Scripture and Self Defense – About Judgment

WordPress.com has a great feature that shows different blog posts based on a tag you pick. That is how I found Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another (that’s the name) and his post “Killing Kids and Why I Still Don’t Carry A Concealed Weapon

After a little misunderstanding on my part; we had a great discussion in the comments. The general tone, set by the movie quotes he chose, was about being able to judge another person’s heart. Whether or not they were a ‘bad person’ or not. It’s been bugging me every since then and I couldn’t figure out exactly why. After all as Tim notes we are all sinners. This morning I finally realized what the issue was; the focus of the judgment is wrong. There is no way I or anyone else I know personally that could judge what is in another person’s mind in the brief time a crime takes place.

Tim’s talking about trying to judge the actions of the criminal; I think we should be focusing on our own judgment.

I think God calls everyone to exercise discernment regarding their ability/capability of dealing out violence. If a person isn’t willing to harm someone then trying to defend yourself or others is going to lead to problems. It is better to adopt a strategy of avoidance and retreat. On the other end of the spectrum are those who are not willing to stop doing violence once started. Most people are some where in between but everyone should examine what they believe, what they are willing to defend before the situation arises.
I also think we are called to use our judgment in preparing as best as we can to confront violence. I believe that each person has to look at their life choices, their fitness levels, their commitments and decide the best approach to self defense. For some, that may be a life long journey in armed and unarmed combat. For others, it may be a 4 hour unarmed self defense class or a 8 hour pistol class. This differs for each person because no two of us are exactly alike. This is why I oppose mandated training; what works for the single guy with disposable income may not be possible for the single dad with 2 kids, a mortgage/car payment, etc.

Next, I think we need to exercise  judgment in our security arrangements; both at home and out in public. It would be incredible easy (just expensive) to install massive amounts of home security. I think God wants us to harden our homes, as we can afford, without hardening the hearts of the people living there. We shouldn’t let safety concerns out weigh the mental health of the people living there. Creating a safe zone without creating a bunker mentality is an exercise in judgment, don’t you think?

I think that control, exercising judgment in knowing what we can control or not is important part of the equation. It does take discernment to know when to worry or not, it takes a value judgment to decide if an errand is worth the risk. Most of the time this is easy; for others it is a constant struggle to balance the concerns. When I read the Bible, I’m always amazed at Jesus’ ability to do this; there are times where He confronts dangerous head on and others when He avoids them. Aren’t we called to exercise judgment like Jesus? Avoiding what we can?

I also believe we need to judge what security measures will stop most people; those not seeking to harm us can be easily stopped by a firm voice command or outside lights being left on. Those with less pure motives may be deterred by our situational awareness or a display of force/intent. This isn’t a judgement of the person’s heart but an awareness of the nature of people. The Bible doesn’t say we have to be perfect (just work on perfecting ourselves) so if we make a mistake regarding keeping people out or away; we can always apologize. But for the most part anyone approaching after being warned/inside our locked house; we can assume is either a dedicated burglar or has harmful intent.

And being able to differentiate where possible is another area of judgment. Is the person approaching drunk and harmless, drunk and harmful, pretending to be drunk/begging/friendly and harmful, etc? We have a brain for a reason, God expects us to use it. The more we can recognize the signs and signals of approaching violence or criminal intent; the better we are in how we deal with other people.  We have to balance our security with our desire to be charitable.

And the last and for me, the most important area of personal judgment is knowing God’s Word. This is where I have spent a lot of time. To be a Christian is to be “Christ-Like”; I have to use what wisdom and discernment I have to work out what the Bible says and how that applies to me; in all areas of my life. I have to exercise judgment in selecting people when I seek out their opinions and compare it to mine. It would be easy to cherry pick those that only agree with me point by point. One of the reasons I read Tim’s post was to see if he had insight or perspective that differs from mine.  As Christians we should have friends who hold us accountable for our views, deeds and understanding. I’m not an expert on the Bible; just a regular guy trying to muddle along as best as I can. I do have people who I trust, people who have greater knowledge, perhaps deeper understanding that have checked my views on Scripture and Self Defense to be consistent.

See, in my thinking, very little of a self defense situation involves sitting in judgment of another person’s heart.I do have to be able to discern a person’s actions to a degree, I have to know and understand God’s Word and Will for me as best as I can, I have to understand myself and my reasons for doing something. The other person’s reasons; not mine to judge — the immediate problem and probable outcome is something I have to evaluate.

I don’t think God is calling me to judge another person’s life; that is HIS job.

The wonderful thing about the entire situation is knowing God’s nature. Knowing there is grace (getting what is not deserved) and mercy (not getting what is deserved); not just for me but also the other person also.

Please join the discussion.

 

 

3 Responses to this post.

  1. Posted by RabidAlien on 19.12.13 at 5:05 PM

    IIRC, there’s several places where Jesus instructs us (or just plain shows us) not to judge others. “Judge not, lest ye be judged” Matt 7:1 (had to look it up) is one. The whole showdown between the religious leaders and the woman caught in adultery (funny…only she was brought before Jesus…sounds like a setup to me!) was another. I think the point He was making is that we CAN’T know what’s in another person’s heart, not truly, 100%. How many times has your spouse surprised you or caught you off guard, no matter how long you’ve known them? The only one who fully knows and understands what’s in a man’s heart is God. For the rest of us, He gave us free will and the ability (and direct command! Luke 22:36-38, and several other places, including the majority of the Old Testament) to defend ourselves and our families. The best way for someone to show me that their heart truly is not committed to doing harm to me and mine is for that person to not threaten my family in the first place, or enter my house unbidden. Do that, and we’re good. Threaten me or mine, and I’ll stand before God one day with a clean conscience.

  2. Posted by Tim on 19.12.13 at 5:05 PM

    This is such a thoughtful take on the issue. Your understanding on the use of force is very similar to Aimee Byrd’s (the Housewife Theologian) as she commented on my post, which puts you in very good company in my book!

    Cheers,
    Tim

  3. Posted by Bob S. on 19.12.13 at 5:05 PM

    @RabidAlien,

    I think there is a misunderstanding about when Jesus talks about “judging others” – Like the Pharisees complaining about others praying when they are standing on the street corner shouting their prayers for all to see. It isn’t about judging per se, it is about being hypocritical in that judgment.

    The follow up verse in Matt 7:2 – 6 makes this plain
    2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

    I would not be judging the person in my house at 2:00 a.m as a good Christian/ bad Christian or good person/bad person – I’m judging them as “threat or not threat”.

    3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

    This is the hypocrisy that I talked about — time and time again Jesus called out people for that. People think I’m not as much of a sinner as Joe or John because I didn’t do this or that.
    I found a great example — for us, we view our ‘minor’ sin as being as thin as a sheet of paper and the ‘bad’ person over there; well murder, rape, robbery — man that sin is a thick as a phone book.
    From our perspective one is greater (much) then the other. From God’s view point — think miles up — both are equal.

    Read the issue with the adulteress again and see if that doesn’t fit with what I’m talking about. Especially since they didn’t drag the man to face justice.

    @Tim,

    Thank you for your kind words. Thanks for giving me food for thought and helping crystallize my thoughts into some semblance of order.

    6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

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