What If Hitler Invaded Your House?


What If Hitler Invaded Your House?
Brian Zahnd

Lately I’ve been giving a lot of interviews on my new book A Farewell To Mars. It’s a semi-autobiographical confession of how I moved from being an enthusiastic supporter of war American style to proclaiming the peaceable kingdom of Christ. Since I’ve marched among the ranks of sincere war-endorsers for most of my life, I’m sympathetic with well-meaning Christians who believe in the way of Mars. I try to tell the story of my conversion honestly and gracefully. I level criticism, not at soldiers, but at myself. My aim is to take the reader on a journey where Jesus and war are examined in the light of an unencumbered reading of Scripture.

But in a twelve minute radio interview there is little time for narrative and nuance. Instead, the interviewer usually leaps to what they consider “the heart of the matter.” In every interview I’ve been asked this question: “What would you do if Hitler invaded your house?” Well, it’s not exactly that question, but in every interview these two questions have come up: What about Hitler? What would you do if someone invaded your home? Hitler and home invasion. These are the two arguments that allegedly make the Jesus way of peace impossible. So let me address them. I’ll begin with Hitler.

When I claim that waging war is incompatible with following Jesus, the knee-jerk objection is always this: “What about Hitler?” The problem with the “Hitler objection” is that we have stepped into the middle of the story. It’s 1940 and we’re asking, “what are we going to do about Hitler?” As legitimate as that question is, we need to back up and ask this question first: How is it that Christians could wage war at Hitler’s behest? How did the land of Luther and the Reformation become the land of Nazis and the Holocaust? Hitler is as much a problem for Christian Just War theorists as for Christians who oppose war altogether. After all, Hitler waged his blitzkriegs with baptized soldiers sporting Gott mit uns on their belt buckles. How did this happen? How was Hitler able to convince Christian soldiers to kill other Christians in Poland, France, and Russia? Hasn’t something gone tragically wrong with the church when Christians can be persuaded to kill other Christians in the name of ideology and nationalism? The enduring catastrophe of Constantine subverting the kingdom of God was that the politics of Jesus were set aside for the interests of empire. This eventually led to the shame of the crusades where Christians killed under the banner of the cross, and then to the horror of the two world wars where European Christians slaughtered one another by the millions.

So let me ask a question. Imagine this scenario: Eric is eighteen years old. He is a Christian and a good citizen, he’s patriotic and the captain of his football team. His dream is to work the family farm like his father and grandfather. It’s 1944 and right after high school he’s drafted into the army. He’s asked to defend his nation. So he dutifully takes up arms and goes to war in defense of his country. He doesn’t particularly want to go to war, but he feels he must. The defense of his nation calls for it. So the high school football star leaves the farm, goes to war, and kills other Christians, all in the name of national-defense. Is this permissible for a Christian? You say, yes? Then consider this follow-up question: Does it alter you opinion if I tell you Eric is German? This is the problem with Constantinian Christianity and Just War theory — you end up with German Christians killing American, British, French, and Russian Christians in the name of nationality. Brothers and sisters, these things ought not be. As I say in A Farewell To Mars

“If Jesus is relegated to the hyperspiritualized role of personal savior, then we are free to pledge our political allegiance to the latest incarnation of empire. This is why Christians from the days of Constantine onward have been so pliable in the hands of beasts. We should think deeply upon the fact that the Nazi blitzkriegs were waged by baptized soldiers. Had the church held to pre-Constantine convictions, Hitler would never have gotten off the ground. Before we appeal to Hitler as the ultimate argument against Christian nonviolence, we first have to ask how Hitler was able to amass a following of Christians in the first place. After all, it wasn’t atheists and pagans who formed the German Christian movement that lent support to Hitler in the 1930s.” –A Farewell To Mars, p. 162

What about home invasion? Despite the fact that Mars is not about domestic self-defense, but an examination of war in the light of Christ, this objection is always raised. It’s often the very first question I’m asked! The scenario is always presented in the same form. It goes like this: An intruder has invaded your home. His intent is to rape your wife and kill your children. What are you going to do? It’s a lovely way to start an interview, isn’t it? The argument presumes only two options: Defend your family violently (preferably with a gun) or stand by idly while your family is raped and murdered. *Deep sigh* The problem with the argument is its dualistic assumption. Either you do nothing or you respond with corresponding violence. This betrays a striking lack of imagination. So what’s my response to this now familiar question? It goes like this…

