What Does Jesus Say About Self Defense

What does the Bible say about self-defense?

QuestionAnswer When it comes to self-defense, the Bible does not provide an exhaustive list of rules. Some scriptures, including as Proverbs 25:21–22, Matthew 5:39, and Romans 12:17, appear to speak of God’s people as being pacifistic. However, there are other passages in the Bible that support the right to self-defense. What are the conditions under which personal self-defense is appropriate? The appropriate use of self-defense necessitates the use of intelligence, insight, and subtlety. The Bible says in Luke 22:36 that Jesus instructs His surviving followers, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak to go and get one.” Jesus saw that the moment had come for His people to be threatened, and He backed their right to defend themselves.

In verses 49–51, Jesus rebukes Peter for his actions (verses 49–51).

Peter, in his desire to protect the Lord, placed himself in the path of God’s will and purpose.

To put it another way, Peter made a poor decision in that scenario.

According to Exodus 22, “If a thief is found breaking into a house at night and is hit with a death blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it occurs after the sun has come up, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.” The right to hold private property and the right to protect one’s property are two fundamental ideas presented in this work, and they are both discussed in detail.

  • It is important to remember that no one should be too ready to employ lethal force against another, even if that person intends to harm him.
  • Unless, of course, the thief was discovered in the house during the day, when the homeowner was unlikely to be roused from his or her slumber, the death of the thief was prohibited by law.
  • The use of deadly force was supposed to be a last choice, and to be employed only in the case of a terrified “surprise assault,” in which the householder is likely to be bewildered and disoriented, rather than in any of the other instances.
  • However, even in cases of self-defense against thieves, a godly person should attempt to restrain the adversary rather than instantly resorting to killing him.
  • In Jerusalem, as he was about to be flogged by the Romans, Paul gently reminded the centurion wielding the scourge that he, Paul, was in fact a citizen of the Roman Empire.
  • Previously, at Philippi, after having been publicly humiliated, Paul used a similar defense in order to obtain an official apology from those who had violated his rights (Acts 16:37–39).
  • This widow was not willing to give up and allow her adversary to take advantage of her; instead, she pursued self-defense via the correct legal channels.
  • Some situations may necessitate self-defense rather than retaliatory action of any type.
  • Our self-defense does not constitute a vindictive response to an assault of any kind.
  • According to the Bible, self-defense is never prohibited, and Christians are free to defend themselves and their family.
  • By studying God’s Word and relying on “the wisdom that comes from above” (James 3:17), we may determine how to appropriately respond in situations that may need the use of force against another person.

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What Does the Bible Say about Self-Defense?

In today’s environment, security is really vital. In today’s world, cybersecurity, advanced technical home safety systems, and understanding of self-defense strategies are all commonplace and widely available. Christians also demand protection in their churches and homes, and some churches even offer self-defense lessons to help them achieve this goal. In spite of the fact that it is easy to make assumptions about one’s own safety, the main concern for a disciple of Christ should be what the Lord has to say about any topic, including one’s own personal safety and defense.

What Does Turn the Other Cheek Mean?

One of the most important scriptures in the issue of self-defense is Matthew 5:39, in which Jesus talks about turning the other cheek when you are attacked. “You have heard that it has been said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth,'” the Lord continued, referring to the biblical phrase. But I warn you: do not stand up to someone who is bad. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to face them and slap them on the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-39, NIV). This passage has sparked debate among Christians, with some questioning if Jesus is suggesting that people should allow themselves to be injured rather than defending themselves.

According to these scriptures, God meant for revenge associated with wrongdoing to be kept to a minimum.

Numerous observers point out that even while a slap on the face might be seen as an insult, it is not considered life-threatening in most situations.

It is also evident in the writings of the apostles that this principle of non-retaliation is important.

In fact, these words are not about self-defense at all, but rather about revenge. As Jesus taught, Christians are forbidden to retaliate against someone who has mistreated them in an offensive manner.

Scriptural Examples of Self-Defense

The Bible warns against vindictive revenge, yet it does not outlaw self-defense in some circumstances. There are several cases of people who have successfully defended themselves against an attack on their lives. Among other things, Esther asked that the Jews be given the ability to defend themselves against a violent Persian onslaught that had been organized by the villain, Haman (Esther 8:3-6). The Jews were given the opportunity to fight back against their oppressors and successfully defended themselves against the planned extermination, demonstrating God’s hand at work in the events to protect and preserve His chosen nation (Esther 8:11; 9:1-2).

