You might prefer a scriptural treatment.
Actually that last link has a fair number of
scripture links. I'll reproduce them here since you can't click on the article and scroll down yourself.
Larry Fox states:
Jesus' defense of himself
Please consider listening to experts and scholarly treatements. These guys do read the scriptures and think long and hard about these things. At this point, I can't respond any more to dismissals of experts and denial of scholarly analysis, as these may be the best treatment of the topic that I can provide.
The New Testament stresses the importance of Christians becoming Christ-like, or like Jesus. The term "Christian" describes a person who is like Christ; originally, it was a derogatory term meaning "little Christ." Let us examine Jesus' life and teachings as they relate to the topic of self defense, including one's reputation and physical safety. The following verses are presented in the order in which they appear in scripture and are not grouped by topic.
,p> Note that when Jesus was arrested, he told his disciples he could call on his Father, who would put legions of angels at his disposal to protect and deliver him. This certainly was true during his torture and execution, but Jesus submitted to the process because that was his purpose in coming to earth.
- Matthew 2:13. When Jesus was a young child, an angel of the Lord appeared to his father, Joseph, in a dream and warned him to leave the country because Herod wanted to kill Jesus.
- Matthew 2:22. Again, Joseph learned in a dream that Jesus' life was in danger, so he moved to another area.
- Matthew 4:2-3, 11. After Jesus had fasted forty days, he did not use his powers to provide for himself; instead, angels attended him.
- Matthew 8:23-26. Jesus and his disciples were in a boat when a furious storm suddenly developed. Jesus was unconcerned for his own safety and was asleep. When the disciples awoke him, he reprimanded the disciples for being afraid, then rebuked the storm and it became calm.
- Matthew 12:14-15. The Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus, so he left the area.
- Matthew 12:24-28. Jesus corrected the Pharisees who accused him. He knew they were plotting to kill him.
- Matthew 12:34-37. He harshly rebuked the Pharisees. Was this in retaliation for their accusations? No, but to correct their error and stubborn refusal to accept what God was doing.
- Matthew 16:21. Jesus knew he would suffer many things and be killed by the religious leaders.
- Matthew 26:50-54. At Jesus' arrest, Peter used a sword to defend Jesus. Jesus told him not to and he healed the man Peter injured. It was time for him to die and he was ready. He could have asked God for protection, but he did not (verse 53). His statement, "all who draw the sword will die by the sword," is often quoted today as a rejection of the use of weapons. But in another account of this incident, Jesus' point in having Peter put away his sword was his willingness to submit to arrest and death, rather than avoiding the use of weapons (John 18:11). If Jesus were a pacifist and opposed to any use of weapons, why would he allow his disciples to own them? In none of the gospels does Jesus rebuke his disciples for carrying weapons (swords). Jesus told Peter not to use his sword because (1) Jesus must be arrested, and (2) Peter was acting in the flesh rather than recognizing God's will.
- Matthew 26:62-64. Jesus did not defend himself when accused. Also see Matthew 27:11-14.
- Luke 4:4:28-30. A crowd tried to throw Jesus off a cliff, but he walked through the crowd to escape.
- Luke 13:31-33. The Pharisees warned Jesus Herod wanted to kill him, but he was unmoved.
- Luke 19:11-27. In a parable, Jesus describes a king who killed those who opposed him. Based on our understanding of scripture, the king in the parable represents Jesus himself when he returns to set up his kingdom on earth.
- Luke 20:9-16. Jesus tells a parable in which a landowner killed the tenants who killed his son. Notice the response of the people who heard the parable: "May this never be!" Jesus' position regarding death was stricter than the teaching of the religious leaders of his day.
- Luke 22:36-38. Jesus instructed each disciple to get a sword, even if he had to sell his cloak to buy one. They had two swords among them, and Jesus said that was sufficient. He clearly was not opposed to the possession and use of swords, yet he indicated two swords were sufficient for the 11 disciples; they obviously were not heavily armed.
- John 7:1. Jesus avoided an area because the Jews there were waiting to take his life.
