Christians, the Bible, and Guns: is Self-Defense Vengeance?

A King James Bible and a Glock 17

We’ve all heard the cries of hypocrisy: You can’t be Christian and against gun control; you can’t be pro-life and pro-gun ownership; vengeance is God’s, so why do you need a gun?, etc.

Let us examine, in particular, the charge that being prepared for self-defense is vengeance.

The conversation goes something like this:

Gun Grabber: “Guns kill people! We need more gun control laws!”

Gun Owner: “People kill people. Gun control laws do nothing to stop criminals from committing crimes and just make it harder for law abiding citizens to protect themselves. Saying we need more gun control laws to keep people from being murdered is like saying we need to ban silverware so people won’t get fat.”

Gun Grabber (knowing he has no logical argument): “You hypocrite. You’re a Christian, and the Bible says Vengeance is God’s, so what right do you have to own a gun?”

We already know that gun laws don’t prevent gun crime. It was illegal for a student to carry a weapon on the Virginia Tech campus, and so the only student with a gun was the one shooting everyone in sight. Short of snapping magical fingers and disappearing all firearms, no law imaginable can prevent guns from being used by criminals. But we know all this already, and it’s all been completely documented.

We also know that as a matter of United States law, the right to own guns is recognized by the Constitution. All the hemming and hawing one can conjure up doesn’t change the fact that the very foundational document of our government says “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Some people try to argue that militia means government military, but it doesn’t, and the very wording of the amendment places the right of arms ownership with the people and not the state.

But now, what of the Christian?  Can a Christian accept these facts and own guns without hypocrisy?

What is Vengeance?

The Bible says:

“Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” -Romans 12:19

There can be no doubt that the Bible clearly directs the Christian not to take vengeance into his own hands. Vengeance is taken out by God himself, and according to 1st Peter 2:14, he does this through the institution of government. But is self-defense vengeance?

For an answer to this, we do not go to the gun-grabbing liberal who despises individual liberty and sees personal defense as an affront to the nanny-state. To see if the divine operation of vengeance is equated with self-defense, we need merely read more Scripture.

For example, if someone breaks into your home and you kill him while he is committing his crime, is that vengeance?

“If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” -Exodus 22:2

Clearly, the answer is no: self-defense is not vengeance. But what if you wait a while, and go kill him after you found out what he did? Conveniently for us, the very next verse answers that:

“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.” -Exodus 22:3

These two verses lay out quite clearly the difference between self-defense and vengeance. In the first case, the thief was killed while committing his crime, and there is no fault in the man who killed him. But if he waits until it is over (the sun be risen), it would be vengeance, because at that point the imminency is passed and the thief must be dealt with under the law.

So we see quite plainly that acting in self-defense is not taking vengeance.

“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.” -Luke 22:36

64 Comments

  • Sid Leo says:

    The Bible condemns a person seeking vengeance through violence. The Bible condemns murder, i.e. premeditated killing by an individual, but not self-defense, nor all killing by whatever entity. The Bible condemns violent resistance against legitimate government authority. The Bible condemns rebellion against legitimate government authority. The Bible does not condemn protection of life and limb of loved ones. The Bible does give responsibility to the head of the household to provide and protect those under his leadership. The means are not described nor proscribed. All of the scripture quoted in these posts, when taken in context, teach these principles. It is important to “rightly divide the scripture” by applying passages in their proper context, and by differentiating between interactions between an individual and a violent unlawful assailant and an individual and legitimate authority.

  • Shaina says:

    Hi, I agree with most of this article, but you are portraying those who promote gun control laws in an unfair light. Not only is this generally unkind, it most certainly does not show Christlike love for
    those who are of the world. If an unbeliever were reading this, what impression would it form in their minds of us, who are called to be the light and salt of the world? It also reads rather like ad hominem, which is a logical fallacy and generally unhelpful for the purposes of reasonable discussion.

  • Dane says:

    I’ve been reading the comments, and some of you really need to read your Bibles properly.

    To those who think self-defence is a sin, ungodly, etc, WAKE UP! Scripture supports self-defence and Scripture has been quoted, so there is NO reason to go against it.

    For those of you who think you should ignore Exodus 22 because it’s in the Old Testament, THINK AGAIN. God does NOT change (Malachi 3:6). Although Jesus has freed us from the punishment of the law, He has NOT freed us from obeying it (Matt. 5:17-19).

    Jesus also said that ALL the law (NOT some of the law) hang on to loving your neighbour and loving God (Matt 22:37-40). Therefore, Exodus 22 is NO exception.

    So, Exodus 22:2-3 DOES reflect love. If we love our family and neighbour, we would do our best to protect them from being harmed by violent criminals-even if it means killing the criminals in the process.

    At the same time, however, if we love the criminals, we would not stalk them down and take our vengeance AFTER what they have done.

    IF we fail to stop the attack and we love God, we would make room for His wrath and allow Him to avenge us (Romans 12:19-21).

