Monday, April 6, 2009


Was The Lord Condoning Self Defense?

Q. Re Luke 22:36: “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one

Would you please explain this verse about buying a sword? Is Jesus condoning self defense?

A. I think the Lord was warning the disciples that the times were changing. Before, He sent them out without anything and they were sustained through the generosity of the people. But now, knowing His death was near and there would be a concerted effort to eliminate all of His followers, He was warning them that they’d have to be prepared to take care of themselves.

Many scholars feel that because of other comments He made, such as when he rebuked Peter for attacking the High Priest’s servant and said that those who live by the sword will die by the sword, He was using extreme language to alert them and wasn’t suggesting that they prepare to defend themselves. Even with swords and the training to use them properly, they would have been hopelessly outnumbered.

This view is confirmed in the verses following. When they showed them the 2 swords they already had, He said “That’s enough.” (Luke 22:38) He wouldn’t have said that if He was actually telling them to buy weapons and prepare to defend themselves.

Is Self Defense All Right?

Q. I was watching the news, and learned of a church’s pastor who was robbed at knife-point. He told the news reporter that we should not return evil for evil, maintaining his passive view.

I have always believed that we have the right to self defense. Some say Jesus was a pacifist. But doesn’t fly with me, because He cleared the Temple of moneychangers and livestock with a whip fashioned from ropes. He also told the disciples to sell their coats to buy swords for self-defense. What does the Bible say about self defense of one’s life, family, and property?

A. Jesus told us told us to be peacemakers and promised a special blessing to those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matt.5:9-10). He said to “turn the other cheek” and to give more than is required of us (Matt. 5:39-40).

Romans 12:17-17, from which the pastor took his quote, says,

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

In Luke 22:36-38 the dialog about selling their cloaks to buy swords was not meant to be taken literally. The Lord was comparing the peaceful missionary trips the disciples had taken in the past with the ones that would come. We know this because when they showed Him the two swords they already had, he said, “That is enough.”

Later He rebuked Peter for using his sword against the soldiers sent to arrest Him, (Matt. 26:52) and there’s no record of any disciple using force to defend himself against attack. Paul was regularly beaten but never defended himself, and every disciple except John was put to death by force, as were countless other martyrs.

From these passages it appears that He wants us to act like He did when confronted by violence. In the pastor’s case only money was demanded, and I think the pastor’s response was correct.

My guess is that the Lord quickly replaced the stolen money, because what He wants is for us to depend on Him for everything.

As for cleansing the Temple, remember that He is God, and He does reserve the right to take vengeance.


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