- John 7:30. The Jews tried to seize Jesus in the temple courts, but "no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come." In other words, they wanted to and tried, but were unable. See also verse 44.
- John 7:32, 45-46. The religious leaders sent guards to arrest Jesus, but the guards were strongly influenced by Jesus' teaching and did not arrest him.
- John 8:20. No one seized Jesus (though they really wanted to) because his time had not yet come.
- John 8:59. The Jews picked up stones to stone (kill) Jesus, but he hid himself and slipped away.
- John 10:39. The Jews tried to seize Jesus, but he escaped their grasp. There is no mention in any of these incidents of Jesus struggling or defending himself. This alone does not mean he did or didn't. Scripture also never says he put on his sandals, either.
- John 11:7-10. Jesus went back to Judea where the Jews had tried to stone him. His reply to his disciples about daylight may indicate they will be safe if they go when the time is right; or his reply might indicate a complete lack of concern for safety, even in broad daylight.
- John 11:53-54, 57. After the official governing body (the Sanhedrin) decided to kill Jesus, he avoided public exposure until it was time for him to die.
- John 12:36. Jesus hid himself from a crowd after speaking to them. This was after the chief priests and Pharisees gave orders for people to report if they see him so they could arrest him (John 11:57).
- John 18:10-11. Same incident as Matthew 26:50-54.
- John 18:22-23. An official struck Jesus and rebuked him. Jesus did not retaliate, but stood his ground.
- John 18:36. Jesus said his disciples would fight to prevent his arrest, except his kingdom is spiritual; the same is true today. By implication, it's not wrong to fight about matters of this world.
- John 19:6-12. Pilate was afraid to condemn Jesus and looked for a reason to let him go, but Jesus would not directly answer his question; probably because a direct answer would have encouraged Pilate to release him, which would abort the crucifixion.
The Apostles' Response to Threats
Especially after Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection, the apostle's lives also were in danger. We see them facing many hostile situations, including people who tried to take their lives because of the gospel. Let us examine some relevant scriptures to see how the apostles responded to such threats. Why must we look at so many scriptures? God considered it important to record all these instances for our benefit, so we should benefit by reading them.
- Acts 4:3, 7-13. The religious leaders seized Peter and John, put them in jail overnight, and the next day questioned them. Peter spoke boldly, filled with the Holy Spirit, apparently unconcerned about his safety. He knew these same people had crucified Jesus a short time before and openly rebuked them for doing so.
- Acts 6:8-7:60. Men from one of the synagogues seized Stephen and took him before the Sanhedrin, the religious court, for questioning. Stephen boldly rebuked the religious leaders, who became furious and had him stoned to death.
- Acts 8:1-4. Immediately after Stephen's execution, great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem. Believers were imprisoned and many scattered to other regions.
- Acts 9:23-25. The Jews conspired to kill Saul (Paul), but his followers helped him escape.
- Acts 9:29-30. Saul (Paul) debated with the Grecian Jews, who then tried to kill him. When the other believers heard of this, they sent him to another area.
- Acts 12:1-10. Herod arrested some believers and had one of them, the apostle James, executed. He then arrested Peter and put him in prison. The church responded by praying earnestly. The angel of the Lord then released Peter from prison.
- Acts 13:50-51. Paul and Barnabas were teaching and many people believed in the Lord. But certain people stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas and expelled them from the region. They responded by shaking the dust from their feet in symbolic protest and went to another region.
- Acts 14:5-7. There was a plot to mistreat and stone Paul and Barnabas, so they fled to another region and continued to preach.
- Acts 15:26. Paul and Barnabas clearly risked their lives for the Lord.
- Acts 16:22-28. Paul and Silas were severely flogged and thrown into prison with their feet in stocks. During the night, they were praying and singing hymns to God, when a violent earthquake opened all the prison doors and everyone's chains came loose. Paul and Silas were then able to minister to the jailer and his family.
