Is it OK to defend your family and your home against thieves, murderers, rapists, meth-heads, and terrorists?
Thankfully, the bible speaks very clearly on this issue of home defense.
Home Defense in the Old Testament
In the Old Testament, God speaking through Moses graciously made exemptions for a home owner to lawfully kill an intruder if the homeowner feared for his or her life:
If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he [the thief] dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him [the homowner], but if the sun has risen on him [the thief], there shall be bloodguilt for him [the homeowner]. (Exodus 22:2-3) [emphasis mine]
The point of the law is that if an intruder breaks in and you are unaware of their intentions (e.g. are they going to kill or rape, or just steal some food because they are hungry?), the home owner who uses lethal force in defending his family and himself is innocent in the eyes of God and the government because self-defense is a basic human right and killing in self-defense is not considered murder. However, if you know that this person means no bodily harm and is a petty thief, you should not unnecessarily take a life. Don’t kill the thief, if possible. Let the authorities deal with the criminal.
Nehemiah’s self-defensive posture in rebuilding the protective wall under threat of attack also applies, but in a much broader context:
“So I [Nehemiah] strengthened our defenses. I placed men armed with anything they had on hand—the swords, spears, and bows they used to hunt [our hand guns and rifles, today]—at the vulnerable low sections along the wall that were exposed. I organized them by families. I stood up and addressed those gathered: nobles, officials, anyone who was close at hand: ‘Do not be afraid of these people! Instead, remember the Eternal, our great and awesome Lord. Fight for your people: your sisters and your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.'” (Nehemiah 4:13-14)
Look carefully at what Nehemiah says: “Fight for” (i.e., put up a self-defense) for…
- Your people
- Your sisters and brothers
- Your sons and daughters
- Your wife
- and your home!
And each family and their neighbors armed themselves with lethal personal weapons to defend against those who would do harm to them, just as one would arm themselves with a handgun today to protect their family.
Home Defense in the New Testament
And in the New Testament, Jesus also taught this truth so simply:
But you should know this: If the owner of a house had known his house was about to be broken into, he would have stayed up all night, vigilantly. He would have kept watch, and he would have thwarted the thief. (Matthew 24:43)
That, and the fact that Jesus instructed his disciples to acquire some basic supplies upon his departure including two swords for self-defense, helps us see the heart of God on this matter.
But aren’t we supposed to love our enemies?
Yes, God wants us to love and pray for our enemies and bless those who are mean-spirited toward us. But God also wants us to defend against evil and protect those who could become victims of evil intent, especially those under our care. When given this choice, we have no other option but to protect others from the evil intent.
Lethal self-defense is not murder or vengeance. It is simply stopping evil. And besides, Jesus was referring to enemies as those who hurt us with personal insults, being mistreated emotionally, and spiteful behavior; not rape, murder, child abuse, abductions. This also is clear from God’s holy and loving Laws where He instructs a woman to yell loudly if someone is trying raping her SO THAT someone comes to RESCUE HER. (cf. Deuteronomy 22:27) She is not told to “love her rapist.”
The best outcome is to protect the innocent, stop the evil, and bring the criminals to faith in Jesus Christ if we can stop them without lethal force. Sadly, that’s not always possible. In the end, we must remind ourselves that God has given people free-will. And their choices, just like our choices, have serious consequences.
Does this mean I don’t have faith that God will protect me?
Some Christians don’t even own a gun, much less pick up a gun to use it, or even lock their doors thinking that somehow doing so shows a lack of faith in God. I, too, wrestled with this at one time. But let us not forget that faithful men and women of old have armed themselves because they loved God and their neighbors. They were not remembered as faithLESS, but rather they are celebrated as the faithFUL: heroes of faith!
Faithful Nehemiah and God’s People
After all, Nehemiah was a great man of faith, and His faith led Him to organize armed self-defense for everyone in the city. Someone could’ve said that it showed a lack of faith for Nehemiah to order the families to take up arms. Wouldn’t God protect them?
And what about the wall? Why build the wall when God could supernaturally protect them? Couldn’t the same logic be applied? Couldn’t they be accused of a lack of faith by choosing to rebuilt the wall that protected the families?
However, we know that the bible commends them for building the wall and for being armed in self-defense. It was not a lack of faith at all, but the fruit of their faith!
It’s similar to us praying that the widows and orphans are fed and cared for and then not lifting a finger to do what God wants done. Couldn’t we apply this same logic and say it is a lack of faith if we go and feed the orphans because God could feed them supernaturally? While God does at times work directly and miraculously to meet our needs, God delights to work through His people!
And don’t forget our Father, Abraham, the father of Faith. He was a pilgrim and stranger on this earth, just like we are. He was justified by his faith in the Lord, just like we are. And by faith he armed 300 of his servants, pursuing Lot’s captors and recovering all the people with him along with their material belongings. It was after this that God blessed Abraham. And I could go on, but the point is that armed self-defense is not inconsistent with a vibrant faith in God’s provision and protection. Abraham trusted God!
Think about what the Lord told Joshua as he would soon be heading into armed conflict:
“No one will be able to oppose you for as long as you live. I will be with you just as I was with Moses, and I will never fail or abandon you.
“So be strong and courageous, for you will lead this people as they acquire and then divide the land I promised to their ancestors. Always be strong and courageous, and always live by all of the law I gave to my servant Moses, never turning from it—even ever so slightly—so that you may succeed wherever you go. Let the words from the book of the law be always on your lips. Meditate on them day and night so that you may be careful to live by all that is written in it. If you do, as you make your way through this world, you will prosper and always find success.
“This is My command: be strong and courageous. Never be afraid or discouraged because I am your God, the Eternal One, and I will remain with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)
If we are trusting the Lord to lead us and guide us, and even protect us through natural and supernatural means, we are walking in the same biblical faith that Abraham demonstrated, and Nehemiah, David, and Joshua!
In Guns We Trust?
No, we don’t place our faith in guns, door locks, seat belts, or any other natural mechanism. Rather, we place our full faith and trust in the One who has provided us ALL mechanisms – natural and supernatural!
This is His command: be strong and courageous! Don’t fear! Don’t worry. But don’t be unprepared, either! Be prepared spiritually and physically and He will do amazing things in and through you for His glory.
Our God is an awesome God!