I used to have a steel putter in a convenient place near my bed as some form of protection in the event of a break in. But then I sold my golf clubs and so was without a suitable means of protection. Was I wrong to want to be able to protect myself and family? Should I rather have relied entirely on God to protect me? Is self-defence an element of good stewardship or an obvious lack of faith?
When one asks this question, the answer one is often given is that Jesus commanded us to turn the other cheek and so it is clear that we should not seek to protect ourselves in any way. The problem is that this response entirely misses the point that Jesus was making. The Good News Bible translates the text in question as, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too.” (Matthew 5:38-40).
The issue was retaliation, not self-defence. In any event, slapping a person on the cheek was more an act of insult and provocation than attack.
Jesus did in fact have something to say about self-defence. Luke 22:35-38 records His words to His disciples,’ “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment.” The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.” “That is enough,” he replied.’ The essence of what Jesus was saying is, “Times have changed my friends, so now protect yourselves and each other”.
I have read several strained interpretations of this passage, but only the obvious sense makes any real sense. Jesus plainly instructs them to buy swords if they don’t already own one. The context doesn’t allow for metaphoric language and it is just silly to claim that Jesus’ “that is enough” is to tell His disciples to stop talking nonsense. Jesus refers to swords in other contexts where it is clear that He is opposed to aggression and retaliation (Matthew 26:51-52 for instance). However, in the matter of reasonable self-defence I believe that we have our answer by applying the Christocentric Principle.