- Acts 16:36-39. The magistrates ordered Paul and Silas released from prison, but Paul announced that they had violated his legal rights as a Roman citizen. He insisted the magistrates personally escort him out of prison, which they did because they were alarmed at breaking Roman law. This shows it is appropriate to stand up for legal rights, including when the cause of Christ is involved.
- Acts 17:5, 10. A mob rioted against Paul and Silas; they slipped away at night.
- Acts 17:13-14. People stirred crowds up against Paul, and the believers sent him away.
- Acts 18:6. A crowd opposed Paul and became abusive. He shook out his clothes in symbolic protest against them and left.
- Acts 18:9-10. God assured Paul and told him not to be afraid.
- Acts 18:28. Apollos "vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ."
- Acts 19:8. Paul spoke boldly and argued persuasively about the kingdom of God.
- Acts 19:29-31. A mob seized Paul's traveling companions, and the believers prevented Paul from addressing the crowd.
- Acts 20:3. There was a plot against Paul, so he changed his plans.
- Acts 20:22-24. God had warned Paul repeatedly he would experience prison and hardships, but he considered his life worth nothing compared to finishing his task.
- Acts 21:1-13. Agabus prophesied Paul would be bound and handed over to the Gentiles. Paul responded he was ready even to die for the Lord.
- Acts 22:25-29. Paul invoked his rights as a Roman citizen to avoid being flogged. Notice Paul merely asked the soldier standing next to him whether it was legal to flog a Roman citizen who had not been proven guilty; he did not make any threats or demand appropriate treatment.
- Acts 23:1-5. Paul severely rebuked members of the Sanhedrin for violating the law by ordering to have him struck. Then he backed down when informed the man giving the order was the high priest; Paul honored the position of the high priest.
- Acts 23:6-10. Paul invoked his background as a Pharisee in his defense before the Sanhedrin, knowing it would be divisive.
- Acts 23:11-18. The Lord told Paul he would go to Rome. When Paul discovered the Jews were plotting to kill him, he sent word to the commander of the centurions guarding him. The issue was his going to Rome to testify about Jesus (23:11), not his personal safety (21:13).
- Acts 24:5-21. Paul was falsely accused before the governor and he gladly defended himself. When Jesus was falsely accused, he did not defend himself because his trial would lead to the fulfillment of one of his main purposes in life: death on the cross. Paul knew he would go to Rome, so he was free to defend himself.
- Acts 25:6-12. Paul acknowledged the state's right to execute him if he was guilty. He defended himself and invoked his right as a Roman citizen to appeal to Caesar.
- 1 Corinthians 9:2-3. The believers were Paul's seal (proof) of apostleship, his defense to those who judged him. Self defense against accusations is not always wrong.
- 2 Corinthians 11:23-27. Paul listed his hardships, but never condemned those who did these things to him nor sought revenge. He accepted these hardships as part of his life purpose.
- Philippians 2:17. Paul was being poured out like a drink offering, referring to spilling his blood as a sacrifice. Also 2 Timothy 4:6.
- Philippians 3:10-12. Paul wanted to experience or share Christ's sufferings and death, which lead to the power of the resurrection. He set his eyes on the resurrection, accepting the fact that hardship and death are prerequisites. He also recognized that those experiences perfect him, which motivated him to press on toward Jesus' purpose for his life. Rather than avoid hardship and death, he embraced them because he knew their benefits. We see this same attitude in Hebrews 12:2; for the joy set before him, Jesus endured the cross and its shame.
- Colossians 1:24-25. Paul suffered physically for the sake of the church and became its servant. He did not protect himself but instead rejoiced in his opportunity to serve the church through his sufferings.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:8-9. Paul and his companions expended themselves for other believers, rather than protect themselves. His toil and hardship was for the benefit of other believers.
- 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15. The believers suffered persecution from their own countrymen.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:4. Paul and his companions were destined to suffer great trials.
- 1 Thessalonians 3:7. Paul and Timothy suffered distress and persecution.
- 2 Thessalonians 1:4. Paul boasted about their perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials they were enduring.
