Being influenced by libertarian thought one of my core beliefs is that human beings have an inalienable right to defend themselves, their family, and their property. People should have the ability to fight back against malicious and evil people. I think this is logical, and it provides individuals the opportunity to have some form if security for their lives. I think it is important for us to understand that humans have the right defend themselves, because it helps us understand the counter-cultural life Jesus is calling us to live.
While we may be able to do something, because we have the right to do so, that doesn’t mean that we should do it. Sometimes we need to lay down our rights so we can follow Jesus.(Tweet this) This is exactly what Jesus did for us when he left heaven to become a man. The apostle Paul wrote:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
(Philippians 2:5-8; NLT)
Jesus did not cling to his rights. Rather he laid his rights aside so he could carry out his mission to redeem humankind through sacrificial love.
To follow the example of Jesus requires us to lay down our rights so we can love and serve the world. Too often followers of Jesus have followed the way of the world in using violence to try bring peace, justice, and order into this world. Many Christians will justify the use of violence by claiming the right to self-defense, but the example of Jesus requires us to go further than our rights. Since Jesus gave up his rights, to the point of death, shouldn’t we at least entertain the thought that we too may have to give up our rights, even though it might lead to our deaths?
While I am still personally wrestling with this issue, I do know that the argument cannot end with, “I have a right to self-defense.” As Christians our rights are secondary to the living a life of sacrificial love.
Greg Boyd has influenced my thoughts on violence, and while I am not entirely at the point he is, I do believe what he has to say needs to be considered as we discuss the place violence has in our lives, even when it comes to defending ourselves.
For the first three centuries of the church, Christians understood that forgoing the use of violence and expressing God’s self-sacrificial love was central to discipleship. However, this mindset changed after the Church acquired power in the fourth century. Entire theological systems have been developed to support the use of coercive power. However, contrary to that teaching, the New Testament is as clear as can be that Kingdom people are called to follow Jesus’ example of sacrificing himself for enemies rather than resorting to violence to resist or to conquer them.
Paul commands us to “follow God’s example” and to “walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” — while we were yet enemies of God (Ephesians 5:1–2; Romans 5:10). Paul elsewhere tells us that in our relations we are to “have the same attitude of mind Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:5). Though he was “in very nature of God,” he didn’t cling to his status. Rather, for our sake he set aside his divine prerogatives, took on the nature of a servant, and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6–8).
Along the same lines, Peter encourages us to be willing to suffer injustice out of “reverent fear of God,” for “it is commendable if you bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because you are conscious of God” (1 Peter 2:18–19). He then adds, “to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (vs. 21). When people “hurled their insults at him,” Peter continues, “he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.” Instead, Peter says, “he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (vs. 23).