Here’s the Deal: The Bible and Self-Defense

Written by Jeff Mullen on March 19, 2014

How do you catch Al Capone? Policeman Jim Malone (Sean Connery in the 1987 The Untouchables film) says, “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone.” (Actually, they got Capone on income taxes, but don’t tell Hollywood.)

This view—called “retaliatory justice”—is as old as time: You kill one of my tribe; I kill 10 of yours. You steal one of my camels; I steal 20 of your women. And that’s how some people view the Bible—i.e., a primitive document endorsing brutal behavior. You know, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

Except that’s exactly what it’s not. Notice what’s going on here. The first attitude is one of escalation: I’m going to teach you a lesson by doubling and quadrupling down on your payback. The second attitude, inspired by God, is to establish limits and a rule of law amid the frontier justice of the time—i.e., you can defend yourself, but the response must be proportional.

The other extreme pushed by the scripturally illiterate is the idea that the Bible teaches pacifism. You know, “Turn the other cheek.” It’s often used by people who are trying to peg Christians as hypocrites for defending themselves. This, too, is a lunacy, driven by ignorance based on the faulty assumption that the issue is physical self-defense. It’s not. The context is verbal insults.

The correct application is that we are not to respond violently to insults. We’ve all heard what kind of matches not to get into with skunks and how sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us. That’s the idea in common parlance.

With so much misunderstanding around, I think it’s high time to take a serious look at the biblical view of self-defense. As Christians, we want to know how to apply the Bible to current issues in society. We live in a country with approximately 250 million guns and approximately 300 million people.

Is it right to employ lethal force to protect the life of yourself and others? Is it right to take measures that might kill an attacker who is wrongfully threatening your life or the life of another? These are the sorts of questions I intend to address in future installments on

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Jeff Mullen is a pastor and patriot. He began ministry in 1989 and in 1995 founded Mega Church, Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa and is also politically engaged in the community. He is a musician with extensive recording and performing experience and is a dynamic, humorous communicator. Jeff is also an avid shooter and enjoys a good hunt. He’s been married since 1989 and has two amazing daughters. You can connect with Jeff at or