My Name Is Matthew Maruster. I Carry A Gun. And I'm A Christian.
With the recent church shootings, with Christians defending life with their guns, the topic of “is it Christian to carry a gun for self-defense?” has come up a lot lately. I figured I'd tackle this topic to the best of my ability.
This post is by no means an exhaustive Bible study on how God views self-defense. And, in full disclosure, I am not a pastor and do not have a seminary degree. I am simply a Christian disciple who believes that we can understand God's will by being a workman and studying His Word.
I am a former police officer, combat infantry Marine, firearms instructor, husband, and father.
To be clear, I'm not writing this to persuade you to carry a gun, though I think you should. I decided to write this to help people reconcile the incredible responsibility of using deadly defensive force and how that fits with God's plan for us. Maybe you carry a firearm for self-defense and are not clear on God's view on the matter; I know I was there at one point.
Or perhaps you are a follower of Christ and don't see how using deadly force could be in line with the teachings of Jesus Christ. I know many people that feel that way. And even if you are not a Christian but genuinely want to understand those who believe self-defense is a God-given right, I hope you stick through to the end.
I promise this won’t address political, legal, or tactical issues related to carrying a firearm for self-defense. I desire to give a biblical answer to a simple yet vital question.
What does God say about His creation using defensive force that could cause the death of another?
Jump Directly To A Section:
- Won't God Protect You?
- You Shall Not Kill
- God Doesn't Like Guns or Weapons
- Turn The Other Cheek
- Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword
- Don't Worry, Just Bring the Gospel
- Our Bodies are so Important, shouldn't we Use Deadly-Force to Protect Them?
Won't God Protect You?
Let's start by addressing a standard question: “Why do you need a gun? Won’t God protect you?” Should we also ask, why should we help those in need? Can't God just do it? Or why should I steer my car on the way to work? Won't God simply drive it for me?
Thinking that God can do anything, so we don't need to do anything, is an apathetic approach to life. God does not want us to be indifferent, but rather to live purposefully and glorify Him. So He gave us free will to choose Him or follow our will.
Truthfully, the enemy exists, and God allows him to operate for some time in this fallen world. The enemy is Satan, and man is a slave to sin, choosing self-centered things over God-centered things. Why? Because in our natural condition we are at enmity with God (Rom 8:7-9).
In 1 Peter 5: 8, Peter advises against complacency: 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.
As long as evil exists, we must prepare ourselves both spiritually and physically.
King Solomon talks about our preparedness and understanding of where the strength ultimately comes from in Proverbs 21: 31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the Lord.
In Nehemia chapter 4, the prophet instructs the people who are rebuilding the city walls to continue their obedience to God, which, of course, involves prayer. However, he also understands a real physical threat from Sanballat, and Tobiah, and the Arabians, and the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites. So he instructs the Jews to carry swords as they build, and places lookouts to alert the people of attack.
The hard truth is, God doesn't cause horrific things to happen to people, but remember the “god of this world” is Satan (2 Cor 4:4). We won't always understand the purpose. But it isn't random. God is sovereign and in control.
Some of these trials and pains we face are because of God's love for us. In Hebrews 12:6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
The fact that bad things happen or because we face hardships should not fool us into thinking that He does not exist or does not love us. Or that He is not in complete control. Because of original sin, all of us are born sinners and are at enmity with God.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
Romans 1: 18-20 explains that: 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
When I hear someone say something like, ‘it is so sad that we have to carry guns to protect ourselves,' I can understand that desire for peace. But we live in a fallen world. We are told in the Bible that this rejection of God and of His word will increase. And as the world moves further away from God, it moves away from the only one who can provide true and everlasting peace, the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.
A day will come when the Prince of Peace will have a physical reign on Earth, and we will finally experience true peace.
You Shall Not Kill?
Murder grieves God's heart.
In fact, He doesn't even take pleasure in the destruction of the wicked. God says in: Ezekiel 18:23 Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?
After Cain committed the first recorded homicide and killed his brother Able, God has this exchange with him in Gen 4:9-10 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper? And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
So God's prohibition against killing is in keeping with His character.
So people often say, isn't one of the Ten Commandments “You shall not kill?” Yes.
