What Does The Bible Say About Self Defense? Exploring Biblical Views on Protection

The Bible offers guidance on self-defense in a complex world where violence exists but Christians are called to promote peace. Scripture supports protecting oneself and others but condemns unnecessary force and vengeance. Jesus’ teachings emphasize nonviolence whenever possible. The Bible promotes justice while cautioning against excessive retaliation that harms the innocent. Christians must thoughtfully apply biblical principles to self-defense scenarios with wisdom and discernment.

This article will examine key passages on self-defense, analyzing the broader biblical context on peace, justice, and protection of life. The thesis is that the Bible supports self-defense in some situations, but promotes nonviolence when possible. Christians should thoughtfully apply scriptural truths to self-defense while avoiding simplistic or legalistic interpretations. Scripture calls believers to be peacemakers who value all human life yet at times defend themselves and others judiciously.

Old Testament Examples

Bible About Self Defense

The Old Testament provides several examples of the Israelites defending themselves against their enemies. God empowered the Israelites to conquer the Promised Land through military force (Deuteronomy 20:10-18). When the Amalekites attacked Israel, Moses instructed Joshua to lead the Israelite army into battle against them (Exodus 17:8-16). David, one of Israel’s greatest kings, was a warrior who killed Goliath in self-defense (1 Samuel 17).

These examples show that God permitted the Israelites to use lethal force to defend themselves against enemy attacks. However, there were also rules and restrictions around warfare for the Israelites, like avoiding unnecessary violence.

New Testament Teachings

Jesus’ teachings emphasized nonviolence and turning the other cheek. He told his disciples in Matthew 5:39, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” This principle of non-retaliation was central to Jesus’ message.

However, Jesus also recognized the need for self-defense in some situations. When instructing his disciples before his crucifixion, Jesus told 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” (Luke 22:36). While this was partly symbolic, it showed Jesus approved of self-defense in a dangerous world.

Overall, Jesus’ teachings emphasized nonviolence, forgiveness, and turning the other cheek. But he did not entirely rule out the use of force in self-defense when absolutely necessary. Christians must use wisdom in discerning when force is permissible according to biblical principles.

Paul’s Writings

Paul gives some guidance on how Christians should view and interact with governing authorities that is relevant to the question of self-defense. In Romans 13:1-7, Paul urges Christians to be subject to governing authorities since they are established by God. However, he clarifies that this does not mean blind obedience, as believers should only obey authorities when their demands are consistent with God’s moral law. As one source explains, “Paul is not giving the governing authorities absolute authority. He is not saying that we submit no matter what laws are passed”.

Paul also touches on self-defense in passages warning against vengeance and unnecessary violence. In Romans 12:17-21, he urges Christians not to “repay anyone evil for evil” but rather “overcome evil with good”. This points to avoiding violence when possible and not escalating conflicts. However, Paul does not condemn self-defense itself when reasonably necessary. As another source summarizes, for Paul “the use of force was permissible for self-defense but forbidden as a means of vengeance”.


The Bible values human life and allows self-defense to preserve it. The Bible permits self-defense to save your own life or the lives of others.

Scripture teaches that we should avoid unnecessary violence, but force may be justified when defending against violence. The right to self-defense comes from the right to life that God grants to all people. The Bible affirms the value of human life and the right to protect it.

Defense of Others

Self Defense in Bible

Protecting others from harm is biblically justified. The Bible encourages us to defend the rights of the poor and needy. Psalm 82:3-4 states, “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” We are called to be advocates for those who cannot defend themselves.

In Proverbs 31:8-9, we are instructed, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” As Christians, we have a responsibility to defend and protect vulnerable people who are at risk of harm. This aligns with God’s heart for justice.

Avoiding Unnecessary Force

The Bible teaches that we should avoid using unnecessary force when defending ourselves. While self-defense may be justified, we should always aim to use the minimum amount of force needed to stop an attack. Scripture calls us to be slow to anger and exercise restraint (Proverbs 14:29, 15:18, 16:32). If we have the opportunity to safely retreat or diffuse a confrontation without violence, that should be our first choice. As Romans 12:18 says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Even when forced to use self-defense, the goal should be to stop the attack while minimizing injury to the aggressor. We are not called to exact vengeance or punish criminals, but simply halt immediate harm (Romans 12:19). The Bible condemns excessive violence beyond what is absolutely necessary for protection. As Christians, we aim to show grace and love even to enemies, not escalate conflict further. Self-defense should only be used as an absolute last resort, relying on restraint, de-escalation, and spiritual resources like prayer whenever possible.


The Bible makes a clear distinction between vengeance and self-defense. Vengeance belongs to God alone (Romans 12:19), while self-defense is permitted in order to preserve life.

Jesus prohibited personal retaliation and taught non-violence when it comes to insult or injury (Matthew 5:38-42). However, defending oneself or others against an aggressor is different than seeking revenge. Scripture allows protecting the innocent from harm (Proverbs 24:11-12).

The motivation makes the difference between self-defense and vengeance. Defending life is justified, but harming others out of bitterness or spite is sinful. Christians are called to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21), not escalate violence. Self-defense should only use necessary force to stop an attack.

Jesus’ Example

Bible Say About Self Defense

Jesus provides the ultimate example of nonviolence and not defending oneself. When Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his disciples drew a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant in an attempt to defend Jesus. But Jesus told his follower to stop and said, “Put your sword back in its place… for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).

Jesus submitted to arrest and crucifixion without any resistance or self-defense, even though he was innocent. As Jesus said to Pontius Pilate at his trial, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36). Jesus could have called upon legions of angels to defend him, but chose not to (Matthew 26:53).

Jesus’ nonviolent example shows that he did not resist or defend himself even when falsely accused and killed. As one analysis states, “No, despite all the accusations hurled against Him by the leaders, Jesus said nothing in His defense. He answered none of those critics, knowing it was God’s will for Him to go to the cross”. Jesus provides the ultimate model of non-resistance for his followers.


Throughout the Bible, we see examples and teachings that relate to self-defense and the use of force. While the Old Testament records stories of war and violence, often at God’s command, Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament call his followers to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. However, this does not necessarily rule out the use of force for self-defense or defending others.

The writings of Paul indicate that governments have the authority to bear the sword, implying the use of force. And Scripture allows for self-preservation, as seen when Jesus himself avoided violent crowds because his time had not yet come. However, believers are called to avoid unnecessary force or taking personal vengeance. Jesus set the ultimate example by allowing himself to be crucified, even praying for the forgiveness of those who persecuted him.

In summary, the Bible permits protecting oneself and others from harm. But it cautions against violence stemming from anger or malice. As in all areas of life, wisdom, restraint, and love should guide Christians as they seek to live out their faith. The ultimate goal is advancing God’s kingdom through redeeming lives, forgiving wrongs, and entrusting oneself to God’s perfect justice and timing.

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Daniel Powell

In my twenties, I began to approach the Bible with fresh eyes. I was no longer content to simply accept what I was told. I wanted to dive deeper, to question, and to understand. My faith demanded it.

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