Scripture, according to those that promote Self-Defense as approved by God. They quote the following text to support their views:
"There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is death." Proverbs 14:12
Larry Pratt, the President of Gun Owners of America, in his article, "The Biblical Principles of Gun Control," apparently believes there is no problem whatsoever for Christians to be involved in self-defense and the protection of their families.
In Charl Van Wyk's book, "Shooting Back: The Right and Duty of Self-Defense," the author states:
What does the Bible say about gun control?
"The underlying argument for gun control seems to be that the availability of guns causes crime. By extension, the availability of any weapon would have to be viewed as a cause of crime. What does the Bible say about such a view? . . . God's response (to Cain's murder of his brother Abel) was not to ban rocks or knives, or whatever, but to banish the murderer."
"Did Christ teach pacifism?"
"Many people, Christians included, assume that Christ taught pacifism. They recite Matthew 5:38-39 for their proof. In this verse Christ said:
"You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
The author, Charl Van Wyk, concludes that Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees only, the religious leaders of the day, and Jesus' message was, they say:
"there is a clear distinction between the duties of the civil magistrate (the government) and the duties of an individual. Namely, God had delegated to the civil magistrate the administration of justice (but) individuals have the responsibility of protecting their lives from attackers. . . Both the Old and New Testament teach individual Self-Defense, even if it means taking the assailant's life in certain circumstances," according to author Charl Van Wyk.
Mr. Van Wyk continues:
"Resisting an attack is not to be confused with taking vengeance, which is the exclusive domain of God (Romans 12:19). This has been delegated to the civil magistrate, who, as we read in Romans 13:4, ". . . is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.'
"Private vengeance means one would stalk down a criminal after one's life is no longer in danger as opposed to defending oneself during an attack. It is this very point that has been confused by Christian pacifists who would take the passage in the Sermon on the Mount about turning the other cheek (which prohibits private vengeance) into a command to falter before the wicked.
"Let us consider also, that the Sixth Commandment tells us: "Thou shalt not murder.' In the chapters following, God gave to Moses many of the situations that require a death penalty. God clearly has not told us never to kill. He has told us not to murder, which means we are not to take an innocent life." (Shooting Back, by Charl Van Wyk, pgs 72,72.)
Author, Charl Van Wyk, gives his explanation regarding Christ's order for Peter to "put your sword away," in John 18:10-11. Mr. Van Wyk believes that Christ did NOT mean, "get rid of it forever".
"That would have contradicted what He had told the disciples only hours before. Peter's sword was to protect his own mortal life from danger. His sword was NOT needed to protect the Creator of the Universe and the King of kings." (ibid. pg 75) says Mr. Van Wyk.
Mr. Van Wyk concludes:
"In the light of all we have seen the Scriptures teach to this point, can we argue that if we were able to save another's life by shooting an attacker with our firearmthat we should "turn the other cheek' instead? The Bible speaks of no such right. It only speaks of our responsibilities in the face of an attackas individual creatures made by God, as householders or as neighbours" . . .
"For those who think that God treated Israel differently from the way He will treat us today, please consider what God told the prophet Malachi: "For I am the Lord, I do NOT change. . .' Malachi 3:6." (ibid. pgs 76,77,83)
Let us now closely examine these arguments.
The FIRST question we must ask is, "Why did Christ come to earth?"
1. Certainly, He came to save sinners (John 1:29) but,
2. He also came to reveal the character of God (Heb 1:3) and
3. to be an Example for us to follow (Luke 9:23).
By the time Jesus came to earth, the leaders of the most religious group on earth, those who had been "Chosen" by God to exhibit the character of God and to preach the Good News of God to all of the surrounding nations of unbelievers, had so perverted and distorted the Word of God they had been given, turning it away from a focus on God to a focus on themselves as "Special" above all men, that it was necessary for God to come to earth in the form of man, Jesus, to reveal the exact and complete character of God, to show that God was vastly different from what men believed about Him.
But even the religious leaders were in such darkness, they did not recognize Jesus as God. They were looking for the Messiah to come in the image of "man," THEIR image of "man" - an earthly king who would destroy their earthly enemies, the Romans, and set up the Jews as the rulers over all other nations, an earthly kingdom, ruled by force by a "Messiah" who believed in destroying His enemies.