However, anyone who speaks more than one language will tell you that often, there is not an exact word-to-word match from one language to another.
For example, there are at least four different Greek words that mean love. But, they have completely different meanings. In English, we use the same word love for expressing a ‘book we love' and the love we have for our child. Of course, we don't love the book like we love a child.
If we don't understand the passage's context or the meaning of the original word used, we can lose the proper meaning.
Meanings of the original words:
Therefore, it is essential to look at two different Hebrew words, ratsakh and mut. Along with two Greek words, phoneuo, apokteino, “murder,” and “killing.”
The Hebrew word mut and Greek word apokteino are used in other manuscripts to describe the unlawful taking of life, in other words, murder. The words ratsakh and phoneuo describe putting someone to death or, in general, killing. The Hebrew and Greek words used in the Sixth Commandment are mut and apokteino. Because of this, it makes sense that in the Sixth Commandment, God is prohibiting murder or the vengeful, premeditated, unjust, or spiteful taking of life. Not all taking of life.
The Bible is full of instances where God sanctioned the taking of lives. For example, in 1 Samuel 15, God is angry with King Saul because he took the Amalekite King Agag as a captive instead of killing every Amalekite and their livestock as He commanded. God had specific instructions for Saul because all the Amalakites were evil and a threat to God's people.
In the book of Esther, the King is tricked and decrees all Jews be put to death. However Esther intervenes for her people, and through God's providence, the King makes a new decree giving the individual Jews authority to defend themselves against anyone wishing to harm them. In the next section, I'll explain another significance of this historical event. (Esther 8:11), (Esther 9:1-5)
Paul speaks to the role of governmental authority and bearing the sword (corporal punishment or death penalty) in Romans 13: 1-5 …1 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, 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. 5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.
So we see God gives rulers the authority to take the life of someone who has committed certain crimes, and also provides an individual self defense against those who would murder them.
I think we can see that God has a clear distinction between taking the life of someone with evil intentions and taking someone’s life in self defense by His will. This distinction is important and misunderstood. Police and concealed carriers use defensive force. They do not use deadly force offensively to exact revenge, carry out judgment, or out of anger.
We should use the amount of force necessary to stop an attack that we reasonably perceive will likely cause death or serious bodily injury to ourselves or someone else. The moment the threat ceases to be a life-threatening risk, we do not have a moral or legal justification for using deadly force.
God also clarifies that using defensive force under certain circumstances shall not bring guilt on the one using force who used it. Way back in the book of Exodus, God begins laying down various laws for the people to follow. One such law describes a thief who breaks into a home at night. The verse explains that if the thief is struck and dies, the person using force shall not incur guilt. However, killed in the daylight, the person using force shall have guilt.
Exodus 22: 2 If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him. 3 If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him;
Now, this is not to say one can't use deadly defensive force during the day. Instead, at night it is hard to determine if someone entering your home uninvited is there to cause you harm or not. It is easier to identify someone as a deadly threat during the day and not just someone stealing mere property. So when using deadly force, we should use discernment to determine if the threat is a mortal threat or not.
God Doesn't like Guns and Weapons?
Doesn't God detest weapons? The handgun is an incredibly useful tool when faced with a deadly force threat. Especially when there is a disparity in strength, force, or numbers. Should an older person lose their right to self-defense because they can no longer defend themselves physically? Of course not. And because handgun rounds do not travel fast, relatively speaking, about 70% of handgun injuries are non-fatal. So the handgun is far from a tool that is ‘only used for killing,' as some say.
One of the most notable Psalms is Psalm 23. The Psalmist says he is comforted by God's ‘rod' and ‘staff.'
Psalm 23: 4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
While these are not physical weapons that God wields (he has no need for them), God's Spirit moves the Psalmist to use words that describe physical weapons of the time. I don't think it's coincidental.
The rod was a weapon, sort of like a sap used in that era to defend oneself against robbers and thieves. Of course, God doesn't need weapons to carry out His will. Think of David, when he becomes God's personified rod, wielded against the Philistine giant Goliath. David knows he can only defeat Goliath because of his absolute trust in the Lord, but he uses a physical weapon (a sling) to knock Goliath down, and a sword to take his head off. God's sovereignty allows David to wield those tools in a righteous way to overcome the strength and evil of Goliath and the Philistines.