- 2 Timothy 1:8. Paul urged Timothy to join him in suffering for the gospel.
- 2 Timothy 4:6-8. Paul faces death with confidence; his work is completed.
- Hebrews 10:32-34. The believers stood in the face of suffering; they accepted insult, persecution, prison, confiscation of their property. They accepted these joyfully, knowing they had "better and lasting possessions." They did not defend themselves or protect their belongings at any cost.
- Hebrews 11:32-39. Commends people for their faith. Some were delivered or victorious; others were rejected, abused or killed. All are honored for their faith, regardless of the outcome.
- 3 John 9-10. A believer opposed John and gossiped about him. John will "call attention to what he is doing," addressing the evil behavior, not defending himself.
- Revelation 11:3-7. The two witnesses destroy anyone who tries to harm them. After they have completed their work, they will be killed.
The New Covenant
Now that we have examined Jesus' and the apostles' responses to threatening situations, let us consider Jesus' teachings about what we should do.
These are the teachings and sayings of Jesus relevant to the topic of self defense. Now we will consider other New Testament verses.
- Matthew 5:10-12. You should consider yourself blessed if you are persecuted because of your righteousness, if people insult you, or if people persecute you because of Jesus. This doesn't imply either retaliation or defense.
- Matthew 5:21. Not only are we prohibited from murdering (see above, "Is Killing a Person Always Murder?"), we are not to even be angry with someone or treat them with contempt.
- Matthew 5:25-26. If someone is taking you to court, settle the matter in advance. The context presumes you are guilty of the charge ("You will not get out until you have paid the last penny.")
- Matthew 5:38-41. You are not to resist an evil person or withhold what they demand. Some insist "turn the other cheek" is limited to a slap on the face and is not relevant to dangerous attacks. We must keep "turn the other cheek" in context, however, which includes "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (verse 44). The examples Jesus gives in these verses of people asking or requiring things of you are all legally legitimate actions: filing legal suit; the Roman law allowing soldiers to require a civilian to carry their armor; asking or borrowing from you.
- Matthew 5:44. You are to love your enemies and pray for (not against) those who persecute you. Your sinful nature's tendency is to reward those who are good to you and retaliate against those who treat you badly. Instead, you are to deny your sinful nature's demands by doing good and blessing those who intend you harm.
- Matthew 6:25-33. This requires a complete realignment of your priorities. Your sinful nature's priority is to take care of yourself. Instead, God's kingdom and his righteousness must be your top priorities, and let God take care of you as he deems appropriate.
- Matthew 10:16-20. Jesus sent his disciples out as sheep among wolves; that is, defenseless. They were to be "shrewd" (Greek word phronimos ); that is, thoughtful (giving thought to their ways), rational, clever, prudent and wise (in considering and preparing). They were to be "innocent" (Greek word akeraios); that is, give careful thought to their ways and be prudent in what they do, but be free of guilt. He told them, "be on your guard against men"; this is self-explanatory, because he said they would be arrested and beaten. He also said this all would have a purpose: they would have opportunity to speak in behalf of Jesus before authorities and leaders. He did not mention running away or protecting themselves, but he also didn't say not to.
- Matthew 10:21-22. Jesus told his disciples, and by implication all other believers, they would be hated and killed because of the gospel, even by their own family. He did not say whether they should defend themselves. But he did place great value on standing firm to the end.
- Matthew 10:23. If persecuted in one place, his disciples were to flee to another.
- Matthew 10:28. Do not be afraid of those who can only take your life; that is, don't be afraid to die.
- Matthew 16:24-25. Any disciple must deny himself (reject self-centered interests) and take up his cross (embrace or carry that which has the potential to destroy you). Self defense is not an option; be prepared to lose your life for Jesus' sake. Based on this verse and John 12:25, anyone who loves his earthly life (preoccupied with it, tries to protect himself) will lose his life (eternal life, based on the next statement). Conversely, anyone who hates his life (comparatively speaking) and is willing give it up for Jesus' sake will have eternal life. Also see Matthew 10:39; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; John 12:25.
