Self Defense and the Bible: The Biblical Basis of Defending Yourself and Others in the Church

Part 1 of Protecting Yourself and the Church with Use of Force Laws

Family sitting in pew at church

"But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony ... And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” ~ Numbers 1:53

"And the two divisions of you, which come on duty in force on the Sabbath and guard the house of the Lord on behalf of the king," ... And the guards stood, every man with his weapons in his hand, from the south side of the house to the north side of the house, around the altar and the house on behalf of the king. ~ 2 Kings 11:7, 11

And he wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed it ... saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives. ~ Esther 8:10-11

Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came and drew water and filled the troughs to water their father's flock. The shepherds came and drove them away, but Moses stood up and saved them ... ~ Exodus 2:16-17

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. ~ Judges 2:16

He said to them, “But now … let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one …” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” ~ Luke 22:36-38

This series is based on the Sheepdog Church Security[1] downloadable Training Bundle[2] Protecting Yourself and the Church with Use of Force Laws v3[3] and the Online Security Guide[4] chapter Use of Force and Citizen's Arrest Laws[5]

Not by Precept

This is a rather lengthy list of biblical references to the defense of the Tabernacle and Temple, of the nation and its people, and of self and others. The Bible does not specifically rule on self defense or defense of others, except for Jesus telling His disciples to “Turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), which is interpreted by most in the context of self-control in personal interactions. Jesus also urged the disciples to be armed for defense in a perilous situation (Luke 22:36-38).


Most of the Bible’s references to defense are in narratives. For example:

There are many other examples, but it is clear that God not only defends his people, but expects them to act in their own defense. They are to wisely plan their defense and put it into action, while still trusting God for its effectiveness.

Defense in the Church

Church security is viewed differently than it was two generations ago.


Hardly any churches had security of any kind 70 years ago. Big downtown churches had at least one door left unlocked for people who wanted to come in and pray, if not in the main sanctuary then in a prayer chapel. Larger churches had enough staff that there was almost always someone there, at least during the day and early evening. Sextons (church custodians) often lived on the church campus or very close.

We may look at this as a type of security, but the mindset then was that God protected the church. The staff were there (1) to take care of the building or (2) to help and pray with anyone who came in. The belief that God protected the church was widespread enough that many criminals were afraid to prey on a church. There were incidents of vandalism and outright attacks on churches in America, but this caused public outrage.


Today the general mindset is different. Churches in general do not carry the same level of respect they had a few generations ago. Neither is there the same respect for those of different persuasions, whether political stands, social issues, or religious beliefs.

Where most people back then saw no need seen for defending yourself and others in a church, now more people sense the need. This is especially true in the wake of New Life in Colorado Springs[6], Emanuel AME in Charleston[7], Burnette Chapel in Antioch[8], and First Baptist in Sutherlund Springs[9]. The last case really brought the issue of church security to the front burner.[10]

Even churches belonging to pacifist (non-violent) traditions have begun to use some level of security involving self defense. For them, this is usually unarmed resistance of attackers and grab-and-go (escort) holds of persons becoming violent. But even Menonnite Mutual, the church insurance company for a large pacifist group, no longer disallows congregations with armed church security teams.[11]

So, Is Church Security Biblical?

The Bible does not forbid Christians from defending themselves, except for the response to a non-lethal physical or verbal insult (‘turn the other cheek”). However, aside from this, self defense is expected throughout the Scriptures. It is the only prudent response to violence. This may be unarmed defense – there are many organizations and schools teaching this.

Current conditions in society, even in North America, justify having at least a few Safety Team members who are armed. Just as swords were carried for defense in Jesus’ day, handguns are carried today. But with the firepower comes responsibility. This means preparation (training), practice, and prudence. Jesus told His disciples to be “wise as serpents” while still being “innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).


Biblical citations are linked to Bible Gateway.[a]

Outside Sources