Many people who are faithful to Christ will be met with violent persecution. What is the correct response when faced with such violence?
In reference to end times persecution – and this would apply to any kind of persecution – as Christians, are we called to lay down and take what’s coming to ourselves and our children, or are we call to defend ourselves and bear arms?
Let me just offer a couple of thoughts that might guide your thinking on this. I think that self-defense is not only morally appropriate, but it's a moral obligation. Part of that is because human beings are valuable, and allowing a human life to be taken without proper justification is wrong. So if I were to watch somebody else's life being taken, and I had an opportunity to protect them, and I didn't do that, then there would be something amiss. I have an obligation to act where I can, and I don't see that it makes any difference whether the valuable life being threatened is somebody else's or my own.
I could put myself in harm's way to protect somebody else, but that's up to me. Sometimes, I think we're morally obliged to do that depending on the circumstance. So, as a general rule, defending innocent life is entirely biblically sound and appropriate, even if the defense of that life is our own and certainly if it's our children.
Sometimes that cannot be avoided. Sometimes being faithful to Christ means that our lives are going to be threatened. The history of the church is filled with such a thing. Even now currently in our world Christians are losing their lives for their fidelity to Christ. When push comes to shove, we have no alternative, in my view, but to be faithful to Jesus regardless of the cost to us personally. That faithfulness to Christ entails not just my own life being threatened but also my children's life being threatened, my family, my wife, and the rest of them. I don't relish that thought, but if I am being asked to renounce Christ to save my children, I cannot do that. Does the blood of Christ cover that kind of thing? Yes, of course. But it’s the wrong thing to do if I'm trying to be faithful to Christ.
However, that doesn't mean that we have to just subject ourselves to whatever persecution comes our way if we can avoid it. The first plan of action whenever persecution presents itself is to flee. Paul was let down in a basket right over the walls of one of the cities in order to escape the persecution that was threatening him. Jesus said, “When they persecute you in one city, flee to the next.” I think that’s in Matthew 10.
We are to try to avoid persecution if we can without sacrificing faithfulness to Christ. If we are put in a tough situation and it's going to cost us financially, physically, or even our life in order to be faithful to Christ, then we are obliged to do that. Yes, fight back if we can. Yes, flee if we can. Yes, protect the innocent if we can. But what we cannot do is deny Christ to save our own lives or the lives of others.