    I’m NOT telling you all to go and get a gun, but if you are going to be truthful and faithful to the Holy Scriptures, you must admit that self-defence is 100% biblical.

  • 7170 says:

    What about the ten commandments? thou shall not kill

  • Malachi 3:6 the God that did not rebuke Moses for defending fellow hebrew by killing an Egypian has not changed

  • sammy smith says:

    I am a minister and own guns(plural).I am a hunter,and enjoy it very much.I also am the protecter of my family.Some people fail to realize that criminals could care less you are a christian.They will break into your house just as they will a non christian.God expects,commands us to take care of our families

  • Jan says:

    You are misinterpreting Exodus 22:2. If a thief comes in the night, and a person kills the thief because he cannot see if the thief is armed and dangerous and assumes that he is, that is considered self-defense. If a thief comes in the daylight, and a person can see that the thief is not armed, then killing the thief is not justified unless the thief attacks you. As a note, you had better make sure you know who you are shooting if you shoot someone at night; it could be a family member. Recently a father shot and killed his son because he thought he was a burglar.

    Self defense is protection of oneself or others from death or great bodily harm, not killing someone because they are stealing your possessions. The law has always placed the value of life, even the life of a criminal, over the value of property. We hold our law enforcement personnel to a standard of self defense before they are justified in using deadly force, so why should there be a lesser standard for private citizens? What would we think if the police took a “shoot first, and ask questions later” approach?

    Finally, we are permitted to use deadly force in self defense, but we are not required to use deadly force. If we can detain someone until the police can take the person into custody, we should do so. I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t defend ourselves or others, but the tone that I get from a lot of things I read is that all criminals are vermin that should be exterminated on sight like roaches.

  • JMD says:

    Ugh, while I appreciate the discussion, & the brevity of this post, to say things like, “Clearly….this.”, or, “There can be no doubt..that.”, when quoting scripture written as, “Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it…” which is about as clear as mud, and no matter what is said, I still see nothing that refutes, “Thou Shall Not Kill!”…& every instance of that Ive ever read doesn’t include any exceptions to that commandment, & I believe that anyone who tries to “clearly” say otherwise is blaspheming the Holy text to make it into what they want it to say.

  • jennifer pate says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with Shaina. The way that people who may have a real concern about gun violence and a genuine sense that gun control might help are characterized in this article is unfortunate. The hateful way that many Christians behave these days toward those who disagree with them has lead me to a crisis of faith. It breaks my heart because I was baptised years ago by profession of faith. To have that faith shaken by the behavior of those who claim to be Christian is beyond sad. If you win the gun control argument but turn people away from God, what have you won?

  • Timothy says:

    Lets remember that this not an aurgument. That lord says to obey the law of the land. And the law of this great land is the Constitution of the United States of America. Framed by our forefathers rather your actually related or not if you claim American Citizenship the they are your forefathers too. And for the non believers out there if it makes you feel better it is fact that atheist also signed the constitution. They signed it along with believers who both after great deliberation decided that the right to be armed is the individual right of the citizen along with right to chose faith or no faith. With the deliberate separation of church authority and state authority knowing that when mixed the consequence could be the piece by piece dismantling of freedom and individual liberty. Remember regardless of ones faith that The Lord bestowed free will on mankind. In other words God will not stop sin only hold accountable those who sin. So it is not another mans right to judge me not my right to pass judgement against him. We should as Americans always cling to liberty how we choose to enjoy that liberty should be cause for a great pause to fully take in account what our liberty entails both in consequence and reward. Let no man judge. Take responsibility or all of the gun rights in the world will not save thee from thy own stupidity. Let us all reiterate responsibity, accountability & acceptance of consequence alloted. If you worry what your heart will feel or what you will say to police when they show up then you might keep that smoke wagon holstered. If you feel confident in your righteous use of said weapon then by all means skin that smoke wagon and be prepared for all of the consequences involved and prepare a defensive aurgument for court…
    We attempt as a people to utilize faith one sidely however in the secular courts who do not in the process of upholding the law ever utilize faith with exception of swearing in on the stand which has become more custom rather than actually representing any faith on behalf of the courts…

  • gregory says:

    Self-defense is biblical. You shall not murder is biblical. Sometimes in order to defend the weak, orphan or widow you need to kill in self defense, not premeditate an assassination but defend those around you. My only issue is the day when criminals wear badges and uniforms.

  • gregory says:

    and use the color of law to promote there ungodly human action. Oh, I just realized that the “day” maybe closer than you think….wake-up lover of JESUS.

  • jh says:

    Clearly a non-christian wrote this article. Jesus quite clearly said – turn the other cheek. He healed the roman soldier whose ear was cut off. He was the prince of peace not the prince of mortal combat.

    To use the OT references and ignore the actual words attributed to Jesus is wrong. That is twisting the Bible and is something the Devil does.

  • sally mae says:

    excuse me jh but who are you to judge this person, they clearly know the Bible better than you do to know that self defense is not a sin and owning a gun is your own right.

 





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