We saw above that in the book of Esther, God gave individuals the right to defend themselves against those who would kill them.
Exploring the Biblical account further, we learn the story of a young Israelite woman named Ester. Through God's providence, she becomes Queen of Persia alongside King Ahasuerus. After the king's right-hand man, Haman, tricks the king into sending out an edict to kill all the Israelites in the land, Esther bravely exposes the scheme to Ahasuerus.
At that time in Persia, it was impossible to rescind a mandate from the king. Furthermore, laws prohibited the Israelites from defending themselves against the governing Persians. Esther's righteous cousin, Mordecai, who served the king, even at one point saving his life, is instated to take the place of Haman. Incidentally, the king orders Haman hanged. The king gives Mordecai authority to formulate a solution to the inevitable slaughter of the Israelites.
How did God save the Israelites?
By using Esther, Mordecai, and the king to establish a new mandate, giving the people access to weapons for self defense. Refer to Esther 8: 9-13
9 Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.
10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus' name, and sealed it with the king's ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:
11 Wherein 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,
12 Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.
13 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.
The Israelites arm themselves to defend against those who come to exterminate them. They did not rely on Persian soldiers. Instead, they appropriately use weapons to protect themselves against those who would use weapons to kill them.
Turn The Other Cheek?
Didn't Jesus tell us to turn the other cheek? Yes, but you must read the entire verse and the context of the era when Jesus was teaching. Jesus says in Matthew 5:39, But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
These words are part of Jesus' famous sermon on the mount. In addition to this having tribulation context, Jesus is explaining that people have misinterpreted and corrupted God's law. He explains that the law of an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth meant that punishment or response should not be more or less severe than the crime committed. And that punishment should be decided by a judge, not the individual.
Jesus isn't speaking about self defense, but rather retribution.
Just like the Pharisees, many people misinterpreted God's law, and Jesus's words to mean that if someone were to do something evil toward you, you were justified to do an evil deed back to him.
For example, stealing something from someone because they stole from you is inconsistent with the spirit of the law. Instead, this is an act of vengeance, or to even the score. It contradicts Deuteronomy 32: 35 Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand, And the things to come hasten upon them.
A bit of history helps us understand Jesus' words even more. Slapping someone's face with the back of your hand was considered a form of insult instead of an assault. Therefore, we can better understand His words as an instruction to not repay an insult with an insult, or petty arguments with petty arguments, or wrongdoings with our wrongdoings. Does one honestly believe that Jesus is telling us that if someone were to do anything to you (say, stab you in the face), you should simply turn and let him stab you on the other side of your face?
I know many Christians believe in passivism. While Christians can certainly choose to live in opposition to self-defense, I believe it is dangerous to interpret these words to mean Christians must be passive and not defend themselves against physical attack. I think what Paul is saying in Galatians 5:13 is that we have freedom in Christ, but that freedom is not cause to please or serve the flesh.
Protecting innocent life with deadly force is vastly different from gunning someone down in anger. To equate the two is not honest.
We all face an authentic spiritual battle visibly manifested in the physical battles against evil in the world. To be unprepared for either one has eternal ramifications.
Live by The Sword, Die By The Sword?
Let's look at Jesus' words to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. When the high priest's servants came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the people arresting Him.
Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 26: 52-54, 52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?”
Again, look at the words in the context of Jesus’ mission. Jesus speaks of 12 legions of angels to impress upon Peter that not only does He not need Peter to defend Him with deadly force, but that Jesus could indeed defend Himself if He wanted to. Peter still doesn't understand that Jesus is freely giving Himself up as the sinless sacrifice.
Peter doesn't yet fully understand God's will. So in acting with deadly force, he uses deadly force to enact his will, not that of God. He is resorting to using deadly force first, without justification. Those who choose violence as a first resort to solve all problems are ‘living by the sword’ and very often quite literally “die by the sword.”
This confrontation exposes the genuine struggle that faces concealed carriers today. Deciding to use deadly force to protect someone else. Without a clear understanding of the incident, such as an active shooter, or a person trying to kill a loved one, we should be sure that our intervention with lethal force is correctly focused.
