Is Killing in Self-defense a Sin (What does the Bible say about Killing in Self-defense)?

Killing is one of the things that God forbids in the ten commandments. Jesus emphasized it by declaring that hating your brother was equal to killing.

Although God forbids killing, we also notice that he instructed the children of Israel to defend themselves, kill the Canaanites and occupy their land. So, is killing in self-defense a sin?

Ligonier, a renowned minister and teacher of the word- says that killing in self-defense is not a sin. He argues that God did not prohibit all types of killing in the ten commandments. Murder was prohibited because it was the killing of innocent people.

This article will discuss what the Bible says about killing in self-defense, what Jesus said about self-defense, and if a Christian should kill someone in self-defense.

Also, we will discuss whether God allows killing in self-defense, whether Christians can kill in a war for self-defense, and how killing in self-defense does not violate the 6th commandment.

What does the Bible teach about killing in self-defense?

The Bible allows Christians to kill in self-defense to protect themselves, family, and their property from dangerous intruders.

The Bible says: “If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed”Exodus 22:2.

The verse indicates that there are some circumstances that one can use lethal force in self-defense. Such a circumstance is when a thief forcefully breaks into your house. Keith Crosby of Hillside Church notes that the verse does not limit self-defense to a thief breaking the house.

It also applies to murderers and anyone who intentionally and underhandly posses’ life-threatening situations.

However, this does not mean Christians should take the law into their own hands and kill, provided they feel threatened. Killing in self-defense is the last option for a Christian and anyone else, according to the laws of many countries.

What did Jesus say about self-defense?

Jesus did not explicitly talk about self-defense. However, there is a passage in Luke 22:36 that can help us understand his feeling and attitude toward self-defense.

He said to his disciples: “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one” – Luke 22:36.

Jesus informed his disciples that they were about to get into dangerous times because he would be arrested and killed. Since they were closely associated with him, they would likely face danger.

They bought the sword, and Peter used it to cut a soldier’s ear during Jesus’s arrest. The passage implies that they had to be prepared for self-defense to face such danger, so they needed to buy swords.

Is Killing in Self-defense a Sin?
Should a Christian kill someone in self-defense? See below

Should a Christian kill someone in self-defense?

Christians are not condemned if they kill someone in self-defense. Mark Legg -a Christian Scholar- notes that although verses such as Matthew 26:52 – 54 and Matthew 5:38-39 seem to advocate pacifism, they do not in any way prohibit self-defense.

The passages focus more on taking revenge other than prohibiting Christians from defending themselves, especially against grave danger.

However, Christians should refrain from killing because it can significantly affect their emotions and mental health. I believe that killing someone in self-defense should only occur when it is clear that the intruder intends to kill you or other innocent people, and nothing can be done.

Does God allow killing in self-defense?

The Bible indicates that God allowed killing in self-defense. From the laws passed from God to Moses and the Israelites, God indicated that a thief who breaks into a house should be killed.

Exodus 22:2 notes, “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.”

Breaking into the house when people are in the house can be equated to modern-day robbery with violence. God allowed people to kill in self-defense in such situations.

Other passages in the Bible show God’s position and attitude about killing in self-defense. For instance, David killing Goliath was an act of self-defense.

The Philistines constantly threatened the Israelites, and they would have killed them and taken their properties if they did not rise to the occasion.

They had to defend themselves; one way of doing it was by David Killing Goliath. God was happy with David, and David was applauded. The passage shows the attitude of God and helps to understand when he allows killing in self-defense.

Can Christians kill in a war for self-defense?

Examples from the Bible imply that Christians can kill in a war for self-defense. A good example is the drowning of Egyptian soldiers in the Red Sea.

God enabled Moses to perform a miracle and have the seawater make way for the Israelites. However, when the Egyptian soldiers followed to attack them, Moses drowned them in self-defense.

Exodus 14:26-28 reads, “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”

Another example is Jael, who killed Sisera by driving a tent peg into his skull: Judges 4:21-24. Sisera was fighting against the Israelites, and hence he was an enemy.

He would likely have killed Jael or members of her household even after seeking a drink from them. Killing him was an act of self-defense, as well as protecting other Israelites. Jael was applauded for her act, and God gave the Israelites victory.

There are several examples in the Old Testament where the killing occurred in self-defense. Therefore, Christian soldiers should not feel condemned when they kill in self-defense and when protecting the country.

How does killing in self-defense not violate the 6th commandment?

Mark Legg, -a Christian scholar,-notes that not all killings are murder. The sixth commandment prohibits murder, and all killings are not murder.

The sixth commandment focuses more on murdering innocent people or as an act of taking the law into your hand without probable course. Self-defense is not murder and hence does not violate the 6th commandment.

What does the Bible say about Killing in Self-defense?
What does the Catholic Church say about killing in self-defense? See below

What does the Catechism of the Catholic Church say about killing in self-defense?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that a person who kills in self-defense is not guilty of murder. They argue that sometimes one is forced to use lethal force in self-defense or to defend his loved one.

In such a case, the aggressor’s death cannot be blamed on him. They view it as preserving the life of the victim. When one kills in self-defense, one intends to preserve their life and not kill the aggressor.

Additionally, they indicate that legitimate defense is a duty, and everyone responsible for protecting others should not hesitate when such an occasion arrives. They, however, caution that using violence more than is required is unlawful, even in self-defense.

Where in the Bible does God allow killing in self-defense?

The Bible implies that God allows killing in self-defense in Exodus 22:2. The says that if a person kills a thief who tries to break into the house, they are not guilty of murder. This is the most significant example of killing for self-defense in the Bible.

David C. Grabbe, however, argues that Old Testament commandments about killing cannot be applied in present-day Christianity. He points out that God commanded the killing of sabbath breakers, which cannot be done today. Therefore, verses that imply that it is proper to kill in self-defense should not be applied today.

Bible verses about killing in self-defense

But Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword'” – Matthew 26:52. This verse implies that if you kill using a sword, whether in self-defense or not, you will also be killed using a sword.

But if any harm follows, you shall give life for life, eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” – Exodus 21:23-25.

It is an Old Testament commandment that many people assume allows revenge and self-defense. However, whether this is acceptable today is a subject of debate.


A Biblical Perspective on Self-Defense and the Use of Lethal Force (and a lesson in interpretation)

What does the Bible say about self-defense?

What does the Bible say about self-defense?

Catholic Teaching on Legitimate Self-Defense and the Death Penalty

Does Scripture Allow for Killing in Self-Defense?

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