The Cornered Cat

By Kathy Jackson

From an online dialogue:   “Is it moral to take the life of another? No. Is it moral to allow my family to be assaulted to the threat of death? No. Do I trust God enough to protect them at the moment of threat-to-life while I’m there with the means to protect them instead? To my discredit, no, but I believe God will work out every severe consequence (Rom 8:28) for His Glory and testimony for those that are saved…”


My response:

I think you’re not thinking quite deeply enough. Take a look at how many times God either killed people directly or commanded that people be killed in the Old Testament. If it is always immoral to take a human life, then God Himself is immoral, because He commanded His people to do immoral things! Since as Christians we believe that God is not immoral, then there must be circumstances during which it is not immoral to kill a human being.

The question then becomes, “Under what circumstances is it moral to kill a human being?” If there are any circumstances at all in which it is moral to kill someone, I would say that doing so while protecting and defending the people God has given you to protect would certainly be one of them.

What kind of a man would simply allow a rapist to rape his wife or daughter? What kind of a mother would simply allow her child to be kidnapped or murdered, without trying to prevent it? If defending one’s family in such circumstances is immoral, then I submit that the word “moral” has no meaning at all.

Nor am I alone in this assessment. Here’s a quote from well-known Christian theologians, Dr. Norman Geisler and JP Moreland:

…to permit murder when one could have prevented it is morally wrong. To allow a rape when one could have hindered it is an evil. To watch an act of cruelty to children without trying to intervene is morally inexcusable. In brief, not resisting evil is an evil of omission, and an evil of omission can be just as evil as an evil of commission. Any man who refuses to protect his wife and children against a violent intruder fails them morally. 1

But is it right to defend your own life with the same tenacity you would use when defending someone you love?  I think it is. While a Christian may voluntarily decide to lay down his life for the sake of another, God has given you a body and He intends you to take care of it (1 Cor. 3:16-17). Because God has given you your own body to protect, it is not a sin, but a virtue, to protect it.

But there’s something else. Reading your post I kind of worried about you. I would not want to be a Christian who thought it was a sin to defend myself — and yet planned to do it anyway. I’d be too afraid of freezing up at the crucial moment, and even more afraid of facing God with blood on my hands.

Remember, for anyone who believes something is a sin, for him it is a sin. (Rom 14:14, 23)  If you think it’s morally wrong to defend yourself with deadly force, then for you, it really is wrong.

So all of that adds up to this: I would suggest, gently but emphatically, that you put your gun away and work out these issues in your own mind before you ever pick it up again. You do not want to do what is wrong to you and then have to live with yourself afterward. You really, really don’t want to be standing there with your brain frozen solid, wondering about the ethics of shooting someone when you have no time, no time at all, to think or to consider or to pray or to change your mind before the decision has to be made.

The time to consider such ethical dilemmas is before you are faced with life or death peril.


  1. Quotation taken from The Life and Death Debate: Moral Issues for Our Time, by Dr. Norman Geisler and JP Moreland, Greenwood Publishing, 1990.