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Question #380

Is self-defense a sin?

Is self-defense a sin? I was told it is a sin, based on James 5:6, Matt. 5:39 and Luke 6:29. It does not seem right to me, but all I found is Luke 22:36-38, and he said those swords were not for self-defense, but defending each other. Can you help me?

The Answer:

Those who find commands not to defend oneself or his family when attacked in Matt. 5:39 and Luke 6:29 can only do so when they interpret these verses literally. Such an approach creates several problems. First, it does not prevent self-defense; it only delays it. After the second cheek has been turned and struck the command has been obeyed and self-defense is no longer prohibited. Second, the literalists have a problem with Matt. 5:29-30. If verse 39 must be taken literally then consistency demands that verses 29-30 also be taken literally. All who take verse 39 literally are human so far as I know. That being the case each has surely been offended at least once by hand and eye. That they are inconsistent is demonstrated by the fact that there are not a lot of one-eyed one-handed verse 39 literalists running around. It would even seem that there should be not a few blind, handless, and even footless (see Mark 9:45) literalists!

Moreover, a literal interpretation of the first part of the verse creates even greater problems. If, for instance, a Christian woman must not defend herself she could not be raped since the law requires resistance. A lack of resistance is the equivalent of consent.

If the principle involved includes all evil, and it must since there is not qualifier preceding the term, then the principle includes oral abuse as well as physical. Since that is the case scripture should contain no examples of Christians even responding to oral abuse. But that is not the case. When Paul was tried in Jerusalem he was struck in the face, his sense of justice was outraged, and he spoke out sharply against the offender (Acts 23:1-3). The literalist may respond that Paul was human and that his resisting the offense by rebuke was sin. Can they make the same argument against Jesus? When an officer struck Jesus he did not invite further indignity; instead he rebuked the man for the attack (John 18:22). It is clear that Jesus did not intend for this language to be taken literally.

What then did Jesus mean? For a discussion of this question please see "Class: Questions, Lesson 13," Open Forum – Part 2, pages 8-12.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)