  • When the Israelites, under the leadership of Nehemiah, erected the wall around Jerusalem, they armed themselves for defense in a similar manner (Nehemiah 4:11-18).
  • Even while working on the wall, the construction workers donned their swords (Nehemiah 4:18).
  • As a result, the Bible contains examples of people who have acted in self-defense.
  • The Bible also offers a story of a man guarding himself and his family from a robber in the night (Exodus 22:2-3).
  • When one defends one’s self or others, they are protecting themselves against physical, mental, spiritual, and sexual damage as well as defending themselves against those who are defending themselves.
  • They are not guilty of sin since they are attempting to protect themselves.
  • Instead, they can defend themselves and seek the well-being of the weak and helpless (Psalm 82:3).

Regarding the spiritual realm, which is discussed numerous times in God’s Word, believers are also encouraged to defend themselves “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12, NIV) (Ephesians 6:12, NIV).

(2 Corinthians 2:11).

(Ephesians 6:10-20). Consequently, protecting oneself and others is not limited to the physical realm, but includes the spiritual realm as well.

Persecution and Self-Defense

In many situations, self-defense is necessary; yet, persecution for the sake of Christ is dealt with in a different way in the Bible. Through most of the New Testament, persecution for one’s faith in Jesus is viewed as a privilege that Christians are privileged to experience. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what is right, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” Jesus declared. When people criticize you, persecute you, and falsely accuse you of all kinds of wickedness because of me, you should consider yourselves blessed.

  • Suffering as a result of one’s trust in Jesus will result in heavenly benefits for those who do so.
  • In general, most of the followers of Christ portrayed in the Bible were willing to bear hardship because they placed their faith in Jesus.
  • Persecution was avoided at previous times because it was considered an impediment to the spread of the gospel of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
  • As a result, requesting protection from persecution is both recommended and necessary at some times.
  • Love for Jesus and a burning desire to disseminate His message across the globe are so crucial that His followers should be prepared to lay down their lives in order to accomplish this goal (John 15:13;1 John 3:16).
  • (John 10:18;Romans 8:2).

Protecting Oneself and Others

Self-defense is sanctioned by the Scriptures. Many examples of believers of God striving to safeguard themselves and others from danger may be found in the Bible. While Christ condemns retribution and revenge, He does not forbid people from acting in self-defense when they are in danger. In order to avoid injury and suffering, Christians do not commit sin when they defend themselves or others from harm and suffering. Further reading may be found at: What Does the Phrase “An Eye for an Eye” Imply?

When It Comes to Revenge, What Does the Bible Say?

She has also written for Unlocked devotional, in addition to writing essays regarding biblical topics as a freelance writer.

When she is not studying or writing, Sophia likes spending time with her family, reading, painting, and gardening in her spare time.

22 Important Bible Verses About Self Defense (Shocking Read)

Guns are the most common self-defense weapon that can be found in most houses nowadays. When it comes to handgun ownership, we must exercise caution. There are many dumb, trigger-happy folks who carry weapons these days, and they should not even be allowed to own a knife since they are so careless with their firearms. As Christians, we should never, ever consider killing someone as our first option. Here are a couple such examples. You are asleep in the middle of the night when you hear a burglar.

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Because it is dark, you cannot tell if the intruder is armed or whether he intends to rob, injure, or murder you.

As an example, if you are in the middle of the day and you catch an unarmed intruder who either attempts to flee out the door or falls to the ground and says “please don’t kill me,” but you do, in Florida and many other states, that is considered murder or manslaughter, depending on your story and evidence at the scene.

  1. Many individuals are imprisoned for following and killing intruders who came into their homes.
  2. God commands us not to return evil for evil.
  3. You have a responsibility to safeguard your family, and you would not be held responsible if something happened.
  4. The only time you should ever resort to lethal force is if your life, the life of your wife, or the life of your kid is under danger.
  5. Quote
  • The Second Amendment states that “arms in the hands of people may be employed at their discretion for the defense of the country, the overthrow of tyranny, or private self-defense.” John Adams is a historical figure who lived in the United States during the American Revolutionary War.

What does the Bible say about this? Exodus 22:2-3 is a good place to start. When a thief is apprehended while breaking into a house and is struck and murdered in the process, the person who struck and killed the thief is not guilty of murder. ” “However, if the thief is slain in broad daylight, the person who killed him is guilty of murder.” When a strong man, fully armed, protects his own home, his property is protected, according to Luke 11:21. 3. Isaiah 49:25 (King James Version) ” Who has the power to pluck the spoils of battle from the grasp of a warrior?

