Whose Life is it Anyway?
Two believers are engaged in a debate regarding the issue of defending oneself against a physical attack by another human being. Believer #1 is of the opinion that all people have the right to self defense, especially if he or she feels his life is in danger. He offers the following in defense of his position:
"If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed." Lev 22:2
"And He (Jesus) said to them (His Disciples), 'When I sent you without moneybag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?' So they said, 'Nothing.' Then He said to them, 'But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.' " Luke 22: 35-36
Believer #1 also uses 1 Timothy 5:8 to defend his position: "Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever?" He then poses the question, "Doesn't the word 'provide' include an obligation to protect ourselves and our loved ones from violent acts of enemies, both foreign and domestic?
Finally, he offers a point of law citing the Castle Doctrine which states that a person's home or any legally occupied residence in which a person has protections and immunities. It also permits under certain circumstances, to use deadly force to defend oneself against an intruder without threat of legal prosecution if force becomes necessary.
Believer #2 feels strongly that Christians are not to engage in any type of violent retribution, even if defensive, quoting the following from God's Word:
"Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse." Rom 12:14
"Repay no one evil for evil." Rom 12:17
"Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord." Rom 12:19
And in Matthew 26:52, Jesus says, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword."
He ends by stating, "If we believe God is in control of our lives, then nothing happens to us without His knowledge or permission." "If God sometimes allows bad things to happen to us, it is to accomplish His purpose." He quotes Romans 8:28 where the Apostle Paul tells us: "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
So, which point of view is correct? Don't both believers present valid points? Can both opinions be correct? Does God want us to defend ourselves and our loved ones against acts of violence? Or, does He want to be our defender? Doesn't scripture tell us, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom will I trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies." Psalm 18:2-3
As believers, we must look to God's Word as being the final authority of any dispute. So then, what does the Bible teach regarding this point of contention? In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells us:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matt 5:43-45
"Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you." Matt 5:11-12
And in Matthew 5:39, Jesus says: "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
When we first believed on the name of Jesus and gave our hearts to Him, did we not also enlist as soldiers in God's army? Were we not then expected to 'die to self' so that Jesus could live in us? Were we not required to 'crucify' our fleshly bodies and our 'self-will' so the Lord could take the wheel? To work in us and through us? To use our hands and feet for His purposes? To be examples to the world of Christ living in us?
Why did the Apostle Paul say in l Cor 15: 31, "I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily?" Why, and to what must we die daily? Simply stated, we are all born into sin and due to the sinful nature of our flesh, we have selfish ambition. Our flesh demands that everything it desires must be fulfilled. Paul is pointing out that by 'dying daily,' he was fighting to put down his fleshly desires. He chose to be obedient to God and to His commands by which we are called to live. Even Jesus humbled Himself while walking in the flesh, submitting to the Will of the Father. We read in Hebrews 5:8, " ... though He was a son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." And in Phil 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." We see evidence of Jesus' obedience by how He prayed in the Garden prior to His arrest and crucifixion: "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Jesus' desire was that His Father's Will be accomplished rather than His own will, knowing crucifixion was the very reason He came to earth ... to redeem mankind.
But, does Paul's admonition to 'die to self' include abstaining from self defense against those who wish to harm us physically? In Romans 12:14 we read: "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse." And, in Rom 12:17, "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." Finally, in Rom 12:19-21, "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord'." Therefore, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' " "Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."
So, once an individual commits to making Jesus his Lord and Savior, he is required to fully surrender every aspect of his life to Jesus. In short, the life he or she now lives becomes His life.
Galatians 2:20 says: "I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." And in 1 Peter 4:2-3, " ... that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles -- when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries."
Once we die to self and fully surrender our lives to Christ Jesus, God is then able to use us to do His work and to accomplish His will. While teaching His disciples, Jesus used this parable to make a point: "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain." (John 12:24). In other words, only after the seed dies, does it produce grain. Similarly, only after we die to self-will, do we produce the good grain and the fruit Jesus requires. Jesus is telling us if we allow ourselves to 'die' to our own self interests, desires, sinful thoughts and behavior along with anything else that is contrary to the will of God, the 'grain' produced can be substantial: People's lives could be turned around from such things as drugs and alcohol, more souls could be saved, the homeless fed, clothed and sheltered due to softened hearts. There could be less fighting and bloodshed, more kindness and consideration towards others, to name but a few good 'grains'.
Additionally, all those who commit to following Jesus are called not only to die to self, but also to be His witnesses. Most of us are familiar with one aspect of what it means to be a witness for Christ. As written in 2 Tim 4:2, we are to, "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." Not only are we to be witnesses for Jesus by preaching and teaching the word, but also through our actions and deeds. Yet, though most understand how we must witness for the Lord by preaching and teaching, how many are familiar with the Greek definition of the word 'witness'? Let Us Reason Ministries describes the following:
"In Greek the word witness (Martus) means Martyr, one who bears witness by his death. They were soldiers for Christ. Those who have died to their old life were/are willing to live in the power of the Spirit and go wherever the Lord would lead them to give the gospel. They were totally committed and were willing to give their life (become martyrs) if necessary."
So, not only are we to preach and teach the word while living holy lives as the Lord commands, but we are also called to be martyrs, willing to die for our faith, if it is God's Will. The Apostle Paul tells us in Rom 14:7-9, "For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord's."
All those who proclaim the name of Jesus are called to die to self-will, bear witness to His Lordship, and be willing to die for the faith. Once we fully surrender our self-will, Jesus can live in us and through us. Once this surrender occurs, the question becomes ...
"Whose life is it anyway?"
Psalm 62:2, "He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved."
Psalm 61:3-4, "For You have been a shelter for me, A strong tower from the enemy, I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; I will trust in the shelter of Your wings." Se'lah