Biblical Foundations for Self Defense

Written by Josiah Nichols

December 9, 2021

Self Defense

The Kyle Rittenhouse case has many people wondering is it right of self defense or others with lethal force. Should Christians let people kill them or others for the sake of the gospel? Is there another option? Those questions will be answered in the following article.

There is no passage in the New Testament that says you may kill people in self-defense. Yet, there are passages in the Old Testament which support self-defense and lay foundations for preserving one’s life with lethal force. How can these ideas be reconciled?

Old Testament Passages

  • Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (ESV). Mankind is created with inherent worth by being created in God’s image.
  • Genesis 9:5: “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.” (ESV). Men and animals that take the life of a human being deserve to have their life taken away.
  • Exodus 21: 12 – 14: “Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. But if a man willfully attacks another to kill him by cunning, you shall take him from my altar, that he may die” (ESV). People who unintentionally kill another person are not to be put to death.
  • Exodus 22: 2: “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him,” (ESV). People trying to rob and kill you can be killed without worry of blood guilt.

Debatable New Testament Passages

  • Matthew 5: 39: “But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (ESV). Some people use this to say Christians have no right to self-defense. Yet, this incident refers to someone being insulted and thrown out of a synagogue for the gospel of Christ.
  • Luke 22: 36: “He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one” (ESV). There are people who say here Jesus is telling his disciples to use self-defense; however, the context shows Jesus told them to get swords to fulfill prophesy that he would be “numbered with the transgressors” (v. 37, ESV).

Instances in New Testament Where Legal Self-Defense is Used

  • Acts 16: 37: “But Paul said to them, ‘They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.’ (, ESV). Paul used his right as a Roman citizen to show he and Silas were not criminals.
  • Acts 22: 25: “But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, ‘Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?’” (ESV). Paul used his Roman citizenship to protect him from deadly beating.

Conclusion

While there are no instances where an apostle used deadly force to defend himself, there is no reason to say self-defense is not biblical. A strong case can be made from the Old Testament for self-defense because all people are made in the image of God, God does not condemn those who kill unintentionally, and God demands the life of those who take the lives of others. The main difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is that the Israel was an earthly kingdom used for heavenly purposes, and the church is a heavenly kingdom awaiting the return of its heavenly king. While the church is not called to be an earthly kingdom, it can protect itself with earthly laws for the sake of spreading the gospel.

The United States has clear laws of self-defense based on the Bible. The Second Amendment outlines the right for the citizens of the United States to bear deadly weapons for the sake of self-preservation. This means when one carries a gun he or she is not inviting attack, rather asking to prevent it. If attack is ensued, then one has the right to protect oneself with deadly force.

The case has been made above that the Bible is ok with the Christian using self-defense laws to defend oneself, as long as the believer does not hinder the gospel message. It has to be done legally, and as a last resort. There are numerous passages of Christians fleeing persecution and bearing persecution for the sake of Christ. Each option should be made in a case-by-case basis.

I would also like to add that after all the evidence seen in the Rittenhouse case, the jury made the right decision by making a not guilty verdict. People should be able to defend themselves against an attack no matter how much melanin they have. Biblical self-defense is for everyone in the human race. We are all created in the image of God and worthy of respect.

If you want to get more resources on how to understand the Bible and defend your faith, check out the store at strivingforeternity.org/store. There are tons of Biblical resources that will help you build your faith. Lord bless you.

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