  • 4.
  • “But for the time being,” he said, “take your money and a traveler’s bag.” And if you don’t already have a sword, sell your cloak and invest the money on one!
  • Luke 22:38-39 (NASB) “Take a look, Lord,” they said, pointing to two swords in their midst.
  • When Jesus had finished speaking, he left the upper apartment and proceeded as usual to the Mount of Olives with his followers.” There will be no retaliation.
  • The book of Romans 12:17 “Never return evil for evil to a fellow human being.” Provide things that are honest in the eyes of everyone.” 8.
  • Repentance is better than revenge, since you were called to this so that you can be the recipient of blessing.” 9.
  • Psalm 144:1 is the tenth verse.

He prepares my hands for warfare and instills fighting skills in my fingertips.” Psalm 18:34 is the eleventh verse.

You’ll need to use your judgment.

Psalm 119:125 (13th Psalm) “I am your servant; please grant me wisdom so that I may understand your commandments,” says the servant.

“Train my judgment and wisdom to be sound, for I am a believer in your commands.” Reminder 15.

You have a responsibility to defend yourself and your family.

Psalm 82:4 says, “Rescue the weak and the poor.” Please assist them in escaping the control of evil individuals.” Rescue prisoners who have been sentenced to death, and spare those who are stumbling toward their execution, says Proverbs 24:11.

1 Timothy 5:8 (New International Version) Those who do not provide for their own, especially for those in their own household, have renounced the religion and are worse than infidels, according to the Quran.

Romans 13:1-7 is the text for this week.

Because there is no authority other than that which God has appointed, and the authorities that do exist have been established by God.

Do you wish to be free of fear of authority?

But if you make a mistake, you should be terrified, for it does not wield the sword in vain.

In order to avoid the wrath of the authorities but also to protect one’s own conscience, it is vital to remain in subordination to them.

Payment should be made to everyone who is owed something: taxes to those who owe them, revenue to those who owe it, respect to those who deserve it, and honor to those who owe it.” “From that day on, half of my soldiers were performing the labor, while the other half were picking up spears, shields, arrows, and body armor,” Nehemiah 4:16-18 says.

Those who were hauling burdens did so by maintaining one hand on the task at hand and the other on the weapon at their disposal.

“However, the trumpeter remained at my side.” Instead of relying on your weapon, put your faith in the Lord.

“Only with your might can we force our adversaries back; only in your name can we trample our adversaries.” I have no faith in my bow, and I have no confidence in my sword to help me.

You are ours if we win this fight, and the LORD will grant you to us!”

Self-defense – What does the Bible say?

Many people are perplexed as to what the Bible says about self-defense and how it should be practiced. If a man breaks into a house at night to steal anything, the law of Exodus 22:2-3 states that the home-owner has the right to kill him as a matter of self-defense. When the thief is out in broad daylight and the homeowner can tell that he is there to steal rather than murder, the homeowner is unable to kill the thief in self-defense. Luke 22:37-39 is Jesus’ explanation as to why it is beneficial to be well armed.

  • In addition, Jesus stated in Matthew 5:39 that if someone slaps your right cheek, you should offer them your left as well.
  • As soon as Lot and his people were apprehended, Abram had no hesitation in liberating them by force (Genesis 14:13-16).
  • David, on the other hand, refused to injure Saul, despite the fact that Saul was attempting to murder him.
  • What’s the difference between the two?
  • Self-defense is permissible in situations involving an unknown adversary with uncertain purpose, such as those described in Exodus 22:2.
  • Instead, we should seek justice via the proper channels.
  • Although Peter’s actions were criticized by Jesus, it was not because Peter was attempting to defend Christ, but rather because Peter was interfering with God’s plan for the guards to capture Jesus.

It appears to be saying that we are expected to absorb whatever abuse we get in silence.

It is used to refer to a slanderous attack on one’s reputation.

Another problem that comes up from time to time is what happens when a wife is a skilled fighter but the husband is not.

Should he take the initiative or should he allow his wife to do so?

It is preferable if the husband and wife discuss this matter beforehand.

These are the types of examples we should emulate in order to identify the true threat and respond appropriately.

Truths that are related: Is there anything in the Bible that speaks to war?

