What Does The Bible Say About Defending Oneself And Family?

I am going to touch upon a topic that I believe is pertinent for followers of Christ; the topic of self-defense/family defense.  Please remember that I am not a pastor or preacher, I am a child of God who seeks to express my thoughts, ideas, and beliefs as the Holy Spirit guides me.

The first question is, “Can I defend myself if someone means me harm?” Most of us have heard the Bible verse where Jesus says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” With this verse, some people say that this is a commandment not to defend oneself; however, I disagree, one must look at this in context. In this passage, Jesus is instructing His followers not to take the Law into their own hands; this can be seen by the preceding section of this split verse where it speaks of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” – only the Pharisees could enact those judgments upon somebody, and that was only after a trial. When Jesus says to “turn the other cheek”, He is saying not to hold malice to an evil person as they will be judged for their evilness against you. In addition, look at the example Jesus uses, a slap against a person; a slap hurts, a slap embarrasses, but a slap does not kill or maim.

We have heard it said that we must love our neighbor; well, the actual verse is Mark 12:32 where Jesus is speaking of the two greatest commandments and says, “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself.” In this commandment Jesus says we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves; but who is our neighbor?  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus explains who your neighbor is; your neighbor is the one who you are supposed to be, the one who demonstrates the Lord’s ways. In this parable, Jesus excludes two others as not being the man’s neighbor because they meant him no goodwill.  With that in thought, now think on the meaning of Mark 12:32; “love your neighbor as yourself.”  We are commanded throughout the bible to be neighborly and help others, but we are not commanded to love the un-neighborly who means us harm.  We have all heard that one of God’s  commandments is, “thou shalt not kill”, and Jesus reaffirmed this when he said that all who are angry with their brother is just as guilty as if they had committed murder. Let us look at the commandment concerning “Thou shalt not kill” in Exodus 20:13 first: In the Hebrew, the verse says not to “ratsach”. Ratsach means to kill, slay, or murder; the meaning depends on the context of use.  In the King James Bible, this commandment was initially written as “thou shalt not kill”; however, now most translations change it to mean as it was contextually written, “Do not murder”.  If one looks into the context of the commandment, one sees that it must mean murder since we were directed in the Bible to kill those who kill others (Leviticus Law), kill for food and sacrifices (Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus to name a few places), and to kill to defend ourselves and families (think of David and Goliath, Gideon, and so on).  To murder is to take a life with malice, this is what this commandment forbids; life is very precious, it is a gift from God and shall be held in very high regard and dealt with justly.  Keeping this in thought when thinking on what Jesus is commanding, we now see that Jesus is saying not to wish ill will, death, or to have anger against one you call your brother; Jesus is not saying we are not to defend ourselves, He is saying that we are not to have anger to our “brothers”.  This brings into another question, who is your brother?   In the days of Jesus, all words had strong meaning and were used cautiously and for purpose.  During the time of Christ, the term “brother‟ was used instead of “Christian”; so this means that a “brother” is a person who has been born again as a child of God, they have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, AND they follow His teachings and commandments.  I add that a person must follow Jesus’s teachings and commandments to be called a “brother” because of 1 Corinthians 5:11.  In Paul’s letter to the Church of Corinth, Paul states that if someone professes to be a follower of Christ and is not acting in a Christ like way, they are not actually a follower of Christ and need to be corrected; and until they correct their ways, they are not to be associated with – they are not “brothers”.
Now let us look at a verse Jesus spoke to his disciple’s just a few hours before Jesus was
arrested: Luke 22:36, Then He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money-bag should
take it, and also a traveling bag. And whoever doesn’t have a sword should sell his robe
and buy one.”  This is a hotly debated verse because many think it goes against the
teachings of Jesus Christ; they say that Jesus would never speak of arming oneself.  Some go on to say this is not speaking of literal swords, but swords of the Spirit.  I disagree with the thoughts that this meant swords of the Spirit; I see this as speaking literally since you cannot sell your clothing to purchase a spiritual item.  Acts 8:18-20 says, “When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power too, so that anyone I lay hands on may receive the Holy Spirit.”  But Peter told him, “May your silver be destroyed with you, because you thought the gift of God could be obtained with money!” – For this verse, please keep in mind that the Simon in question is not the apostle Simon, but the magician Simon who was trying to be a Christian but didn’t quite understand what being a Christian was.  With this in mind, I see Luke 22:36 as meaning that Jesus is telling His disciples to prepare themselves for attack and persecution from others because of their beliefs.  Jesus is not telling them to attack non-believers; He is telling them to prepare to defend themselves against attack.  Jesus had already told His apostles that they would physically die for their faith; that they would be attacked as He was because they will be considered outlaws and rebels like Jesus was.  You might ask how I can say Jesus was considered an outlaw, and for that I present Isaiah 53:12, Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.”  In Matthew 27:38, “Then two criminals were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left.” Jesus is crucified side by side with two criminals; this act states that Jesus is considered a criminal, an outlaw since only outlaws were sentenced to crucifixion.  And finally, Luke 23:33, “When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left.”  Again, here is further confirmation that Jesus was considered a criminal and was killed as such, even though He was truly innocent.

Now, as Jesus was being arrested, Peter uses his sword to defend Jesus; when this is done, Jesus says, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword.”  Is Jesus now going against what He just told His disciples just moments before hand? No, here Jesus is instructing His disciple not to defend Jesus, Jesus could defend Himself if He so chose to do so. Jesus says that “all who take up a sword will perish by a sword” – to “take up” means to go against, as in to take the fight against God’s will; to go against God’s will is to sin, and to sin is death.  All that was taking place in the garden was God’s will, so Jesus was instructing His disciples to not take the fight to the Pharisees because God’s will had to be done.

The second question is, “Can I defend my family if someone means them harm?” 1 Corinthians 11:3 states, “But I want you to know that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of the woman, and God is the head of Christ.”  To me, the head is the protector of the body. God is the protector of Christ since God is the head of Christ.  Christ is the protector of man because Christ is the head of man.  Man is the protector of his wife and family because man is the head of the woman.  This is demonstrated by Jesus dying on the cross even though He could have commanded the angels to save Him.  With Jesus’s death, He gave eternal life to His body.  As 1 Corinthians 11:3 states, God is the Head of Jesus; God the Father could have saved Jesus on the cross, yet it would not have served the Will of God since Jesus had to die so that we may live.  Jesus chose not to save Himself, He knew that His Father was there to watch over Him and that His will had to be done.  Jesus made the choice not to defend Himself, it was His choice.  Again, I will use Matthew 26:52 to demonstrate, “Put your sword back in its place because all who take up a sword will perish by a sword”; we are not to take up arms against others, because the taking up of arms is to go out with malice and premeditation.

So my answer to these two questions is thus: As a follower of Christ, I am to defend myself and my body (families) against those who wish us harm.  If I, or my family, is attacked with malice and intent of grave harm, I am commanded to defend myself and my body; even to the point of taking another’s life.  I am not to take the fight to others, but I am to defend myself and my body.

Read the Bible, study the Bible, meditate on the Bible.  Always read the Bible in context; do not pick a verse here or there to justify an action that goes against the teachings of the Bible.  Be the neighbor you wish others to be; be a true brother in Christ.

May God bless you.

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