Do Chris­tians have the right and duty to de­fend them­selves and oth­ers?

The Weekly Vista - - News - RANDY MOLL [email protected] Randy Moll is the man­ag­ing ed­i­tor of the West­side Ea­gle Ob­server and also a Lutheran min­is­ter. He may be con­tacted by email at [email protected] Opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the au­thor.

With the re­cent church shoot­ings, the ques­tion has of­ten arisen as to whether Chris­tians have the right and duty to de­fend them­selves and oth­ers and even to take lives to save lives when such be­comes nec­es­sary. Nu­mer­ous edi­to­rial pieces have been writ­ten on the sub­ject, many of which would make it ap­pear that be­ing a Chris­tian and car­ry­ing a gun for self-de­fense is to­tally in­com­pat­i­ble. And car­ry­ing a weapon in­side a church has been viewed as to­tally in­con­gru­ous with the Gospel. But what is God’s an­swer?

Per­haps, first and fore­most in ar­gu­ments against Chris­tians bear­ing arms, the com­mand­ment against mur­der is cited: “Thou shalt not kill” — of­ten trans­lated “You shall not mur­der” — (Ex­o­dus 20:13 and Deuteron­omy 5:17). While it is clear that this com­mand­ment of God for­bids mur­der, does it for­bid all tak­ing of hu­man life, in­clud­ing do­ing so in an ef­fort to de­fend life and prop­erty? A deeper look into the Scrip­tures pro­vides the an­swer.

• Gen­e­sis 9:6 com­mands tak­ing the life of mur­der­ers: “Whoso shed­deth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the im­age of God made he man.” This pas­sage makes clear that mur­der is wrong but makes pro­vi­sion for the pun­ish­ment of mur­der­ers with death to pre­vent fur­ther mur­ders.

• Abra­ham and his ser­vants were trained to bear arms and fought to de­liver his nephew Lot and Lot’s fam­ily when they were taken cap­tive by in­vad­ing kings from the north (cf. Gen­e­sis 14).

• God said no blood should be shed (no penalty for mur­der) if a man catches a thief in the act of break­ing into his house and kills him. Ex­o­dus 22:2 says: “If a thief be found break­ing up, and be smit­ten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” If, how­ever, he later hunts down the thief and kills him, he is sub­ject to be­ing put to death for killing a per­son rather than turn­ing him over to the judges to pay resti­tu­tion (cf. Ex­o­dus 22:3).

• David and his armed men de­fended the peo­ple and cities of Ju­dah from in­vad­ing ma­raud­ers and even pur­sued them to res­cue those taken cap­tive (cf. 1 Sa­muel 25 and 30).

• When Ha­man’s plot would have al­lowed the Jews to be killed and plun­dered, “the king granted the Jews which were in ev­ery city to gather them­selves to­gether, and to stand for their life, to de­stroy, to slay and to cause to per­ish, all the power of the peo­ple and prov­ince that would as­sault them, both lit­tle ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey…” (Es­ther 8:11).

• Ne­hemiah com­manded the peo­ple of Is­rael who were build­ing the walls of Jerusalem to be armed and de­fend them­selves and their brethren that the work might go for­ward (Ne­hemiah 4:1618): “And it came to pass from that time forth, that the half of my ser­vants wrought in the work, and the other half of them held both the spears, the shields, and the bows, and the haber­geons; and the rulers were be­hind all the house of Ju­dah. They which builded on the wall, and they that bare bur­dens, with those that laded, ev­ery one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon. For the builders, ev­ery one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded. And he that sounded the trum­pet was by me.”

• Je­sus told His dis­ci­ples to carry a sword for self-de­fense as they trav­eled to spread the Gospel of the king­dom: “He that hath no sword, let him sell his gar­ment, and buy one” (Luke 22:36).

Thus, we learn from the Word of God that mur­der is pro­hib­ited but bear­ing arms and even us­ing arms to pro­tect hu­man life and prop­erty is en­joined.

Mak­ing it clear that Chris­tians have a duty to de­fend the lives of oth­ers, Proverbs 24:10-12 states: “If thou faint in the day of ad­ver­sity, thy strength is small. If thou for­bear to de­liver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Be­hold, we knew it not; doth not he that pon­dereth the heart con­sider it? and he that keep­eth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he ren­der to ev­ery man ac­cord­ing to his works?”

While it speaks about much more than just risk­ing one’s life to de­fend an­other, Je­sus also said: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

And, though we have been blessed for gen­er­a­tions to be safe in our houses of wor­ship, it was not al­ways so in Amer­ica and bring­ing guns to church was not an un­com­mon prac­tice.

In 1623, a Vir­ginia statute for­bade any­one to travel un­less he was well armed and re­quired all men work­ing in fields like­wise to be armed. And 1631 laws re­peated the same re­quire­ments and added to them the re­quire­ment that all able men should bear arms and en­gage in prac­tice with their arms on holy days. The law specif­i­cally re­quired that all men fit to bear arms bring their guns to the church. And, there were fines and penal­ties for those who failed to do so.

Fol­low­ing the Civil War, Rev. Andrew Jack­son Pot­ter, a for­mer cow­boy and Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier turned Methodist min­is­ter and cir­cuit rider, preached in nu­mer­ous towns and vil­lages of the old West. He was known to lay his Colt re­volvers across the pul­pit and preach, or to preach with a Bi­ble in one hand and a pis­tol in the other. He main­tained or­der and se­cu­rity at his ser­vices and en­cour­aged an at­mos­phere of re­spect.

So, in light of God’s Word, do Chris­tians sin if they are armed and use those arms in de­fense of life and prop­erty? No. Do they sin if they use arms to com­mit mur­der or other crim­i­nal acts? Yes. Do they sin if they are able and do noth­ing to de­fend them­selves, their fam­i­lies, fel­low Chris­tians or oth­ers when evil men would in­flict great bod­ily harm or death? The an­swer of God’s Word most cer­tainly ap­pears to be “Yes!”


West­side Ea­gle Ob­server/RANDY MOLL

One of God’s 10 Com­mand­ments is “Thou shalt not kill,” but does this com­mand­ment for­bid us­ing lethal force to de­fend the life of one’s self, fam­ily or oth­ers? Can God and guns go to­gether?

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