Long story short, the Bible forbids vengeful retaliation but does not prohibit self-defense.
Scripture contains relevant passages about self-defense, including specific statements and examples of God’s faithful followers protecting themselves and others. In this post, we’ll look at whether self-defense is a sin in the Bible.
Retaliation vs. Self-Defense
One of the key verses in the discussion of self-defense is Matthew 5:39, in which Jesus speaks about turning the other cheek.
Many believers wonder if this verse means that Jesus asserts they should let themselves be harmed rather than defend themselves.
When studying this verse, it is critical to understand that Jesus refers directly to Old Testament passages dealing with the law of retaliation (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20).
According to these verses, God intended to limit the retaliation associated with wrongdoing. Christ acknowledges this but focuses on those willing to forego their rights and endure slights against themselves.
The same teaching about non-retaliation can also be found in the apostles’ writings. Romans 12:17 and 1 Peter 3:9 demonstrate that evil-doing must not be repaid by evil.
These verses are about retaliation and not self-defense. As Jesus taught, Christians are not to retaliate offensively against someone who has been wronged.
What Does the Bible Say About Self-Defense?
Retaliatory vengeance is prohibited by the Bible, but self-defense is not explicitly forbidden.
The proper application of self-defense requires wisdom, understanding, and tact. In Luke 22:36, Jesus instructs his remaining disciples to sell their cloaks and buy a sword if they do not already have one.
Jesus anticipated that His followers would be threatened and defend their right to self-defense.
Soon after, Jesus is arrested, and one of his disciples takes a sword and splits someone’s ear. Jesus chastises the disciple for this act (Luke 22 49:51) because the disciple interfered with God’s will in his zeal to defend Him.
The disciple made a poor decision in that situation. This verse demonstrates that we must be wise in choosing our battles. Christians should know when to fight and when not to.
Another example of self-defense in the Bible is when Esther asked that the Jews be able to defend themselves against the horrific Persian invasion that Haman, the villain, had planned (Esther 8:3-6).
God was at work in the events to safeguard and preserve His chosen people since He permitted the Jews to struggle against their oppressors and successfully defended themselves from the intended destruction (Esther 8:11; 9:1-2).
Similarly, the Israelites armed themselves for defense when Nehemiah oversaw rebuilding the wall encircling Jerusalem (Nehemiah 4:11-18). The Bible states that the Israelites performed their labor with one hand while holding a weapon in the other (Nehemiah 4:17).
Christians can and should work to keep themselves and other people safe. The Bible does contain instances of people using self-defense. Even in the Bible, a man is depicted defending himself and his family from a nighttime thief (Exodus 22:2-3).
Standing up for the helpless and protecting oneself against physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual harm are all examples of acting in self- or other-defense. For instance, a man or woman being attacked physically or sexually assaulted should try to fight back.
Christians are not expected to act like “doormats” who let anyone treat them however they choose. They are not breaking the law by attempting to defend themselves. Instead, they can stand up for themselves and work to protect the poor and defenseless (Psalm 82:3).
Self-defense is never forbidden in the Bible. Believers can protect their families and themselves; this act is not a sin. However, just because we are allowed to defend ourselves doesn’t imply we have to in every circumstance.
Understanding God’s character by studying His Word will enable us to react appropriately in situations when self-defense may be necessary. As Christians, we should rely on “the wisdom that comes from heaven” (James 3:17) to guide us in every decision we make.