Hello Mr. Latimer,
I have been engaged in a lot of discussions lately about gun rights, and I have noticed that many of my more liberal friends who still identify as Christian always bring up the “turn the other cheek” verse from Scripture to defend their anti-gun stance. Instinctively I know I have a moral obligation to defend my children against attackers with whatever force necessary, but I’d love to have cogent scriptural exegesis on this issue at my fingertips. Do you know of a good resource for me to study? I appreciate your help! – M.E.
Hugh Responds: Perhaps your friends need to spend some time reading their Bible more thoroughly
The “turn the other cheek” is contained within what we term the “sermon on the mount”, which is one of five discourses that Christ gives within the book of Matthew. This particular discourse is directed towards believers/followers about our relationships to other believers/followers. Let me put it to you like this:
A person you fellowship with has lost his job. He has three kids and a wife. You have some work that needs to be done, so you hire him. After you pay him for the days work, you discover that he did a halfway job on it. The next day, do you fire him? Do you hire him again? Matthew 5 instructs us that we are to be kind to him. The appropriate action would be to hire him and spend more time with him on what your expectations are.
That makes sense, doesn’t it? Now try it with this story:
You are at home. A man breaks into your home, ties you up, and proceeds to rape your daughter in front of you, then leaves. A month later, the same man breaks into your home. Do you offer him your other daughter, or do you fight him with all that you are capable of? The appropriate answer is to fight him with all that you are capable of.
To misapply scripture taken out of context is the number one reason most of our churches today are apostate. Where do they think that our right to defend ourselves comes from? It is not the Constitution. In fact, the founders of our country established that when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (We’ll talk about the Happiness in a moment.) The right of self defense was so ingrained in their thought, they never believed that the government they set up would ever challenge that. The Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments to the Constitution) was an afterthought that had to be added because some believed that the government would indeed cause issues if it wasn’t constrained. Notice that the second amendment does not grant, give, or even outline the right of self defense. It simply places constraints upon the government to keep them from limiting your ability in that regard. If the government does not grant you the right and the Constitution does not grant you the right, where does it come from? It is given to us by God.
1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.”
That provision includes food, shelter, and protection.
Now, let’s look at another concept– fairness vs righteousness. When a man fights another man, we tend to think that it should be a “fair” fight. If it’s a fist fight, there should be no knives. If it’s a knife fight, there should be no guns, and so forth. However, that is not how God looks at it. We should not fight unless the cause is righteous. Righteousness is the standard that God and godly men use to determine if we should even be involved in a fight. In the example given above, it is clear that you would be righteous in your protection of your daughter. It does not matter if the attacker is only using his hands. You will use the most powerful method at your disposal to end the fight as quickly as possible in your favor. Today, that usually includes some type of firearm. Your anger towards the attacker is righteous anger, and there is no weapon that should be off limits at that point. Your number one priority is to protect your daughter, and you will hurt, maim, and kill to obtain that righteous result.
Does not God demonstrate throughout the Bible that he reserves the right to hurt and destroy those who would hurt and destroy what belongs to Him? Was it fair when the earth opened up and swallowed them whole, or when pestilence took the lives of tens of thousands who opposed him? That is why we have that right. It is given to us by our Creator.
Psalms 144:1 “Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight”
Luke 22:36 “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.”
Why did Jesus tell his disciples to buy the modern assault weapon of the time? It was because He knew they were in for a rough time and that they had the right to defend their lives and their families! Notice that Peter apparently even carried an assault weapon all the time.
It is important to remember that the right to use violence and aggression is not for vengeance, not for pleasure, and not for personal gain. That right is reserved for the protection of ourselves and those that cannot protect themselves. If we do not protect those that depend upon us, we are cursed:
Revelations 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”
Those that are too afraid to do what is righteous and right have a special place reserved for them in hell.
On Happiness (from The Declaration of Independence)- This is probably one of the most misunderstood phrases in that document. What makes you happy? Do you pursue food, drugs, women, cars, or other physical things? Do we have a right to hit someone, if it makes us happy? Of course not. To understand that phrase, you cannot apply twenty-first century thinking. You have to see it from their (the writers’) perspective. Happiness was not a description of a subjective emotional state. It meant prosperity or well-being in the broader sense. It included the right to meet physical needs, but it also included a significant moral and spiritual dimension. You can look to the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (same time frame) that defines: “the happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion and morality, and . . . these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of public instructions in piety, religion and morality.” The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 also states “religion, morality, and knowledge” are “essential to the happiness of mankind.” That happiness includes the act of righteous moral outrage at affronts against our selves or those that we protect and the ability to use violence and aggression in their defense.
If you want to learn more about this concept, the first resource is, of course, the Bible. From the beginning to the end, it is filled with stories of God and God’s people righteously using aggression and violence to protect themselves and those who can’t protect themselves. It is also filled with stories of those who inappropriately used violence and aggression to further their own desires and the punishment that God reserves for such abuses. You may also want to read JWR’s treatise on self defense. A third source that I highly recommend is Monte Judah’s “Yavoh” magazine. In particular, see his article titled “The Right of Self Defense From the Point of View of a Believer“. Another source would be the article God and Guns: Your Biblical Right to Self Defense, by J.B. on SurvivalBlog.