Update: 2008 / James White
I Beg To Differ, Brother Piper
This morning I was directed to a brief comment by John Piper found Piper draws a connection between the martyr missionaries of Through Gates of Splendor and a Christian defending his wife or daughter from an intruder in his home:
I suspect the same could be said for almost anyone who breaks into my house. There are other reasons why I have never owned a firearm and do not have one in my house. But that reason moves me deeply. I hope you don’t use your economic stimulus check to buy a gun. Better to find some missionaries like this and support them.
In the spirit of Christian freedom and with the deepest respect for brother Piper, I could not disagree more strongly with the sentiment here expressed. First, I see no parallel whatsoever between missionaries in the jungle seeking to open contact with a violent and primitive tribe and a meth-laden gang member seeking to rob, rape, and murder. In fact, I see many, many reasons to view the two very, very differently. The gang member in the streets of Phoenix has every possible opportunity to do good, to obey the gospel, to work and abide by the law. But he chooses, purposefully and knowingly, to do otherwise. He chooses to enter into my home, threatening the lives of my family. And he comes armed.
In the second place, I don’t believe a Christian is a martyr if they fall prey to the random, drug-induced violence of a gang member or criminal. There is a difference between being a victim because you did not take the proper precautions and being a martyr because you purposefully expose yourself to danger and even death in the service of the gospel.
Next, I believe I stand very firmly in a strongly biblical position to say that the Lord Jesus Himself took it for granted that a man is to defend his home against evildoers. His parable of the strong man makes no sense unless it was a given that a man defends who, and what, is his. Without this principle in place, anarchy reigns. Just a few relevant texts to ponder (my apologies for using the NASB instead of the ESV!):
Matthew 12:29 “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
Mark 3:27 “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.
Luke 11:21 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.
Luke 22:36-38 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. 37 “For I tell you that this which is written must be fulfilled in Me, ‘AND HE WAS NUMBERED WITH TRANSGRESSORS’; for that which refers to Me has its fulfillment.” 38 They said, “Lord, look, here are two swords.” And He said to them, “It is enough.”
Now, it is not my intention to start a blog war or anything else over this topic, nor is it my purpose in this brief entry to go into every possible element of discussion of the exegesis of these texts, but it does seem fairly obvious to me that Jesus was in no way condemning the armed strong man in these words. And one must deal with the fact that Jesus told his disciples to sell their cloak to buy a sword! Self-defense is, in fact, a basic human right.
I stand very firmly in the Reformed tradition at this point as well. Question 135 of the Westminster Larger Catechism states:
Q. 135. What are the duties required in the sixth commandment?
A. The duties required in the sixth commandment are, all careful studies, and lawful endeavors, to preserve the life of ourselves and others by resisting all thoughts and purposes, subduing all passions, and avoiding all occasions, temptations, and practices, which tend to the unjust taking away the life of any; by just defense thereof against violence, patient bearing of the hand of God, quietness of mind, cheerfulness of spirit; a sober use of meat, drink, physic, sleep, labor, and recreations; by charitable thoughts, love, compassion, meekness, gentleness, kindness; peaceable, mild and courteous speeches and behavior; forbearance, readiness to be reconciled, patient bearing and forgiving of injuries, and requiting good for evil; comforting and succoring the distressed, and protecting and defending the innocent.
Finally, it is common for Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:39 to be cited in this context, as if “resisting the evil” (and there is a question as to whether this means the evildoer, or evil as a whole) means the Christian is to do nothing about personal attack. But if the context is that of being slapped, this speaks of insult and abuse. That is not the same context as a man seeking to rape my wife or daughter or to take my life.
So with all brotherly respect I must disagree with John Piper on this topic. We live in a land where evildoers are flourishing and are often given special protection by the governmental authorities! But my duty to protect family and home is God-given, and I do not see how God is glorified by my allowance of violence against me or my family in my home. So, in closing, I have no suggestions to offer regarding your “economic stimulus” payment (a tank of gas, perhaps?), but in light of the Lord’s command to sell one’s cloak so as to obtain a sword, I would say you are surely not sinning to look to the protection of yourself and your family in your home. And should any evildoer think of looking up my home, thinking he will find an unarmed victim, think again. I will be glad to proclaim the gospel to you today, but if I find you coming through the window of my bedroom tonight, you will be ushered into eternity post-haste. Some decisions are, indeed, final.