In seeking to answer this question, we will use the example of a thief breaking into your house. In Exodus 22:3 we read, “If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” It is clear that in Old Testament times one was permitted to defend his family against a thief breaking into their home, even if it resulted in killing the intruder. Of course, this is assuming the thief posed a direct threat to the family. Perhaps he was armed with a gun or a knife. This is important to note, for it could be a case of someone breaking into your house to steal food for himself or for his family, and if you knew this to be the case you would not feel threatened. You might actually feel sorry for them instead of feeling the need to defend yourself. Proverbs 6:30 states, “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry.”

But there are Christians who would argue that this principle does not apply to believers living in this day of grace. They would point us to the Lord’s words in Matthew 5:38-40: “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.” In their mind this is teaching us NOT to defend ourselves, but to let those who would do us harm have their way, even if they are robbing us and threatening to injure us or our family. Others would disagree, saying that this passage deals with “personal offenses or insults” and not when our actual lives are being threatened.

This is a difficult question to answer for it also involves FAITH. One might have the faith to act on the Lord’s words above (and NOT resist an armed burglar), but what if there are family members in the house who do not have the same faith? In Psalm 82:4 we read, “Deliver the poor and needy: free them out of the hand of the wicked” (NKJV). Proverbs 24:11 says, “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter.” One could argue that a husband /father has a responsibility to his wife and children to protect them from “the hand of the wicked” if they are being “drawn toward death.”

That may be challenged by those who say the Christian is NOT to kill, for the Law of Moses clearly states in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.” But it should be noted that “self-defense” is not the same thing as “murder,” for murder is a premeditated act where you purposely take the life of another without a just cause. Others would say that a Christian shouldn’t “bear arms” or have any kind of weapon that would enable them to defend themselves. Luke 22:35-36 seems to refute this though, for the Lord told His disciples “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? Then said He unto them, ‘But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and HE THAT HATH NO SWORD, LET HIM SELL HIS GARMENT, AND BUY ONE.” Many believe the Lord was giving them permission to buy a sword for SELF-DEFENSE, either against wild animals, or against evil men that would seek to take their life or the lives of their loved ones.

In closing, Christians are divided on this question so one must be careful in being dogmatic. I personally believe we have the liberty to bear arms to protect ourselves, but I am told in Romans 14:22: “Hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.” I would encourage you to consider the scriptures we have cited and draw your own conclusions, praying for the Lord to give you the needed wisdom and faith to act according to His will. (256.3) (DO)