- Matthew 18: 15-17. If another believer sins against you, you should talk to him one-on-one. If he does not listen, which means you are unable to resolve the issue, take another believer or two with you and try again. If you are still unsuccessful, take the issue before the church (presumably the church leadership, those who have the authority to state how the offending brother should be treated).
- Matthew 19:19; 22:39. Love your neighbor as yourself, which requires love for self. The Bible presupposes a level of concern for one's own well-being and uses that as a standard for treatment of others. For example, consider the Golden Rule: "In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).
- Matthew 21:33. In a parable, Jesus described a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a wall around it and built a watchtower. That is, the landowner built protection for his vineyard, which was a common practice. Jesus did not suggest this was inappropriate, therefore it seems acceptable.
- Matthew 24:15-18. When people around Jerusalem see the abomination in the holy place, they are to flee immediately.
- Matthew 24:43. If a thief might steal from you, it is appropriate to protect your possessions. This is such common sense, Jesus uses it as an example of being ready for his return.
- Luke 12:11-12. Do not worry about defending yourself when you are accused or arrested because you are a Christian.
- John 10:1-15. Jesus portrays himself as the great shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. He portrays his followers as sheep he protects and cares for, who cannot do this for themselves.
- John 16:2. Believers will be killed for their faith; their killers will believe they are justified in killing them.
- Romans 12:12. Be patient in affliction; that is, accept it and don't reject it or try to stop it.
- Romans 12:14. Bless those who persecute you, rather than curse them (the natural response). This clearly prohibits retaliation, but maybe not self defense.
- Romans 12:17-21. Do not repay evil for evil. As much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but allow God to respond to the other person as he considers appropriate. On the contrary, if the person who wishes to do you harm is hungry or thirsty, give him what he needs. Again, this clearly prohibits retaliation. If self defense is appropriate, these verses will definitely affect your motive.
- Romans 16:20. The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet. The God of peace doesn't cave in to those who seek to overthrow him or rebel against his kingdom. Instead, he crushes them (see Jesus' parables in Luke 19:11-27 and 20:9-16). Because we are part of God's kingdom and Satan's targets, God will use us to crush him. Notice God calls us to be at peace with all men, yet it is appropriate to crush evil.
- 1 Corinthians 6:1-7. Disputes between believers should be judged by other believers; it is better to be wronged or cheated by another believer than to take the dispute before unbelievers. This doesn't say we shouldn't try to resolve the dispute (defend our rights or property, for example); only that we should find other believers to judge the dispute.
- 1 Corinthians 10:24, 33; 12:7, 25; 14:4-5, 12. Repeated emphasis on what benefits others rather than yourself; that is, be less concerned about your own well-being. This is consistent with the themes of humility and agape.
- 1 Corinthians 15:30-32. Paul endangered himself "every hour"; he "died daily." He fought "wild beasts" in Ephesus, probably referring to the riot incited by a silversmith who made a lucrative living making shrines of the local deity (Acts 19). Because of Paul's faith in the resurrection, he was willing to face death every day.
- 2 Corinthians 1:8-11. Paul suffered great hardships in Asia, pressured beyond his own ability to endure. The purpose of that pressure: he had to learn not to rely on himself, but to rely on God alone. General observations: (1) God's work is evident most often at the limits of our ability; he may wait until we get to end of our rope before intervening. (2) Past deliverance gives us confidence that he will deliver us now and in the future. (3) God uses troubles to overcome our independence. He never gives us anything that will make us independent of him. We must be trusting and dependent as little children toward him, and he must be our strength and safety.
- 2 Corinthians 1:12. A contrast between worldly wisdom and God's ways and grace. This is a frequent theme in the New Testament. Worldly wisdom says you must be strong to protect yourself and defend your rights. In many cases, it is wise to identify the worldly way then do the opposite. God's ways seem foolish to the worldly perspective, because spiritual truths and principles cannot be grasped by human intellect (see 1 Co 2:13-16). That may be the case with the issue of self defense.
