When Jonathon walked in my office, he wanted to share the story of his conversion from pacifism to self-defense and just war.  He grew up in a Mennonite community which clearly taught that all violence, guns, and aggression were wrong.  He said that his defining moment was his first year of marriage.

His wife asked him if he would protect her if someone broke into their home.   He told her that he couldn’t violate his conscience and use violence in any form.   Her heart broke and her eyes fell.  She tried one more time, “If someone broke into our house to rape me, you wouldn’t fight him off?”.

“no, I couldn’t.”.    Jonathan told me that he watched his wife’s need for security melt away.   He began to ask himself  Some very hard questions

Was protecting someone you love from evil  a good thing or bad thing?

Why was his need for nonviolence more important than his wife’s need for protection?

Could there be a case that love protects, fights, and standa against evil?

The Bible does not say they’ll shall not kill.   The Bible says thou shall not murder which is in on just killing.  When God laid out the law to the nation of Israel he included just forms of killing to be tried in a court of law.    Self-defense was always one of them.   Because human beings are eternally valuable, They must be protected from evil.    If another person -who is also eternally valuable-attacks you, The Bible says that it is ethical to defend yourself against the evil being done by the other.

The Bible also lays out parameters for a just war in the book of Deuteronomy

Dietrich Bond Hoffer wrestled with these questions as a pacifist during Hitler’s rein.  He eventually concluded that love must act to stop and prevent evil even if violence was merited.   As a former passivist he personally coordinated  assassination attempts on the Furer.

The Bible affirms the use of deadly weapons for personal protection throughout its pages. Nehemiah armed his men to protect themselves, their property, and their families.

“I stationed guards down below, behind the wall, near the exposed points, assigning them by family groups with their swords, their spears, and their bows. 8 I made an inspection, then addressed these words to the nobles, the magistrates, and the rest of the people: “Have no fear of them! Keep in mind the LORD, who is great and to be feared, and fight for your brethren, your sons and daughters, your wives and your homes.” (Nehemiah 4:7)

Nehemiah armed his work crew to fight to protect and defend their families and homes. Similarly in Esther 8, King Ahasuerus, gave them permission to the Jews to arm and defend themselves:

“These letters, which he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the royal signet ring, he sent by mounted couriers riding thoroughbred royal steeds. In these letters the king authorized the Jews in each and every city to group together and defend their lives, and to kill, destroy, wipe out, along with their wives and children, every armed group of any nation or province which should attack them, and to seize their goods as spoil.” (Esther 8:10, 11)

What about Jesus? As a master of the Torah, Jesus did not contradict the law.  He sometimes called for an even higher ethic, but never by abolishing the law.  He affirmed the use of defense numerous times.  In Luke 22:35-9 that He tells the disciples in verse 36, “But now one who has a money bag should take it, and likewise a sack, and one who does not have a sword should sell his cloak and buy one.” The disciples miss his main point, “Then they said, ‘Lord, look, there are two swords here.’ But He replied, ‘It is enough!” , indicating that He was frustrated that they didn’t get his point. While Bible students may disagree on the details of this passage,  Jesus clearly had no objection to his men “packing.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane itself, we have parallel passages in Matthew 26, Luke 22, and John 18 that tell of Peter’s severing of one of the guard’s servant’s ear : “Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.  So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which my Father has given me?”
One Catholic writer responded to the debate this way:
“St. Augustine long ago, he answered in Letter 138, “But what is not rendering evil for evil, but refraining from the passion of revenge- in other words, choosing, when one has suffered wrong, to pardon rather than to punish the offender, and to forget nothing but the wrongs done to us?” Again, Jesus’ consideration is not the act of defending oneself, but misplaced violence.

Therefore, it is clear that we have the right and the duty to protect ourselves and our loved ones. We are fortunate in America that we have the Second Amendment, and that we now have carry laws in all 50 states. Although anti-gunners say that this will return the US to the era of the “Wild West”, the facts argue otherwise. For example, from the adoption of a concealed carry law in 1987 to 1994 (over 6 yrs.) Florida issued 204,108 permits and only 17 (0.008%) were revoked because permittees later committed crimes (not necessarily violent) in which guns were present (not necessarily used).

Crimes are committed at a lower rate by concealed carry permit holders than by the general public. People who obtain permits to carry know that they are not licenses to use their weapons irresponsibly, and know that the their use will lead to an irreversible alteration of their lives. Nobody wants the enormous legal problems that using a gun will cause. Carrying a gun is not comfortable, nor is it fun. Those who do understand that they may be called to defend themselves or their neighbors from evil, and are willing to bear the inconvenience and risk to answer the call.

For those who do not want to bear that awesome responsibility, they should at least recognize the reality of violence in our society, and that the police cannot be everywhere to prevent or stop it. They should reject the facile solutions of the anti-gunners that are based upon a fairy-tale vision of a society without guns. There are an estimated 270,000,000 guns in the US, and it is unreasonable to imagine that even the most draconian confiscation could remove more than a fraction of them from circulation, or that any attempt to do so would disarm criminals. As the old adage goes, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns”. To hide behind gun control legislation that has never worked and can demonstrably be shown to have actually increased the crime that it is supposed to eliminate, is merely wishful thinking that we can avoid “getting involved”, and avoid the personal responsibility that we all bear.

The idea of “gun-free zones”, whether around schools or, as in Virginia law, in churches, is to prevent would-be killers from doing their evil work. This seems absurd given the fact that it is already illegal to shoot or kill someone. If a criminal has decided to break those laws, how will making it additionally illegal to possess a gun to commit the crime he has already decided to commit going to stop him? It is difficult to understand the logic. Criminals, by definition, do not obey laws, so such laws as deterrents are often ineffective in preventing their behavior. The people who do obey the laws, such as those who are licensed to carry a gun, however, are deprived of their ability and right to protect themselves and others by such laws. So, the only effect of “gun-free zones” is to create “unarmed target” zones.

One can see the result of this sort of law in Britain, where most firearms are forbidden in homes: about 45% of break-ins occur while the occupants are at home, exposing them to obvious extreme danger. On the other hand, in America, where the majority of homes have firearms, only 13% of burglaries occur while the owner is home, as cited in criminologist Gary Kleck’s  1991 book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America. Kleck attributes this to the criminals’ fear that homeowners might be armed. In point of fact, a survey of almost 2,000 convicted criminals by Peter Rossi and James D. Wright in the late ’80s revealed that burglars are more afraid of armed homeowners than they are of arrest by the police.

So, contrary to the assertions of the anti-gun folks, “gun-free zone” legislation is actually counterproductive, and potentially lethal to those it is designed to protect.

In response to calls from the anti-gunners for more gun control, pro-gun advocates have rightly asserted that the only thing that could have prevented the school shootings would have been an armed person or persons in the school who could have stopped the killer. This is an aspect of gun ownership that is routinely ignored by the press. In fact, law abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times per year, depending on which study you read. In the overwhelming majority of cases, 92%, the gun is not fired; its mere presence discourages the attacker.”

While a strong case can be made that most of the wars going on in the world do Not pass the just war sniff test, it is clear that defense is needed in a broken world where evil runs afoot.

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