When Jesus refused to do this, when Jesus refused to destroy Israel's enemies, when Jesus refused to exhibit the emotions of vengeance as humanity does, the Jews refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah. They worshiped a "killer God," a God who destroys His enemies. Therefore, they would not believe that Jesus was the Messiah because He wouldn't kill!
In fact, their hearts were so severely darkened, because they worshiped a God who, they believed, kills His enemies, that they also felt justified in killing those THEY decided were God's enemies. By worshiping a "killer" God, they became like the one they beheld, they became like the one they worshiped. (2 Cor 3:18) Therefore, in their obsession against One who claimed to be God but refused to kill, they murdered Jesus - they murdered God!
Was/Is Jesus fully God - or just a partial representation of God?
Let's examine the texts:
A) "And she (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus (meaning Saviour); for He shall save His people from their sins.
"Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet saying,
" "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel which is translated, GOD WITH US.' " Matt 1:21- 23 and Isaiah 7:14
B) "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word WAS God.
"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. . ." John 1:1, 14
C) "God, who at sundry times and in many ways spake in time past unto the father by the prophets,
"has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of ALL things, by whom also He made the worlds (ages);
"Who being the brightness of His glory, and the EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON. . . Hebrews 1:1-3
D) "Philip said unto Him (Jesus), "Lord, show us the Father, and it will satisfy us:'
"Jesus said unto him, "Have I been so long time with you, and yet have you not known Me, Philip? He that has seen Me has seen the Father; and you say then, "Show us the Father'?"
Conclusion: All of these texts document, without a doubt, that Jesus is/was FULLY God! There is NO indication that Jesus was, in ANY way, an incomplete representation of God!
Let's examine the character that Jesus exhibited when He was on earth.
A. The Bible tells us that Jesus was/is the "Express Image of the Father." (Heb 1:1-3)
B. We are told that the Jesus was/is to be our "Example" to follow. (Luke 9:23)
Therefore, it is imperative to examine the character of Jesus, which is the EXACT and COMPLETE character of God because, becoming a New Creature in Christ, means to exhibit a character IDENTICAL to the character of Jesus.
We must focus on JESUS - - - and NOT on human beings!
We must focus on JESUS - - - and NOT on Israel!
"Israel" eventually became so corrupt and so wicked that they crucified Christ, they eventually murdered their Deliverer, the very One who had delivered them from slavery in Egypt!
Where and how did Israel go so wrong?
Israel began wandering far from God immediately after their exodus from Egypt.
When the Israelites left Egypt, they had NO weapons. They left with only their families, their possessions, their flocks, and "articles of silver and articles of gold, and garments" (Exodus 12:35) - silver and gold jewelry plus expensive yardage (material) - the things that were later used to build the tabernacle of the Lord in the wilderness.
I repeat, the Israelites left Egypt with NO weapons!
God had shared His "game-plan" with Moses for the deliverance of the Israelites. In Exodus 3:2-8, God talked to Moses through the burning bush:
"And the Lord said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people that are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their pain.
"And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land into a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey. . . Exodus 3:7,8
God said, "I am come down to deliver them. . ." God was going to deliver them. He did NOT need any help from the Israelites. God was showing the Israelites and ALL believers since then - up to and including the present time - that GOD is solely responsible for our deliverance from sin (symbolized by Egypt). We have NO part in our deliverance. It is ALL of God - and NOTHING of us!
GOD does the fighting - NOT man! God does the fighting in His OWN way - NOT in man's way! God is ALONE responsible for our deliverance!
THIS principle is the FOUNDATION of this entire study! THIS principle is the FOUNDATION of the complete answer to the question: Does God Approve of Self-Defense?
God's answer is that HE ALONE is responsible for our deliverance from both physical and spiritual danger!
When God delivered the Israelites from Egypt, He made sure they had NO weapons!
When Pharaoh pursued the Israelites, they seemed trapped between a mountain on one side and the Red Sea in front of them. The Israelites cried out to Moses,
"Didn't we tell you in Egypt, "Let us alone, that we may continue to be slaves to the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to be slaves to the Egyptians, than to die here in the wilderness." Exodus 14:12
"And Moses said unto the people:
"Fear not. Stand still, and see the deliverance of the Lord, which He will show to you today. For the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you shall see them again no more forever.
"The Lord SHALL FIGHT FOR YOU, and YOU SHALL BE QUIET!"
HERE IS GOD'S PLAN:
The Lord SHALL FIGHT FOR YOU, and YOU shall be quiet!"