- 2 Corinthians 4:7-12, 16-18. "Jars of clay." We are fragile containers, easily destroyed, always given over to death for Jesus' sake, so (1) the all-surpassing power is shown to be from God, not us; and (2) Jesus' life may be revealed in our mortal bodies. Paul was humanly overwhelmed but sustained by God's power, outwardly wasting away (by appearance) but inwardly renewed continuously. From his perspective, he was hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. But these are light and momentary troubles, comparatively speaking, achieving an eternal glory. Look past the temporal, and fix your sight on the eternal.
- 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. This passage contains a long list of Paul's' hardships. But he makes no complaints and no mention of trying to protect himself. Why not? Because of his perspective of mortality (2 Co 5:1-8). Also, these were hardships directly related to his ministry and service to God. So the question becomes: How much of your life is service to God (or should be)? Answer: You never stop being a Christian, Christ's ambassador, a minister of reconciliation, God's representative to a world dying in sin. Therefore, your perspective should be the same as Paul's, even if not in full-time ministry.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Paul delights in personal weakness because his weakness makes room for Christ's power to rest on him.
- 2 Corinthians 13:4. Jesus was crucified in weakness -- without self defense -- now lives in God's power; the same will be true of us.
- Ephesians 5:25, 28-29. A husband is to give himself up for his wife as Christ did for the church; this includes sacrificing himself to care for her and protect her.
- Ephesians 6:10-18. This passage describes the "armor of God." Notice that only the sword is an offensive weapon; all other armor described is defensive in nature. This implies there is nothing inherently wrong with defending yourself.
- Philippians 2:5-8. We are to have the same attitude as Christ: he did not consider his personal status or rights worth defending, and sacrificed himself for the benefit of others.
- 1 Timothy 5:8. The context is providing for widows in need. If this includes providing food and clothing, it certainly also includes protection from assault or abuse.
- 1 Timothy 6:17. Those who are rich must not be arrogant about their wealth or put their hope in it; they are to put their hope in God alone. This is a general principle: Whatever you consider your resources -- provision, defense and so on -- you must put your hope and trust in God alone, not your abilities or resources.
- 2 Timothy 2:23-26. Avoid arguments and quarrels; instead be kind to everyone and not resentful, gently instruct those who oppose you. These instructions are specifically for Christian leaders, but are relevant to all of us. Arguments and quarrels happen when we defend our position and try to prove ourselves right.
- Hebrews 2:10, 18; 5:8. Jesus suffered when tempted and became perfect through his suffering. Becoming like him involves suffering in a variety of ways, and one of our strongest temptations is to defend ourselves. Some may argue that self defense is a human need, not a temptation. From a Christian perspective, God has pledged to protect us far better than we could protect ourselves and even use suffering to better us. While self defense may not be wrong (that is, a sin), choosing to trust God exclusively will cause the natural human need for self defense to become a temptation in much the same way that fasting causes eating to become a temptation.
- 1 Peter 1:5-7. We are shielded by God's power. A natural interpretation might be that God will shield us from life's troubles, but in reality God uses our suffering in trials to prove our faith genuine and to bring praise, glory and honor when Jesus is revealed. If we try to protect ourselves from trials, we abort this process.
- 1 Peter 4:1-2. He who suffers in his body (flesh) is done with sin. The main purpose of suffering is to help you defeat your sinful nature, so reject evil human desires and live by God's will. Protecting or defending yourself reinforces your sinful nature rather than defeat it.
- 1 John 3:16-18. Christ's example was to lay down his life for us and we are to lay down our lives for our brothers (other believers). This passage refers to sharing material possessions, so it's not just referring to dying for another. We are to love with actions and truth rather than words. It is appropriate, even commendable, to sacrifice your own life to defend another. In fact, doing so is a proper response to the sinful natures of both the defender and the defended: the defender overcomes his self-centered desire for self-preservation; the defended does not have to defend himself and must accept the blessing from another.
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