This has not happened. You are asking me to imagine a fictive scenario. But I will comply and imagine an intruder with malicious intent and armed with a gun has invaded my home. What do I do? Here’s what I do, I disarm the intruder with the name of Jesus. Then I preach the gospel to the intruder. He is converted. Next Sunday I baptize him. Six months later he is an usher in my church. How about that! The interviewer says, “that’s not realistic.” I say, sure it is. Some trust in horses and chariots, some trust in Smith and Wesson, but we will trust in the name of the Lord our God. If you ask me to imagine something, don’t criticize me for imagining it with faith and creativity. That’s how I answer the imaginative scenario presented to me — I answer with an alternative, and I think more beautiful, imagination.

To summarize: The Hitler question is historical in nature. The problem is we need to go back further in history and ask deeper questions. The home invasion question is imaginative in nature and I refuse to restrict my imagination to the bifurcation of violence or indolence. Neither the historical Hitler nor the imagined intruder is able to convince me that Jesus was irresponsible or naive.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” -Jesus


(The artwork is Meah Shearim by Eric Lubiyov.)

  • That’s the correct response when someone hits you with an “omniscient prole” scenario. There are two classic such scenarios: Having you time travel to a historical point at which the villain is known and the solution is singular, or have you travel forward to a hypothetical at which the villain is known and the solution is singular. “Omniscient prole” scenarios are concocted to make us agree with abhorrent, “no-choice” choices. Real life doesn’t work that way.

    If you give me a time machine, I’m going to visit a younger Hitler and try to redirect him. And I will try this approach again and again and again.

  • Ethan Sweetland-May

    Thank you. I can’t tell you how deeply this cuts into my fears of and secret alliances with violence.

  • Shawnshack

    I love this. I was in a similar conversation with someone about this (as we discussed the book) a couple of weeks ago. We don’t have to naively assume that this isn’t a complicated issue or journey. It is complicated, as is our faith in Jesus. But I love the pursuit of a purer more holy way of living.

  • Kay

    I honestly do not comprehend your answers. I am truly asking to understand. (By the way, I am currently reading Mars–thank you SO much for making it available free for Kindle.) Here is my history that makes self defense, with violence when necessary, a visceral as well as long-pondered response. I was remorsely neglected and brutally abused by my mother from birth. Marrying my mother’s guts, I was later assaulted by my now ex husband. I sought recorse in reasoning, appealing to “shared” faith, being perfectly behaved, and finally pleading and sobbing. Nothing but the power of the law, upheld in the end by a gun, stopped these merciless attacks. The vow to never be so helpless again, nor allow my children to be injured, commits me to self defense by whatever means necessary. What am I missing here?

  • americanwoman343

    I haven’t read the book, but now I’m really interested! Having the luxury of pondering your question from afar, I want to say that I find room for defending helpless others while still following Jesus – protecting your children, for example. I’m not sure I find ‘self-defense’ in Jesus’ Way, but then again, I haven’t lived your life. Perhaps you will teach us; perhaps your faith is on its way there. I’m very sorry for all that has happened to you.

  • Randy Starkey

    Kay you are missing nothing IMO. Self defense is a viable biblical concept. And sometimes force is necessary. Not always, but sometimes yes. The Bible freely acknowledges this. Brian’s scenario, to me, is not really creative (although I acknowledge something similar could happen), but a rather a naive and narrow scenario forced into his theology, *subtly* saying in an unsaid way that force should *never* be used. I just simply disagree.

    Hitler is similar. He misses the point. I agree there is much to learn about how Hitler recruited “Christians” to go and kill, but many were Christians “in name only”, regardless of their baptism. The REAL question is, what’s proper once Hitler is HERE? (He didn’t answer this at all.) At that point it does not matter how he got here. The simple answer is you stop him with force. It was the proper answer then, and it would be now. These are nations at issue, and nations are NOT the same as the Kingdom.