THIS is where we must begin, in order to see what God's will is about "Self-Defense."
God's Answer is: "The LORD shall fight for you, and YOU shall be quiet!"
After God delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians by parting the waters of the Red Sea, after their enemies, Pharaoh and the Egyptians were ALL drowned, the Israelites:
"saw the great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people stood in awe of the Lord, and believed the Lord, and His servant Moses." Exodus 14:31
Then the Israelites rejoiced and praised the Lord. (Exodus 15:1-21)
But the faith of the Israelites was very superficial and very short-lived. They immediately began murmuring against Moses when they were thirsty - and hungry, and could not find water - nor food. GOD had told them HE would be their Deliverer, HE would do the fighting for them, HE would provide for them. But the Israelites constantly turned to Moses - they constantly turned to MAN - and NOT to God! They put their trust in MAN - and NOT God! (Exodus, Chapters 15 and 16)
An Enemy Nation Attacks Israel:
Then, the Amalekites, an enemy of Israel, came to fight with Israel in Rephidim.
"And Moses said unto Joshua, "Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek. . So Joshua did as MOSES had said to him, and fought with Amalek. . . And Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword." Exodus 17:9,10,13
It is VERY important to notice several things in this passage:
1. When the enemy Amalekites were coming against the Israelites, there is NO record that Moses consulted with God about how to handle the situation. Moses, himself, made the decision on what to do: "Moses said unto Joshua. . ."
2. Joshua did not consult God, either. Joshua did what MOSES told him to do.
3. The Israelites had, somewhere along the way, obtained weapons to defeat the Amalekites "with the edge of the sword."
The logical conclusion as to where the Israelites obtained their weapons (as they had NO weapons when they left Egypt), was from the weapons that floated ashore after Pharaoh and the Egyptians were drowned in the Red Sea.
This means that, even though the Lord had miraculously delivered the Israelites from the Egyptians by opening the Red Sea, the Israelites still did not trust God. Undoubtedly, they believed that a coincidence of nature caused a mighty wind to blow, and thus the waters of the Red Sea were parted. They completely failed to see the Lord's hand in it. Instead they immediately took up arms to take control of their own fate - to DEFEND themselves - to PRACTICE SELF-DEFENSE! Instead of leaving their defense to God.
The Israelites chose to put their trust in "MAN" - in Moses and Joshua and in themselves and their weapons - instead of trusting in God to defend them.
This was Israel's GREAT TURNING POINT - - - AWAY from God!
Over the next many centuries, up to and including the time of Christ, Israel continued to grow farther and farther from God.
The Character of God
Now, let's look at the character of God, in light of the fact that Israel had rejected God's protection and taken their defense into their own hands.
God could have walked away and left them to their own devices, to fend completely for themselves. But He didn't do that.
Even though the Israelites had chosen to fight for themselves, God did not leave them. God knew that the Israelites' decision would bring them much harm, disappointment and loss of life, compared to God's original Perfect plan of deliverance for them, by Himself ALONE. But God still remained with the Israelites helping them to minimize the disasters they would bring upon themselves by their own foolish decisions.
Because God remained with the Israelites as they fought their wars - rather than totally abandoning them, God has been falsely accused of endorsing: 1) war, 2) the use of weapons in self-defense, and 3) the destruction of the humanly-declared enemies of Christ and the humanly-declared enemies of Christians.
It was THIS DECISION by the Israelites, the decision to take up arms against the very first enemy they confronted after their deliverance from Egypt, the decision to defend themselves rather than letting God defend them, the decision to put their trust in man - in themselves - rather than to put their trust in God, that eventually led the Israelites - the Jews - many centuries later to crucify Jesus!
Their initial decision to run their OWN lives, rather than to let God run their lives, allowed their hearts and the hearts of their progeny, to become so progressively darkened that they could no longer discern right from wrong, they could no longer discern truth from error, they could not discern God in the form of Jesus, even when He was standing right in front of them.
Instead, they accused Christ of being controlled by Satan ("Beelzebub" - Luke 11:15), and they, the most religious people on the face of the earth at that time, cried out, "Crucify Him; crucify Him!"
And they murdered Christ!
God gave the early Israelites another chance!