We never want to shoot an innocent person or unnecessarily shoot someone because of an incomplete picture of what is going on.
We Should not Worry About Being Harmed, Just Bring the Gospel?
Shortly after the Lord's Supper, Jesus told the disciples that they should buy one if they did not have a sword.
Luke 22: 35-38 And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 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. 37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end. 38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
Jesus sent the disciples out earlier in his ministry and told them to take nothing on their mission. But, now He tells them to take a sword. There is no contradiction here. Jesus will soon give up His life and is warning them of the intense persecution that they will face while carrying out The Great Commission (go out into the world, preach the Gospel, and make disciples of all men).
Jesus commands us in Matthew 10:16: Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
We must be peaceful and use God's wisdom to fulfilling our command to bring the Gospel.
How do we carry out our work if we carelessly give up our lives by not being wise enough to protect ourselves from danger?
I believe Jesus said that two swords were sufficient because we as Christians need not be a physical army. We mustn't use offensive force or bring about “conversion by the sword.” God's kingdom won't be brought into existence through believers use of force. We are to use the tools (swords) defensively to protect ourselves from those who wish to harm us.
Should We should use Force to Protect Ourselves and Others?
Why should we guard our physical bodies? Paul explains it in a letter to the church in Corinth. He says in 1 Corinthians 1: 19-20, Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore glorify God with your body.
We are not glorifying God if we don't use the gifts he has given to us, including our physical bodies, through which we operate in this world.
Also, consider Jesus's words in Mark 12: 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
If we were to love our neighbor as ourselves truly, maybe it goes beyond just providing them with material things. What about loving them enough to intervene if we knew them to be an innocent party and saw someone using deadly force against them? It doesn't necessarily mean deadly force would be the only response, but we shouldn't shrug off considering protecting those who may not be able to help or defend themselves.
Is God glorified when someone stands by to watch an evil psychopath murder children when they had the physical means to stop them? Of course not. Think of law enforcement officers standing outside a school, while a shooter executes children. We instinctively recognize this as cowardice.
Consider what Proverbs 3:27 says Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
Wouldn't this include protecting those unable to protect themselves?
What about the physical protection we provide for our family? Should Christians not protect their family against a home intruder? If we read 1 Timothy 5:8, we see that not providing for your family is considered worse than being an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8 8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.
As men, we need to provide spiritual leadership for our family, but that isn't all. We can think of food, clothing, and a place to live as “providing,” but would we be genuinely providing for our family if we didn't provide for their physical safety and security?
Back to the question of “Won't God just protect you?” Yes God is infinitely loving, but he has directed us to do certain things so that we may glorify Him. Deuteronomy 6:16 says: 6 You shall not tempt the Lord your God as you tempted Him in Massah.
So do not live recklessly, tempting God to save you when He has already given you the tools and ability to do it yourself. One of those tools is His Holy Word, the Bible. The principle is so powerful that Jesus uses scripture to defeat Satan's temptation.
Matthew 4: 5-7, Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. 6 “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written:
‘He will command His angels concerning You,
and they will lift You up in their hands,
so that You will not strike Your foot
against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
God does not take pleasure in destroying the wicked of His creation. His desire is for us all to live by His commandments in true love and fellowship with Him. 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16. He will bring judgment and use ultimate force against the wicked, and it will be indescribable.
Ezekiel 33: Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, 3 when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. 5 He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. 6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
Everyone, believer and non-believer, will stand before God to give account. For the believer, it's what we've done as a steward of God's gifts. As a non-believer, it is to see the face of Jesus, who they've rejected and mocked, before departing from the presence of God for eternity. Hell is a real, physical place, and it isn't too late for anyone to realize they are a sinner, separated from God and cannot reconcile that relationship through good works of their own, to call on the name of Jesus to forgive them of their sin, repent and submit themselves to Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
Undoubtedly, some will disagree with this explanation of the Scripture. Whatever you currently feel about the topic, I ask you to be a Barean, and study God's word to see if these things are so. It doesn't matter what I think, or you think, the only thing that matters is what God thinks on the topic