A great friend and fellow mom of four boys related a conversation she had with a woman who told her son that she didn’t like him reading a Superman book. When the son probed why, she explained that she didn’t like that Superman was punching a bad guy to which her son responded, “but he’s punching a bad guy!?! Shouldn’t we punch bad guys?” “No,” explained his mom, “we don’t even punch bad guys.”
What? Did I hear that right? “We don’t even punch bad guys.”?????? This brief discussion sent my gun- toting, Bible-thumping head spinning. What was this mom thinking? And how is it that her six year old son has more understanding than she does? And why are parents today, Christian parents, so afraid to train their boys to fight?
However, after my head stopped swirling, I began to question what I believe about whether we were teaching my son the right thing by saying, “Now, if someone else starts it, you make sure you finish it.” I had to ask myself, “Is it acceptable, Biblical rather, to teach my son to fight ‘bad guys’? Is it acceptable to train my son to defend himself against bullies, or is it simply our liberal culture that tells us that if they hit you first then you hit back. Is it acceptable to own a gun and protect my family with it?” Given my faith, I began to search out the scriptures for these answers and was surprised at the answer I found.
Like those who teach their children that they should NEVER fight regardless of the circumstances, I too found all the verses that said, “turn the other cheek”, “if they take your shirt, give them your coat too”, and “if they force you to go a mile, go with them two”. (Matthew 5:39-41) I read the “Beatitudes” where it says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) I know the Ten Commandments; I know that murder is against God’s law (Exodus 20:13). These seem to be the main verses that Christian parents use to teach their children NEVER to fight. The problem is that these verses are often misunderstood and misinterpreted. So without getting too theological on everyone, let me cover just these three Bible references.
First, when Jesus told His disciples to turn the other cheek, you have to remember that they were living in a time where Rome ruled all. The Roman soldiers were brutal beyond our American understanding. During the time Jesus spoke these words, Roman soldiers would strike a person down just for looking at them wrong. Therefore, when Jesus said, “if they take your shirt, [just] give them your coat too,” He was encouraging them to preserve their lives. Live to fight another day. This was not a reference to telling your children to let bullies take advantage of them. Naturally, we need to teach children to be smart about the situation. If a child can’t defend themselves, then maybe it’s time for self-defense classes or some good running shoes.
Second, when Jesus was encouraging us to be peacemakers, He did not say we should not fight. Nothing in that reference indicates that being a peacemaker = not being a fighter. If we look at history, we find men like Sergeant Alvin Cullum York, who at the beginning of WWI was a pacifist and conscientious objector because of his strong commitment to serve the Lord. However, when he decided to ask God what he should do, he found himself reading this Beatitude. He figured that he was going to have to “make” peace and in order to do so, in order to protect the innocent, he would have to go to war. Sergeant York became the most decorated soldier of WWI.
It is never contrary to the nature of God to protect and defend the innocent. My son and I have had lengthy discussions about how to respond to situations where the innocent and weak are being taken advantage of. My prayer is that in that moment my son will have the courage and the know how to intervene. And if we teach our boys, “we don’t punch bad guys”, then we deny them the ability to be heroes.
Finally and simply, the Bible teaches us not to murder which is about not shedding innocent blood. The Bible is not referring to killing in self-defense or in the protection of the innocent when necessary. I used to think that if an intruder threatened me I could never live with myself if I shot and killed them. Now that I have kids, I am fully confident that I wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger if I thought my family was in a life- threatening situation. I suspect that the mom who doesn’t want her son to punch “bad guys” would be the first to take a swing at someone if they were beating her son and that was the only way she could get them to stop. In fact, I’m sure she’d use whatever force was required to save him.
So for me, I will proudly and boldly challenge my son to defend the weak, defeat those who oppress the innocent, and deliver those who cannot protect themselves; I will confidently assure him that he should defend himself when bullied; and I will not hesitate to train him to properly use a gun so that when he is the man of his own castle, he can protect his family without fear.