Non-Violence and Self-Defense
Recently, your favorite Fumbler engaged in some conversation about those two topics. The original question was:
I know it is a rather controversial topic, but do you believe that Christians have the right of self-defense? The classic question is whether you have the right to defend your family from someone who breaks into your home?
Some mitigating factors are as follows:
- Retaliation and self-defense are often different concepts (Romans 12:17).
- Scripture speaks of being non-violent (Matthew 5:39).
- We are told to overcome evil with good (Matthew 5:44; 1 Thessalonians 5:15).
- Exodus 22:2-3 under the Law of Moses allowed you to defend yourself against an intruder and to kill them, if necessary.
- Vengeance belongs to God and He has given a measure of it to government (Romans 12:19-13:4).
My initial response:
In what ways can we be proactive about our lives, so as to dissuade others from attacking us?
I do not think that it was purposeful, but it seems very telling to me that the only passages we can find to support violent responses are given to the Israelite nation in the Hebrew scriptures.
What passages on Christians and violence do we find in the NT? What early church examples of self-defense do we find? Do we apply CENI as vigorously to those passages as we do to passages about the assembly?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first great commandment. And the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
What tempts people to do violence? What can we do in our lives to lessen such temptations as they might come our way?
Another participant asked for some clarification:
“Nick, if someone attacked you, and/or your family, what would you do?”
My response is as follows:
I am a prior-service Army officer, so because of my training, I have a broader variety of options than most people. Training and discipline allow a person to respond to all sorts of challenges with a greater level of freedom.
So when I begin my answer to your question with “I don’t know,” it is not a cop-out, nor should it suggest either naivete or a lack of preparation. I don’t know because I do not plan to respond the same way every time. I will strive to love my attacker as much as possible. I operate from the stance that I own NOTHING that is worth anyone’s life.
Prayer is our first line of defense and offense. We pray that God will deliver us from evil and that we will remain true to our Lord in all circumstances, including life-threatening ones.
Simplicity is our second line of defense. Therefore, we do not own anything expensive. The most expensive things we own are a beat-up Ford Focus and my wife’s new Zune MP3 player. I do not own a suit, nor do we own any clothing that suggests enough wealth do attract attention. We have no credit cards and carry very little cash.
Pro-active planning is our third line of defense. Our home has an evacuation plan, in the event that we are at home during a burglary. We will avoid confrontation at all costs. If necessary, I will provide a diversion to allow my loved ones to get out of the house. If possible, I will talk to the attacker calmly and lovingly, helping them understand that there will be no threat from me or anyone else.
No sane (or sober, or uninfluenced by drugs) person will maintain a violent stance in the face of such responses UNLESS they have an ideological motive for their aggression.
Against the insane (etc.), non-lethal force is our fourth line of defense, and lethal force is our last resort.
The ideologically-driven aggressor is not truly attacking me, but my King. In those instances, intentional and interactive strategies of non-violence (such as those taught and modeled by the followers of Gandhi and King) will be employed. At no time will I respond to an attack on my Lord with violence.
What do you think? Tomorrow, I will share the next exchange in this dialogue, but right now, I’m interested in how you deal with these thoughts and issues. So please share!
in HIS love,