God gave the early Israelites another chance to let Him be their deliverer, rather than the Israelites practicing Self-Defense. After God had told Moses to ask the Israelites to come to the foot of Mt. Sinai so God could talk to the people directly (Ex 19:9), the people became frightened and refused to have direct communion with God. They wanted Moses to talk to God directly, and then Moses could tell them what God said. (Ex 20:18-21) They wanted MAN as an intermediary between God and themselves.
It was only AFTER the Israelites made their OWN decision NOT to talk to God directly that God set up the entire system of civil laws for man to rule over man, and the entire religious sanctuary system where priests were ordained to be the intermediary between man and God. This whole system, both civil and religious, was set up by God IN RESPONSE to the Israelites desire NOT to talk to God directly.
This was NOT God's idea. This was MAN'S idea!
Even after all this, God still planned to bring the Israelites into the Promised Land WITHOUT bloodshed, WITHOUT the Israelites' weapons of war. God's Plan STILL was to deliver the Israelites into the Promised Land by HIS might ALONE, as He said in Exodus 23:28:
"I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.
"I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.
"Little by little, I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land."
God's Plan was to drive the inhabitants of the land out with hornets. God would do it ALONE! NO ONE would be killed or hurt, neither the Israelites, nor the inhabitants of Canaan. After all, the Hivites, the Cannanites, and the Hittites were God's children as well. Even though they were not worshiping God at that time, God still loved them. He wanted no blood shed on either side.
But, for the rest of their time in the wilderness, and their conquest of the land of Canaan, the Israelites were totally committed to battling for themselves. Oh yes, they asked God to be with them as they slaughtered others and were slaughtered themselves. They were willing to take God's advice, at times, but ONLY when it agreed with THEIR general plan of "Conquest by War and Weaponry."
The Israelites had chosen to do things THEIR way, rather than God's way. But even then, God did not leave them entirely alone. He helped them when they asked for His advice regarding the plans THEY had made. Because of this, God has been accused of ENDORSING their plans. But He did not. Instead, He met them where they were and worked with them to minimize the damage they would bring on themselves.
Here is a human illustration of how God interacts with us when we make our OWN plans, instead of following God's way:
There was a man named Joe who was against hunting and killing animals for sport. All of his friends were hunters, and repeatedly they asked him to go hunting with them. He always refused. They respected him but would taunt him now and then about his distaste for killing animals.
The man tried to instill in his son the same respect for animal life and never allowed his son to go hunting when the son's friends invited him.
Years passed and the son grew up to the age where he could make his own decisions. He then decided he wanted to go hunting with his friends. The young man's father was heart-sick that his training had not convinced the son of the wrong he was doing, but the son persisted in his determination to be a hunter.
Because the son was old enough to decide for himself, and the son had made the choice to be a hunter, the father had two options: 1) to let his son go hunting with only the knowledge that he could pick up from other hunters, or 2) to teach his son how to handle a gun safely so he wouldn't injure or kill himself or others and to teach his son how to shoot so the animal would be killed quickly and mercifully and not die a suffering death.
The father chose the second option. So he took his son to a shooting range and was in the process of teaching his son how to handle a gun safely and how to shoot on target, when who should appear but the man's old friends who had repeatedly asked the man to join them for hunting.
As the friends stood afar off and watched the father and son, they decided (wrongly) that Joe had changed his mind about hunting and now endorsed it. After all, it was obvious that he was teaching his own son how to shoot. They saw it with their own eyes.
But of course, the friends of Joe were VERY WRONG! Joe was still VERY MUCH AGAINST hunting. He had just decided to "meet his son where he was" and make the best of his son's bad decision.
Joe's friends had judged Joe wrongly!
The whole world has judged God wrongly in the same way. God NEVER intended that the Israelites take up arms to defend themselves. He repeatedly told them that HE would defend them, HE would fight their enemies, but NOT with physical warfare.
But when they refused to follow God's ways and insisted on following their OWN ways by fighting their enemies with weapons, God still did not leave them. They were, as we are, His children, and He helped them as much as He could, even with the disastrous plans they had chosen for themselves.
But because of God's kind and loving attitudes toward His errant, rebellious children, God has been accused of endorsing the perverse plans of the Israelites.
So, it is clear to see that GOD'S original Plan for Israel had NO place for human warfare or weaponry. GOD'S original Plan was for their deliverance from Egypt by GOD - and GOD ALONE!
ONLY after Israel chose to be their OWN plan-maker and problem-solver and deliverer, did God step back. But He still did not leave them. He worked with them in their lowered and more degenerate capacity, to attempt to decrease, at least somewhat, the terrible damage they would bring upon themselves.
