After my plea to Americans last week to buy firearms as a first step to fighting terrorism, a number of Christians wrote challenging my prescription as unbiblical, unscriptural and ungodly.
The Bible couldn’t be clearer on the right – even the duty – we have as believers to self-defense.
Let’s start in the Old Testament.
“If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him,” we are told in Exodus 22:2. The next verse says, “If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.”
In other words, it was perfectly OK to kill a thief breaking into your house. That’s the ultimate expression of self-defense. It doesn’t matter whether the thief is threatening your life or not. You have the right to protect your home, your family and your property, the Bible says.
The Israelites were expected to have their own personal weapons. Every man would be summoned to arms when the nation confronted an enemy. They didn’t send in the Marines. The people defended themselves.
In 1 Samuel 25:13, we read: “And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff.”
Every man had a sword and every man picked it up when it was required.
Judges 5:8 reminds us of what happens to a foolish nation that chooses to disarm: “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?”
The answer to the rhetorical question is clear: No. The people had rebelled against God and put away their weapons of self-defense.
“Blessed be the LORD my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight,” David writes in Psalms 144:1.
Clearly, this is not a pacifist God we serve. It’s God who teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight. Over and over again throughout the Old Testament, His people are commanded to fight with the best weapons available to them at that time.
And what were those weapons? Swords.
They didn’t have firearms, but they had sidearms. In fact, in the New Testament, Jesus commanded His disciples to buy them and strap them on. Don’t believe me? Check it out.
Luke 22:36: “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.”
I know. I know. You biblically literate skeptics are going to cite Matthew 26:52-54 – how Jesus responded when Peter used his sword to cut off the ear of a servant of the high priest: “Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”
Read those verses in context and they support my position. Jesus told Peter he would be committing suicide to choose a fight in this situation – as well as undermining God’s plan to allow Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.
Jesus told Peter to put his sword in its place – at his side. He didn’t say throw it away. After all, He had just ordered the disciples to arm themselves. The reason for the arms was obviously to protect the lives of the disciples, not the life of the Son of God. What Jesus was saying was: “Peter, this is not the right time for a fight.”
In the context of America’s current battle – as we make plans to rebuild after the devastation of Sept. 11 and defend ourselves at the same time – we should recall Nehemiah, who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem.
“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,” we’re told in Nehemiah 4:17-18. “For the builders, every one had his sword girded by his side, and so builded.”