What is the proper Christian response to hate speech? What does the Bible say about this? Is restitution a biblical requirement or a social obligation? Are Christians subject to the laws of their respective countries? Why should we be able to forgive? Return to the topic of topical truth

Bible Verses about Self Defense

41At the same time, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, continued to inch closer to David’s position. When he looked David in the eyes, he realized that he was nothing more than a youngster, who was radiant with health and attractive, and he detested him. 43He asked David, “Do you think I’m a dog, that you’re coming at me with sticks?” And David was cursed by the gods of the Philistine. 44 I’ll feed your flesh to the birds and wild animals if you come here,” he said. 42But David responded to the Philistine, saying, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel’s armies, whom you have defied.” I’m going to strike you down and chop off your head on this day, 46because the LORD will deliver you into my hands.

  1. 47All those assembled here will understand that the LORD does not save by sword or spear; for the fight is the LORD’s, and he will deliver you all into our hands.” The Philistine was closing in on David, so David dashed toward the battle line to meet him before he could be killed.
  2. His forehead was sunk into the stone, and he was thrown to the ground face down.
  3. He did not use a sword in his victory; instead, he knocked down the Philistine and killed him.
  4. In one motion, he grabbed the sword from its sheath and snatched it from the Philistine’s grasp.
  5. When the Philistines realized that their hero was no longer alive, they turned and fled the scene.
  6. Their bodies were scattered throughout the Shaaraim highway, which connects Gath and Ekron.
  7. 54 David grabbed the Philistine’s head and brought it back to Jerusalem, and he hid the Philistine’s weaponry in his own tent to protect himself from the enemy.

A Biblical Argument for Self-Defense

Christians, I believe, are frequently perplexed as to what it means to turn the other cheek. Matthew 5: “You have heard that it has been stated, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, “Do not oppose the one who is evil,” and “If anybody slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other as well.” According to the phrasing of the scripture, the lesson that Jesus is teaching about turning the other cheek has a special significance. For example, if I’m facing someone and I slap that person on the right cheek, it would be necessary for me to slap the person with the back of my hand in order to make contact with the person’s right cheek on the first attempt.

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The passage does not appear to be about escape or defending ourselves against a violent attack that might cause us serious damage or even death.

Christians should not retaliate when they are persecuted specifically for their Christian faith, but should instead accept that this is part of what God has called them to do, which is to suffer for the sake of the gospel testimony.


The Bible has several more verses that urge us to flee from danger or even use force in self-defense, if necessary, as well as to defend other people who are being attacked in an unjust manner. Although they had traveled with Jesus for three years, Jesus’ followers continued to carry swords. They were armed with swords in the Garden of Gethsemane. Self-defense was the primary reason for the employment of swords in the first century. As a result, I believe that there are instances in which self-defense is appropriate in order to prevent us from incurring substantial bodily injury.

Christian Ethics

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The Playground Dilemma

Another dilemma that arises in the context of self-defense is what should be done by children when they are attacked by a bully on a playground. Although children should be taught to be peacemakers (see Matthew 5:9), if a bully continues to escalate his or her attacks and no one intervenes (which, unfortunately, is often the case), I believe children should be taught to fight back and defend themselves with courage and determination, as well as to pray for and forgive those who have attacked them.

That, I believe, can be really destructive.

in theology from the University of Cambridge.

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Top 7 Bible Verses About Self Defense

Here are seven scriptures from the Bible that are relevant to self-defense.

Exodus 22:2-3 “If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him, but if the sun has risen on him, there shall be bloodguilt for him. He shall surely pay. If he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. ”

As this Old Testament rule demonstrates, we have the right to protect ourselves in our own homes, and the use of force in such situations is appropriate and equitable. Even if they steal something and have nothing with which to repay the debt, the thief who broke and entered must pay for the crime by being sold for whatever he or she sold, with the understanding that he or she will not be forced to work as a slave indefinitely, but only until the amount stolen has been repaid.

This is a piece of legislation that pertains to reparation for theft victims.

Romans 13:4 “For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”

The requirement to obey man’s rules, at least where they do not conflict with the commandments of God, is the focus of Romans chapter 13. (Act 5:29). Law enforcement officers must defend themselves or face the possibility of being killed. As a result, those whom God has chosen in a sovereign manner as authorities are those who represent God Himself, since “anyone opposes the authorities opposes what God has ordained, and those who oppose shall suffer judgment” (Rom 13:2).

Luke 22:36 “He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one.”

What is the significance of Jesus instructing His followers to bring a sword with them? I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the Good Samaritan. This demonstrates that we live in a hazardous environment, and that thieves and robbers were always on the hunt for someone to rob even in the ancient past. It is allowed to protect one’s own interests.