So, we CANNOT use as our example, how Israel functioned AFTER they chose to reject God's way. We must focus on God's Initial Perfect Plan for Israel's deliverance.
God DID NOT endorse - NOR approve of - Self-Defense!
It was NEVER God's way!
It was SOLELY the Israelites' idea - AFTER they had rejected God's way and decided to run their OWN lives!
We must look at GOD'S ways - and NOT at Israel's ways!
We must look at the life of Jesus!
The Other Side:
Now, let's closely examine the texts that are used to support the claim that God's Word endorses Self-Defense:
1. "And if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
1 Timothy 5:8
When this text is read in context, it has nothing to do with protection of one's family from attackers or intruders. The passage, instead, pertains to providing for the elderly women and widows in one's family, rather than putting that burden on the church.
2. "If a thief be found breaking in, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him." Exodus 22:2
Let's look again at the chronology of that directive.
In Exodus 19:10,11, God told Moses to direct the Israelites to come to the foot of Mt. Sinai so God could talk to them directly.
God gave the Ten Commandments to the people in Exodus 20:1-17. Interestingly, the day on which God gave the Ten Commandments on Sinai corresponds exactly with the day of Pentecost, after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, when the Law was written on the hearts of the disciples in the Upper Room, and they received great power from on high.
God's intention at Sinai was to put the LAW into the hearts of the Israelites, so they would have a new heart, and do right because it is right - NOT just because there was a law written on stone. But in verses 18-22, we find that the people were terrified of God and refused to allow Him to talk to them directly. They told Moses to talk to God, then Moses could tell them what God said. They were afraid they would die if God talked to them directly.
Therefore, since the Israelites refused to allow God to have personal interaction with each one of them directly, it was impossible for God to put the Law in their hearts. Instead, God wrote the law on tablets of stone - a physical presence of the law - rather than a spiritual law written on their hearts.
It was only after the Israelites refused to allow God to put the law in their hearts (which would have made a human justice system unnecessary), that God set up a system where man would rule over man. Only then did God give penalties for thieves, murderers and those guilty of man-slaughter.
This was NOT in God's initial plan.
In addition, God gave them additional laws of conduct in Exodus 21:24,25:
"Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
These laws were given in Exodus 21, AFTER God gave the Ten Commandments (in Exodus 20) and the people refused to be in direct contact with God, they refused to allow Him to be there Leader and Ruler. They wanted to be led by "Man," to get their orders from Moses, not God.
So God gave them what they desired, a plan so man could rule over man in place of God. In that situation, God set down rules to limit their ruthlessness. He told them, "if someone puts out another's eye, the victim CANNOT respond in ANY way that is more vicious than what was done to him."
But this was NOT God's ideal. That's why Jesus said, in Matt 5:38:
"You have heard that it has been said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;
"But I say unto you, That you resist NOT an evil person; but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to Him the other also."
Jesus was telling them that now that He had come to save the world, the old way of doing things was no longer necessary or valid. The system of priests and sacrifices would be done away with, and there would be direct communication between the people and God. God will rule man directly, through His Spirit being in their hearts. Therefore, they would exhibit the VERY SAME CHARACTER that Christ exhibited when He was on earth.
3. "A righteous man who falters before the wicked is a murky spring and a polluted well." Proverbs 25:26
There are many texts in Proverbs that instruct the righteous against being influenced by the wicked, such as:
4. "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." Proverbs 13:20
There is nothing to suggest that Proverbs 25:26 refers to killing a wicked man. That would be contrary to everything else in the Scriptures. It is much more likely that is referring to standing for truth against the pressure from wicked peers. Jesus said, "He that denieth Me before men shall be denied before the angels of God." Luke 12:9
5. "And I looked and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, "Be not afraid of them: remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses." Nehemiah 4:14
Let us not forget that this passage, written by the prophet Nehemiah in about 430 B.C., was written approximately 1,000 years AFTER the Exodus, 500 years after King David's rule, 450 years after the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were divided, and about 200 years after the Israelites had been exiled to Babylon, the "model" nation for wickedness!
Even though Nehemiah was a prophet of God, the idea of warfare was so ingrained in the people of Israel, that pure trust in God for their safety was almost unthinkable. Just because Nehemiah chose to be armed and have his fellow temple builders armed, does NOT mean that God approved.
