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 who believes that we can understand God's will by being a workman in 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 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 spiritual complacency: 8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
As long as evil exists, we should 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 against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.
In Nehemia Chapter 4, the prophet instructs those 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.
God doesn't cause evil 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 trials and pains we face are because of God's love for us.
In Hebrews 12:6-11 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
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 come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
Romans 1:18-21: explains that: For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
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, Selah.
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 Abel, God has this exchange with him in Gen 4:9-12 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. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
So God's prohibition against killing is in keeping with His character.
So people often say, isn't one of the Ten Commandments “Thou shalt not kill?” Yes.
One argument is that the word should be murder. I disagree and believe the KJ translators used the correct word. Here is why. Not all killing is murder. For example, if you recklessly drive your car and kill someone, did you commit murder? Nope, you committed manslaughter. So if they translated is as murder, God would be sanctioning manslaughter, which would be a mistranslation and go against His character and Exodus 21:29 describes this.
All killing is wrong in God's eyes, and the commandments show us God's character and how He intended us to live. As we saw, the god of this world is Satan, and in a fallen world where the spirit of the age follows evil, killing to protect the innocent is an unfortunate reality.
But didn't Jesus say in Matthew 19:18, He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
Yes, but this is an answer to a specific person (the Rich Young Ruler vs. 16) asking a specific question (And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?). Jesus is not quoting the 10 commandments, He is speaking to the heart condition. Murder involves forethought to kill, while manslaughter does not.
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 would lead God's people into idolatry.
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 …Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
Here, 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.
This distinction is important, but often 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 a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.
Now, not that one can't use deadly defensive force during the day. The principle is that 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 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy 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 righteously 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 Esther. Through God's providence, she becomes Queen of Persia alongside King Ahasuerus. After the king's right-hand man, (that Wicked) Haman, tricks the king into sending out an edict to kill all the Israelites in the land, Esther bravely exposes the scheme to the King.
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 say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
These words are 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. And that punishment should be decided by a judge, not the individual.
Jesus isn't speaking about self defense, but rather retribution. Again, the heart and desire, not merely what is externally visible or knowable.
Just like the Pharisees, many people today, 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 To me belongeth vengeance, and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
A bit of history may illustrate 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 some 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.
No where in Paul's epistles to the church does he lay out a mandate for Christians to arm themselves, nor does he expressly prohibit it. It is in these matters that the individual believer must determine, through prayer and guidance of the Holy Ghost, how they will serve God.
Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.
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 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?
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 Spread 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. 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. 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. 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 to go into the world, preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, and make disciples of all men.
Jesus commands us in Matthew 10:16: Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore 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.
Our real sword is the Bible, the word of God. Ephesians 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:
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 6:19-20, What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
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' words in Mark 12:30-31And 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. 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? We see that not providing for your family is considered worse than being an unbeliever. 1 Timothy 5:8 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 are called to provide spiritual headship 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 Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God, as ye 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 taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
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. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
He will bring judgment and use ultimate force against the wicked, and it will be indescribable. But you say, “I'm a pretty good person, Im not as bad as ___”. But Read further:
John 3:17-21 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
We have a personal responsibility to respond to the truth.
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.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
Undoubtedly, some will disagree with this. Whatever you currently feel about the topic, I ask you to be a Berean 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. 2 Tim 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.