On both sides of the equation, there have been those who have employed these texts & others like them to bolster their argument either for or against the use of deadly force in defense of oneself or others. The right to self-defense is one that is & has been pretty much without question since the beginning of time! To defend one's own life & the lives of others, especially loved ones is a responsibility that has been given to every human being for centuries, or so has been an unwritten rule for ages past! The question might well be asked though, 'while we have been taught that we have the right to defend our lives against any & all who threaten our existence; in this new age, the one that Jesus named 'the age to come' ( Luke 18:30, 20:35 ), can our existence truly be threatened by those who, as Jesus again said, 'those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul'?'
At present, we are human beings, one might well say, although really, it could also be stated that we are spiritual beings have a human experience! For the time being, however, we are house in this biology, whatever shape or form that might take. We have been given hands & feet that we might use them for the Glory of the Creator & for the advancement of His Kingdom! While it is only natural to want to physically defend, with deadly force if necessary, our own biological lives & the lives with whom we are concerned, or entrusted, is it truly defensible by Scripture? Is it really necessary to take the biological life of another in order to preserve our own or those entrusted to our care?
Lest some get the wrong idea here & wonder if I'm advocating some kind of pacifist ideology, or saying that it's wrong to defend biological life; let me just say that our Life is not biological, it's revealed in the Life of the Messiah of Israel & yes, in a sense I AM advocating pacifism! This is not to say that we SHOULDN'T defend our biological lives or those of others, but Jesus did tell His disciples 'whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also' ( Matthew 5:39 ). Now granted, Jesus was addressing a very specific situation here, that of Israel in Exile, but do we not face, physically speaking, a very similar situation today? Most importantly, yes, we are in that Age of which Jesus spoke in the Gospel according to Luke ( 20:27-38 ), but since we ARE the Hands & Feet of our Heavenly Father, depending on the situation of course, we may be called to exchange our ( biological ) life for that of another, or vice-versa!
With our History of Violence as human beings, it's really no wonder that everybody wants to just annihilate their enemies ( I mean, really, where does the violence stop? )! Even if someone lawfully ( legally ) kills another, the friends & loved ones of the one that's killed are not normally going to take it sitting down, so to speak! Though it is doubtless a justifiable homicide ( isn't that what war is? ), certain others probably won't see it that way & so will seek revenge ( retaliation ), usually with more violence & so the vicious cycle continues; violence only begets more violence! Now sometimes, yes, it would seem that violence is the only real answer, especially to violence. However, what if Christians, knowing that their True Life is IN Christ, when faced with violence of any sort, were to offer no resistance to it, but simply Resting in their Blessed Assurance, suffered violence on their biological person or persons in order that the one who offered the violence might be encouraged to seek a more peaceable way of resolving their conflicts!
Again, I'm not saying hat we should all just go out & randomly offer our biology to whoever is willing to snuff out its existence, but I AM saying that violence is not the answer when it comes to preserving Life! Violence DID preserve, not only ours, but untold millions ( infinity ) of Lives, but that Life, although revealed in & through humanity, was True Life, Spiritual & Eternal ( Endless ). Jesus' death on the Cross brought that Life to the Ages & though many were saved from physical annihilation, many more, though their biological existence was snuffed out, inherited Eternity through the violence done to Him!
The Defense of Self & those our Heavenly Father has entrusted to our care IS a Scripturally defensible doctrine! We have the right, I believe, given by the Creator, to defend ourselves ( et al ) against those who threaten us with violence. However, just because we have that right, is it always the wisest course of action? Is it truly necessary? Sometimes, as we have seen, it seems that the best & only answer to violence is more violence, in fact, worldly wisdom tells us that violence IS the only way to answer certain kinds of violence! However, if we were to 'turn the other cheek', so to speak, when faced with violence, what do you think that would tell our attacker? Even if our attacker continued the violence against our person or persons ( 9 times out of 10? ), it would at least show them that, while we may value human life, the value of Spiritual Life is much greater!
Because of our History of Violence, even if we as Christians were to stop, on our part, all violence, we would probably not even notice a decline in violence at all; in fact, we would probably witness an immediate escalation! There is nothing wrong with Self Defense; in fact, as I said, I believe we're called to it by very virtue of our Stewardship, but though our biological bodies will perish, we as spiritual beings will never die; our Life, whatever that looks like outside biology, will persevere! Again, it's only natural to want to preserve biological life, at least for most of us, but we must remember that it is our Life in Christ that matters most & that needs no defense!
Charles Haddon Shank