6. "Then He (Jesus) said unto them (His disciples), "But now, he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise his bag (containing his money): and he that has no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. . . and they (the disciples) said, "Lord, behold here are two swords.' And He (Jesus) said unto them, "It is enough." Luke 22:36,38
Over and over again, in the New Testament, the word "sword" is used figuratively, meaning "truth." Jesus said,
"I came not to send peace, but a sword." Matt 10:34
". . .the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. "Eph 6:17
"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write; These things saith He which
hath the sharp sword with two edges. . ." Rev 2:12
"And out of His mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations." Revelation 19:15
In these instances, the word "sword" is used figuratively symbolizing "truth" or "the Word of God." It is reasonable to conclude that Christ's use of the word "sword" in Luke 22:36, is also figurative and not literal. (Please continue reading, for the explanation.)
In addition, Christ used the words "garment" or "garments" ten times in the New Testament: Matt 9:16 (twice), Matt 22:11, Matt 22:12, Matt 23:5, Mark 2:21, Mark 13:16, Luke 5:36, Luke 22:36, Rev. 3:4.
In virtually every instance, the words "garment" or "garments" were used figuratively, NOT literally, such as: 1) the wedding "garment" of righteousness, 2) a parable of putting a new "patch" and an old "garment" compared similarly to putting new wine into old wineskins, 3) symbolizing the Pharisee's obsession for the adulation of the people, 4) "garment" symbolized possessions (Mark 13:16).
It is reasonable to conclude that here in Luke 22:36, the usage by Jesus of the word "garment" is also figurative, and not literal.
If Luke 22:36 were to be taken literally, Jesus would be telling his disciples to sell their literal clothes and buy literal swords. During Christ's time, people didn't have closets full of clothes, nor did they travel with luggage. Most of them only had one garment that they washed and wore over and over again. If they sold their one garment to buy a sword, they would be traveling naked!
In addition, when the disciples responded to Jesus' directive, which the disciples all took literally (because they had not yet received the gift of Pentecost. The gift of God's Spirit would allow them to think in Spiritual, symbolic terms, rather than only in physical terms - whatever they could see, feel, taste, hear or smell), they said, "Lord, behold here are two swords. And Jesus said unto them, "It is enough."
Obviously, two literal swords are grossly inadequate to defend twelve men who are being physically attacked. Jesus said, "It is enough," because He realized all too clearly that they didn't understand what He was trying to tell them. So, in this instance, as in many before and after this, He just let it drop.
What Jesus was trying to tell the disciples was to get rid of their "garments" of unrighteousness and, instead, replace them with the "sword" of God's Word, the "sword" of truth.
But the disciples were clueless. They had no idea what Jesus meant. So none of these texts, frequently quoted by supporters of Self-Defense, stand up to scrutiny. They, in fact, do NOT support Self-Defense!
We have looked at "Israel," at "man's" way of doing things - - - now let's Look at the Life of Christ!
We are told that Jesus is our Example: (Luke 9:23)
We are told that by beholding Jesus, we will be changed into His image: (2 Cor 3:18)
We are told that "the ONLY name among men by which we MUST be saved - is the name of Jesus!" (Acts 4:12)
We are told to follow Jesus. Live life as He lived it - doing ONLY the will of His Father - OUR Father!
Therefore, we must look at the life of Jesus - and take our eyes OFF of Israel.
The Life of Jesus:
Was there EVER a time when Jesus was on earth that He hurt or killed ANYONE?
Was there EVER a time when He defended Himself or others with physical force?
Often the story of Jesus' cleansing of the temple is used as support for the idea of striking back at others.
But read the story carefully. Jesus NEVER killed, or even hurt, anybody. Jesus, at no time appeared frightening. The Bible gives us the evidence:
"And the Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, and found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves and the moneychangers sitting:
"And when He had made a whip of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen: and poured out the changers' money, and overturned the tables;
"And said unto them that sold doves, "Take these things hence; make not My Father's house an house of merchandise . . .
"And the blind and the lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them." John 2:13-16, Matt 21:14
The "whip of cords" was held up as a signal for the animals to leave. That's the only
sign they understood. It was not used to hit either animals or man.
Immediately after the moneychangers and the animals left, sick people flocked to Jesus for healing. Sick people do NOT flock to a person who appears frightening.
Obviously Jesus did not scare them. They willingly came to Him, asking Him to heal them.