Proverbs 25:26 “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.”

That individuals who perceive injustice and do nothing about it are being reprimanded is the point of this poem. After all, there are all those police reports to fill out, and they could even have to testify in court if they get engaged in the situation. Many people are reluctant to become engaged because of these factors, but believers must not give in to the wicked, lest the wicked commit even more heinous crimes against humanity. A decent man or woman who does nothing to stop the wicked and who submits to their actions and deeds is merely endorsing their evil deeds and actions.

Nehemiah 4:17-18 “Who were building on the wall. Those who carried burdens were loaded in such a way that each labored on the work with one hand and held his weapon with the other. And each of the builders had his sword strapped at his side while he built. The man who sounded the trumpet was beside me.”

When Nehemiah began rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, there were threats to the workers’ safety, so Nehemiah made the sensible decision to equip the workers so that they would be able to defend themselves if an attack came unexpectedly. The process of rebuilding was being overseen by God, and we may reasonably believe that when Nehemiah instructed them to carry a sword, God was giving them permission not just to protect themselves but also to keep the work continuing no matter who threatened them.

Psalm 82:4 “Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

This is a call to action to rescue the weak who are unable to protect themselves, as well as to aid the needy who are unable to exist without the support of another. God commands us to protect the most vulnerable members of society from those who would take advantage of their disadvantaged position. Allowing the evil to take advantage of the vulnerable and doing nothing about it is considered a sin in the eyes of the Almighty.

Romans 12:19 “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

Sometimes we are unable to protect ourselves, and we must rely on law enforcement to take care of things for us. We are terrible vigilantes, and it is preferable to put our faith in God in this situation rather than attempting to exact retribution on our own. In the Bible, it is said that “everyone will give an account of himself before God” (Rom 14:12), since “the Son of Man is coming with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward each individual according to what he has done” (Matt 16:27).


The debate over gun legislation today is either on the extreme right or on the extreme left, but we know that the law gives us the right to protect ourselves, especially if our lives or the lives of our loved ones are in danger. There are steps we may take to avoid being put in a situation where we have to defend ourselves if we are attacked. We may take steps to ensure that our entrances are well-lit, that our doors and windows are securely locked, and that we phone 911 if we feel threatened by an intruder are all options.

In order to protect us, God has put people in positions of power, and we would be better off alerting them rather than attempting to take the law into our own hands, although we can absolutely defend ourselves and our family and friends if our lives are in danger.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is the pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane, Kansas. He has been in the ministry for over 30 years. What Christians Want To Know is a Christian website whose aim is to equip, encourage, and excite Christians while also answering questions regarding the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know. You may follow Jack on Google Plus, and you can also read his book Teaching Children the Gospel, which is available on Amazon.

The Biblical and Natural Right of Self-Defense

As part of their ongoing effort to avoid a misalignment of politics and religion, Democrats launched yesterday’s press conference announcing their planned “assault weapons” ban with a prayer from Canon Gary Hall, dean of the National Cathedral. During his brief remarks before the prayer, which were covered extensively by Drudge, he stated, “Everyone in this city appears to live in fear of the gun lobby. but I think that the gun lobby is no match for the cross lobby.” No, I have no problem with the reverend expressing himself freely.

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My disagreement with his opinion is based on its substance rather than his involvement in the argument.

In no way, shape, or form does the cross obligate me to stand by and allow someone to murder my family – or anybody else for that matter.

I wrote on the Christian justification for self-defense at detail on myPatheosblog many months ago, and I won’t go over it again here in its entirety.

After the Flood, one of God’s first words to Noah was a pronouncement about the value of human life and the price that must be paid for spilling human blood: “Whoever bleeds the blood of man must have his blood shed by man, for God created man in his own image.” (Genesis 9:6; Revelation 21:5) In this phrase, no reference is made to a nation-state or a police force, but rather to a tiny group of individuals who are working to reconstruct human civilization from the ground up.

With self-defense plainly not being addressed expressly in the Scriptures, the biblical instructions and examples that follow indicate how God wants us to safeguard human life in the actual world after that fundamental concept has been established.

Specifically, he made an exemption for the protection of one’s own home: “If a thief is discovered breaking in and is hit to the point of death, there should be no bloodguilt for him.” Exodus 22:2 explains that If the thief was slain during the day, however, there was bloodguilt to pay for it.

