Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Bible & Self Defense 4

In my last blog I explained why "turn the other cheek" is about vengeance rather than about self defense.

The Bible assumes self defense as the right and responsibility of human beings. Your life is a stewardship from God. Do you have a responsibility to preserve it from people who would steal it away? Should husbands defend their wives? Should parents defend their children?

There are certainly times and places where self defense is sacrificed to a higher cause (e.g., Jesus' death on the cross to save men from their sins, martyrs dying in witness of their faith in a resurrected Savior, etc.) But generally, in day to day living, the Bible assumes people have a right to defend themselves.

Modern law limits the use of deadly force to situations where you are facing imminent death or serious bodily harm. You cannot shoot someone just for stealing something. The Biblical assumption is similar: that killing in self defense is justified if the crime being perpetrated against you is an immediate threat that would be punishable by death.

For example:
  • The punishment for murder was death. (Numbers 35:16-21)
  • The punishment for rape was death. (Deuteronomy 22:25)
  • The punishment for kidnapping was death. (Deuteronomy 24:7)
Since death was the just punishment for the crime, a person who defended against the crime by killing his or her attacker could not be considered guilty of murder. (Imagine the judge saying, "You killed this man who was trying to murder you, so you must die, but if he had murdered you, then we would have killed him." WHAT?)

But what about the modern "Castle Doctrine" in many states? According to this modern law a person does not have a duty to retreat from his own home, but can use deadly force against an intruder even if it turns out that the intruder did not have a weapon. But if the intruder is outside your home and trying to get away, you cannot use deadly force.

The Bible has a similar law.
(Exodus 22:2-3) If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed.
3 If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed. He should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.
If someone was in your home in the dark of night, you could use deadly force. After all, you couldn't be sure what he was there for. But in the daylight you should recognize that he was just a thief and not use deadly force. There were less severe penalties for theft, including restitution.

More later. Send me questions.

1 comment:

MT said...

You might find this related site of interest: www.biblicalselfdefense.com. It also deals with what the Bible says about self-defense.