How Did Jesus Treat the Common People?
Watch how Jesus treated the "woman taken in adultery." He treated her with the utmost kindness. He was the ONLY one that didn't frighten her.
Look at the way Jesus treated Judas at the Last Supper. Even after Jesus knew that Judas had betrayed Him to His death, Jesus knelt and washed Judas' feet.
After Jesus was arrested, Peter denied Christ three times. Jesus looked at Peter with sadness, not anger.
Jesus NEVER struck back, regardless of how He was treated.
When Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, mocked, ridiculed, stripped naked, beaten and crucified, He NEVER fought back. He NEVER made ANY move to save Himself. His response was, "Father, forgive them, they don't understand what they're doing."
Jesus came to earth to be an example for us (Luke 9:23), to show us how to live, to reveal to us that
He came to do: ". . not My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." (John 6:38)
We are to follow His example. We are to put our full trust in God, knowing that He is Sovereign, that
"ALL is OF Him, TO Him and THROUGH Him" (Rom 11:36),
that NOTHING can happen to us unless God allows it, and if God allows it, NO ONE can stop it from happening. But God promises to go through the "fire" with us, as He did with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Dan 3:24,25).
God is in TOTAL control of everything. Satan cannot do anything unless God allows it. (See Job, Chapters 1 & 2). If God allows it, then it has to be God's will. And God says
"God worketh ALL things after the counsel of HIS OWN WILL." Eph 1:11
In the Old Testament, it was clearly God's Plan that the Israelites were NOT to fight physically. God was going to "fight" for them, instead. But God's "fighting" is very different from man's warfare. God was going to "fight" by opening the Red Sea, by driving out the Canaanites with hornets, etc. God never approved of men using weapons to kill each other. That was MAN'S idea.
In the New Testament, Jesus, by the example of His entire, perfect life, showed us that He does NOT now, and NEVER has approved of Self-Defense. He NEVER used it, and He NEVER even suggested it for others.
In Ephesians 6:10-17 we are told:
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to STAND (not fight) against the schemes of the devil. . .
"Stand therefore, having girded your waist with TRUTH, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;
"And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;
"And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.
"Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to STAND (NOT fight!)."
The armor of God that we are instructed to wear is Spiritual armor, NOT physical armor. And we are to STAND, NOT fight! God does the fighting for us because our enemy is spiritual and not physical, even if it appears physical, and we are incapable of fighting the battle ourselves.
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in the heavenly places." Eph 6:12
"He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it." (Matt 10:39)
When we deliver ourselves from danger by the use of deadly force, we rob God of His glory by robbing Him of His plans for us, whether to save us miraculously or allow us to die like He did.
Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said, "Our God CAN save us from the burning fiery furnace, but even if He doesn't, we will NOT bow down to gods and images." (Dan 3:17,18)
"Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul. . ." Matt 10:28
"They shall put you out of the synagogues; yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." John 16:2 "If the world hate you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
"If you were of the world, the world would love his own, but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.
"Remember the word that I said unto you, "The servant is not greater than his Lord. If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." John 15:18-20
Some say, "Well, I will certainly be willing to die for the Lord or His Word, but I'm not willing to die because a burglar breaks into my house."
But it's ALL about trusting God.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of LOVE, and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
"Fear not, for I am with you. Be not dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will uphold you with my right hand of righteousness. Isaiah 41:10
"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
"I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God; in Him will I trust. Psalm 91:2
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.. . . Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me. Psalm 23:1,4
We must put our entire trust in the Lord.
Well, does that mean I should leave my doors unlocked? Is it a sin to have a security system?
Of course not! We should lock our doors, and a security system is prudent if one can afford it. We are told NOT to be presumptuous. Jesus was tempted, by Satan, to jump from the pinnacle of the temple. Satan claimed that the angels would catch Jesus, "lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." (Matt 4:5,6)
But Jesus responded, "It is written, "Thou shalt NOT tempt (test) the Lord thy God." Matt 4:7 In other words, we are NOT to be presumptuous. We are to do the reasonable, non-violent things for our protection, but do nothing that can harm someone significantly or take a life.
What if one sees kidnapers kidnapping a child? Is one supposed to just stand there and let it happen? Or just stand there and pray?
Prayer is appropriate at anytime, even while you are tackling the kidnapper. But "tackling" is NOT deadly force.
