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 own 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 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 studies God's 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 that comes with 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 Christian, 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 truly 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 politics, 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, we Should Use Deadly-Force to Protect Them?
Won't God Protect You?
Let's start by addressing a common 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 just steer it for me? Thinking that because God can do anything that we don't need to do anything is an apathetic approach to life. God does not want us to be apathetic but rather to live purposefully and glorify Him. So He gave us free will to choose His will or our will.
Truthfully the enemy exists and God allows him to operate for some time in this fallen world. The enemy is Satan and he corrupts man to choose self-centered things over God-centered things. Why? Because he hates God and His creation. 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.
The hard truth is, at times God causes or allows horrific things to happen to people, and we can't always understand the purpose. In Luke 13: 4-5 Jesus says: Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam collapsed on them, Do you think that they were more sinful than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you. But unless you repent, you too will all perish.
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.
We should not be fooled into believing that because God allows bad things to happen or because we face hardships that He does not exist, does not love us, or is not in complete control. 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 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.
You Shall Not Kill?
Isn't one of the Ten Commandments “You shall not kill?” Sorta. 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 4 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. So, if we don't understand the context, or translate from the appropriate word, we can lose the appropriate meaning.
Therefore, it is important to look at two different Hebrew words, ratsakh and mut. Along with two Greek words, phoneuo, and apokteino, for “murder” and “killing.” When used in other manuscripts from the time, the Hebrew word mut and Greek word apokteino are used to describe the unlawful taking of life, in other words, murder. The words, ratsakh, and phoneuo are used about 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, many Biblical contextual critics believe 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 of the Amalakites were evil and a threat to God's people. For further reference see (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.
God has a clear distinction between taking a life of someone with evil intentions and the taking of someone’s life by His will. This is an important distinction and a point that is often misunderstood. Police and concealed carriers use defensive force. That is, they do not use deadly force offensively to exact revenge, carry out judgment or out of anger.
We should use the amount of force that is 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 to use deadly force.
God also makes it clear 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 if struck and dies, the person using force shall not incur guilt. However, if the thief is 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 deadly defensive force cant be used during the day, more so that at night it is hard to determine if someone entering your home uninvited is there to cause you harm or not. During the day, it is easier to identify someone as a deadly threat and not just someone stealing mere property. So when using deadly force, we should use discernment to identify if the threat really is a deadly threat or not.
God Doesn't like Guns and Weapons?
Doesn't God detest weapons? Faced with a deadly force threat, the handgun is an incredibly useful tool to stop that attack. Especially when there is a disparity in strength, force or numbers. Should an old 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.
The rod was a weapon, sort of like a sap, that was 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 Philistines. David knows he is only able to defeat Goliath because of his absolute trust in the Lord. God has him use a physical weapon, the sling to carry out His will. David first slings the rock, hitting Goliath in the head and knocking him out. Afterward, David uses a sword to behead him. We see David uses physical weapons to defeat the physical giant Goliath, however, it is only David's belief in God's sovereignty that allows David to wield those tools in a righteous way to overcome the strength of Goliath.
In the book of Esther, we learn the story of a young Israelite woman named Ester. Through God's providence, she is made Queen of Persia alongside King Ahasuerus. After the king's right-hand man Haman tricks the king to send out an edict to kill all the Israelites in the land, Esther bravely exposes the scheme to Ahasuerus. At that time in Persia, an edict from the king could never be rescinded. Furthermore, the Israelites were prohibited to defend themselves against the Persians who governed over them. Esther's righteous cousin, Mordecai who served the king, even at one point saving his life, is instated to take the place of Haman who is put to death. Mordecai is given authority to formulate a solution to the inevitable slaughter of the Israelites.
How does God save the Israelites? By using Esther, Mordecai and the king to establish a new edict. 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 in order to defend against those who come to exterminate them. They did not rely on other Persian soldiers from the king, instead, they appropriately use weapons to defend 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.
This is part of Jesus' famous sermon on the mount. 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. Unfortunately, many folks have misinterpreted this 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 he stole from you, is inconsistent with the true meaning of the law. Rather, this stealing is an act of vengeance, or to even the score. This is wrong in God's eyes because 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. At that time, one would slap the face of another with the back of his hand as a form of insult. Therefore, we can extrapolate 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 truly 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 believe it is dangerous to interpret these words to mean Christians must be passive and not defend themselves against physical attack. We all face a very real spiritual battle, which is 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 servants of the high priest 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 surely defend Himself if He wanted to. Peter still doesn't understand that Jesus is freely giving Himself up as the sinless sacrifice. This shows that he doesn't yet fully understand God's will. So in acting with deadly force, he is using 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 very real 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 shoot someone who didn't need to be shot 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 if they did not have a sword, they should buy one.
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. This is not a contradiction because 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, but also use God's wisdom to fulfilling our command to bring the Gospel.
How are we to carry out our work if we needlessly give up our lives by not being wise enough to protect ourselves from danger? I believe Jesus said that 2 swords were enough because we need not be a physical army. We mustn't use offensive force or bring about ‘conversion by the sword’. We are to use the tools, (swords) always defensively so that we can protect ourselves from those who wish to harm us.
Our Bodies Are So Important that We should use Force to Protect Them?
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, that includes our physical bodies, through which we operate in this world.
Finally, 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 He will be glorified. 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. This 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.’ ”
Points to Ponder:
Our first ministry is to provide for our family. In fact, 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. It is easy to think of food, clothing and a place to live as ‘providing' but would we be truly providing for our family if we didn't provide for their physical safety and security?
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 truly love our neighbor as ourselves, 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? This 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 protect themselves.
God does not take pleasure in destroying 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.’
This 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 studies God's Word. I am a former police officer, combat infantry Marine, firearms instructor, husband, and father. I have used the New King James translation for Scripture in this post.
Undoubtedly some will disagree with this explanation of Scripture. However, I believe God's word to be unambiguous. I desire that you are at peace with your understanding of deadly defensive-force and your faith. Please don’t just read this and stop. Read your Bible, pray to the Lord, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in your understanding of God's Word. I believe that God wants us to live boldly in a fallen world because we have His promise that if we are acting within His will, He will provide everything we need. We also need to share the Gospel and use the gifts, blessings, and opportunities He has bestowed upon us, for the only thing that matters. That is His glory.