  • Second, not only is the morality of self-defense presumed, but the act of self-defense is condoned and even demanded by significant Biblical figures, including Moses and Jesus.
  • It should be safeguarded rather than just avenged.
  • Continue to remember and fight for your brothers, your kids, daughters, spouses, and houses while remembering and fighting for the Lord who is great and amazing.” (See also Nehemiah 4:14).
  • (See Esther 9:5) Prior to Esther’s intervention, the king would have denied the Jews the right to self-defense in order to protect themselves.

The New Testament certainly takes away any justification for vengeance from the individual Christian (leaving vengeance in the hands of God’s agent, the state) – lex talionis (eye for an eye) was always a rule of proportionate justice, not self-defense, and was never intended to be used in self-defense.

  1. The use of the sword was only clearly prohibited when Peter used violence to prevent Christ from fulfilling his precise purpose of laying down his life.
  2. It is true that there are numerous examples of martyrs who have given their lives in the face of evil, but such acts are highly contextual and are performed in response to the individual call of God on a man (or womanlife.
  3. In addition, these understandings are so deeply embedded in Western moral history that John Locke, in his Second Treatise of Civil Government, defined the right to self-defense as a “basic law of nature.” Section 16 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
  4. to the will of God, of which that is a declaration, and because the fundamental law of nature is the preservation of mankind, no human sanction can be good or valid against it.
  5. What exactly does all of this mean?
  6. There are limits to all rights, of course (the right to free expression, for example), and there is much room for debate about the extent to which those limits should be applied.

So, I don’t believe Reverend Hall should be so sure that the “cross lobby” is on his side as he seems to be.

Does Jesus Forbid Self-Defense?

We read a passage from the Sermon on the Mount during the daily Mass on Monday of the 11th Week of the Year, which falls on the 11th day of the week. It is a challenging text that raises many questions if read in a literal or absolute manner. If you’ve ever heard the expression, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ you know what I’m talking about. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

  1. … You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you … (Matt 5:38-44).
  2. It seems to preclude self-defense!
  3. Jesus does not say that one should not defend oneself if attacked; He says that one should turn the other cheek.
  4. Does this mean that a nation should have no police force, no judicial system, no army?
  5. Instead of turning the page, though, we might do well to reflect on its message: The text seems to be more about offenses against personal dignity than physical attack.
  6. This is the case even today.
  7. In the ancient world one who wished to humiliate a person struck the person’s left cheek with his open right hand.

The worst insult that could be given was striking the right cheek of a person with the back of one’s right hand.

His basic teaching is that if someone tries to rob you of your dignity (by a slap on the cheek), realize that your dignity does not come from what others think of you; it is given by God and no one can take it from you.

Don’t retaliate to “regain” your dignity.

To retaliate is to enter the world of the one who insulted you.

This text is not about defending oneself from life-threatening physical attack;it is a text about personal dignity.

So, this text has a cultural contextthat does not necessarily require us to interpret Jesus’ words as an absolute exclusion of legitimate self-defense in moments of serious physical threat.

This reflection serves as background to the Church’s careful and thoughtful approach to the subject of necessary self-defense.

Here are some excerpts: The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing.

Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.

Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful … Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take care of one’s own life than of another’s(CCC2264) (CCC2264).

  1. Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.
  2. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility(CCC2265) (CCC2265).
  3. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense.
  4. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation.
  5. Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm—without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself—the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically nonexistent”(CCC2267) (CCC2267).

However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed(CCC2308) (CCC2308).

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

  • When an aggressor inflicts long-term, severe, and certain damage on a nation or community of nations, all other means of putting an end to it must have been demonstrated to be impractical or ineffective
  • There must be realistic prospects of success
  • And the use of arms must not result in evils and disorders that are more serious than the evil that is being eliminated. When assessing this situation, the destructive capacity of current weapons of mass destruction is taken into consideration.

These are the classic elements of what is referred to as the “just war” concept, which are stated below (CCC2309). As a result, self-defense and the putting an end to unjust violence should never be something we undertake carelessly or without careful consideration before we act. If we are to deliver death blows to even our adversaries, the Lord and the Church demand us to have compelling grounds for doing so; we should never adopt such drastic actions without first examining other, less-extreme options.

It may be essential to resort to war or other fatal tactics on occasion, but we must first evaluate our motivations and then carefully consider alternate strategies.

Rather, they serve as a depiction of the altered human being they describe.

The changed individual is not overly concerned with maintaining his or her own personal dignity.

An increasingly free of vainglory, the excessive desire for human acclaim and position, the changed person is not concerned with retaliating against those who have done them wrong.

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