Christianity · crime · law · philosophy

As clear as gray: how far should Christians take self-defense?

indoor-military-firing-rangeIn South Carolina recently, a 27-yr-old burglar broke into a home and tried to steal the 25-yr-old homeowner’s guns. The homeowner arrived home just after 8 that morning as the burglary was in progress. A struggle ensued between the two men. The homeowner was able to wrestle a rifle from the burglar then fired several shots at him. The burglar, after being shot several times, runs to escape, trips, and collapses dead onto the homeowner’s back deck.

All of the evidence corroborates this account the homeowner gave. Now the prosecutor’s office in his town is weighing if the incident falls within the legal bounds of self-defense or if the homeowner should be charged. No one else was at home at the time.

Situations like this bring to my mind several questions as a Christian:

  1. In what instances is it right for a Christian to exercise self-defense?
  2. How severe should the altercation be to warrant potentially deadly force?
  3. Does self-defense violate Christ’s command to turn the other cheek?
  4. Are there cases where human law wrongly labels as murder or manslaughter a justifiable case of self-defense?

I, personally, have never been in a situation of having to make a choice about using force that could turn deadly. Nevertheless, I can think of several scenarios where I would want to use enough force to stop a perpetrator and render them powerless. I wouldn’t want them to die, but if they died unintentionally, I would feel some sorrow about it, yet most likely learn to be okay with the fact I made the right choice to use force. Those scenarios would be:

  1. If someone attacked me with the intent of doing more harm to me than stealing my property if I’m away from home.
  2. If someone breaks into my home while I’m home alone. I’m not sure if I would want to take the time to find out what their intentions are. I would probably automatically assume that their breaking into my home with me there is done with the intent to do me bodily harm.
  3. If someone breaks into my home while my family or friends are there. I would feel the same as number 2.
  4. If someone attacks my family or friends on the street and I arrive during the attack.
  5. If someone comes into a church I’m attending during a service and they proceed to carry out a violent attack.
  6. If I witness an attack against a person on the street who is clearly the victim and they need my help to fend off the perpetrator.

There are some Christians who believe using any force of any kind is wrong. There are others who believe that it’s fine to use force, but all killing, even in self-defense or by mistake, is wrong. I don’t think I will ever embrace those ways of thinking.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal Ecclesiastes 1:1-3

35 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. Luke 22

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