What if an intruder comes in to rape a man's wife? What if a burglar comes in and puts a gun to your child's head? Doesn't a father and husband have a right and an obligation to protect his wife and children, even to the point of taking the life of the burglar or rapist?
If one owns a gun, or carries a gun, he has it for one reason and one reason only: He or she plans to use it if the occasion arises. He or she plans to inflict harm - or death - on anyone who comes after them.
The Bible explicitly tells us that,
"He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." (Matt 26:52)
But where does God fit into all this? God says that He is our Protector. We are to "Fear Not!" Do we trust God for our safety, leaving our lives in His hands? Or do we not trust that He is watching after us? If we have a gun in our hands, what does that leave for God to do? Some would answer, "God's job is to help us shoot straight so we can kill the one who is attacking us."
But that's not true. The Bible tells us to,
"LOVE your enemies (NOT kill them). Do GOOD to those who hate you. PRAY for those that despitefully use you." (Matt 5:44)
We are to
"Love our neighbor as ourself" (Matt 19:19)
and that includes NOT taking his life.
If we are not under God's protection, we are under the control of the Adversary. There is NO in-between.
As soon as we own a gun, or even have a gun in our hands, WE have taken over our OWN protection. We have taken our protection OUT of the LORD'S hands and put it in OUR OWN hands. We are trusting in ourselves, we are trusting in MAN - and NOT in God!
The Bible tells us clearly that,
"He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword." (Matt 26:52)
We are telling God that we do not think He is capable of protecting us - or that if He is going to allow something bad to happen to us, we prefer to run our own life, rather than having Him run it for us. We will not accept whatever unpleasantness He may allow us to undergo.
At that moment, we are NO LONGER under the protection of the Lord, who loves us and always knows what is best for us.
Instead, we are under Satan's control, under the control of the most wicked being in the universe, one who hates us and wants us dead!
Self-Defense means that we will kill someone else before he or she kills us or our family.
Self-Defense means that we are willing to KILL in order to "stop the KILLING!"
But does that EVER work?
The Jews and Arabs have been killing each other for thousands of years, and the killing NEVER stops.
If "killing - to stop the killing" works, then how about a pre-emptive strike at someone you think might be coming after you, as the U.S. did against Iraq? Is that the next step in personal Self-Defense? The Pre-emptive strike against Iraq was endorsed by the vast majority of Christians, so why not a personal Pre-emptive strike against our personal enemies?
What is the difference?
Jesus came to show that the ONLY way to stop the killing is to LOVE our enemies! That's what He showed on the Cross. That's why He never struck back. That's why He said, "Father, forgive them. They don't understand what they are doing."
The Bible tells us that,
"God is Love" - and "Love NEVER fails." (1John 4:8; 1 Cor 13:8)
If "LOVE" is the right way to respond to our enemies, then Jesus' way is right!
If "KILLING our enemy before he kills us," is the correct way, then Satan has been right all along because his premise is that the world CANNOT be ruled by "Love," it must be ruled by Force!
"But we are a Christian nation," the argument goes, "and our Bill of Rights says we have the right to bear arms."
Indeed, the Bill of Rights DOES say that Americans have the right to bear arms. But whom should we obey, God or man?
"We ought to obey GOD, rather than man." (Acts 5:29)
We, as Christians, have a higher standard than the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights. We OBEY God, rather than man. It does not matter what the Constitution or Bill of Rights allows or disallows if it is in conflict with God's Standard!
"But we are free BECAUSE our patriotic ancestors were brave enough to fight for our freedom," you say. "Where would we be now if our forefathers had not taken up arms against our enemies?"
The answer is: The option of "giving the problem to God' was NEVER even considered, except, of course, that the early patriots asked God to bless THEIR efforts to kill their enemies, asking God to bless the plans that MAN had made for his own Self-Defense!
We have no way of knowing how God would have worked things out if He had been given the chance, by our founding fathers, to do things HIS way, rather than for the founding fathers to do things THEIR way.
GOD is our Plan-maker, Problem-solver and Defender!
Those jobs are His. He does NOT share them with "man."
Whenever WE replace God at any one of those jobs, we have "bought" the Second Lie in the Garden of Eden,
"You shall be as gods. . ." (Genesis 3:5)
Then YOU have decided that YOU have the right and ability to run your own life instead of allowing God to make ALL the decisions in your life.
YOU have become your OWN god!
© Lorraine Day, M.D. 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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