    I agree with Brian’s emphasis on the Kingdom of God being one of peace, but his applications of it, IMO of course, are extreme, forced and fixated. I am VERY opposed to the violent spirit of our age, but his explanations for these two scenarios are simply attempts to justify a certain theology, which is simply a basic biblical theology but pushed to an extreme.

    P.S. I was going to do a direct reply to this article but your sharing moved me!

  • Tom steed

    Thank you for these observations Brian. I have come kicking and screaming to the conclusion that Jesus was a “pacifist” and advocated it as a core value of the kingdom. I do have a question that I hope you might clarify for me.

    I understand the heart of pacifism to be expressed in the truth that under no circumstances are we to return evil for evil. If someone curses me, hits me, etc. I never am to return that evil back. Same applies if they do it to another person. My question is this: is all “violence” an intrinsically evil act?

    Take the home invasion example. If I lunge towards the offender and wrestle him to the ground and tell my wife to run and call the police have I “returned evil” to him? He tries to get free but I “resist” and keep him down with force. It seems I’m doing some kind of “violence” toward him but was I actually returning evil toward him? I still don’t see how that can be an evil act toward the offender.

    I’m wondering if we need to be more careful with absolute prohibitions against “all violence.” The absolute prohibition is against “returning evil” and yes we almost always and rightly equate “violence” as an evil act but is it always evil? This seems to be the hidden assumption in most pacifist arguments I’ve read: all violence is evil, therefore Christians must never do violence. But there seem to be some instances where violence is not an evil act.

    As you observed pacifism is not about having no response to evil but an alternative one that promotes peace and justice. Isn’t that what I did in the above example?

    Any thoughts?

  • Do you have a blog, Randy?

  • Jacob S.

    Even if you wrestled him down and got the police involved, the police would be using violence or the threat of as a means to end the conflict.

    I think we should take the road of Jesus looks “less” like violence and “more” like pacifism. I find that statement to be bold enough. If we venture into the realm of “he’s for this” or “he’s completely against that” leads to a dangerous path of missing the sacred mystery.

  • I support the idea of police function in a civil society. I make a distinction between war and police function. I understand that at times the line can be blurred, but nevertheless, the distinction exists.

  • Randy Starkey

    Hi Brian – I am not currently blogging.

  • Kay

    So my takeaway is this: at my work I actively engage in reconciliation with aggressively contentious co-workers and model peaceful respect for “the other” that is the community we serve. (For me, this takes courage.) Alone, as a single woman with a disabled daughter, I prepare to defend us against violent aggression. (Could the issue of lesser strength as a woman legitimately affect my views?) And as a citizen, having spent years face to face with psychotic evil as few have, I would have to admit the possibility that I’d support stopping the spread of a global level of evil, by force. Just as I stood between a child and an abuser, willing to lose my life but taking another if it truly becomes necessary.
    Thank you for the compassionate response, Randy. Kay

  • Kay,

    I support police function. It plays a necessary role in a civil society. I make a distinction between war and police function. At times the line can be blurred, but the distinction exists. “A Farewell To Mars” is not about domestic violence or personal self-defense. I never mention these subjects in the book. The book is about Jesus and war. Nevertheless I have been asked the home invasion question in every interview I’ve given. Often it’s the first question. In this blog I have reproduced my answer to this personal (and irrelevant to my book) question.

    You have done nothing wrong and I would never suggest you have.


    Brian Zahnd

  • Brian, you mention you don’t have a problem with police scenarios or even self-defense… but I wonder if that isn’t just a similar extension of the Hitler question?

    On self-defense: Scenarios that arise in a need for self-defense, just like with Hitler, are not atomic. They didn’t just spring up from nothing. And please note, I’m not going “victim blaming” here… that’s unhelpful and certainly not loving and gracious. But what is going in in the society surrounding the scenario that gave rise to the situation where someone is being assaulted where self-defense is required? What messages are being portrayed and not countered by the Christians in that society? If a rapist feels that they have some sort of twisted right to help themselves to a woman’s body, what has fed that mindset? I don’t have a solid answer as to how to handle it, but I think it’s a very similar response required. Where are the Christians in the society that would be that yeast, salt, and light to speak against those messages of the surrounding culture?

    On police scenarios: Same questions. It comes down to what the role of the Christian is in the society. Yes, a state, nation, city, etc., will have police. That is part of being what they are. However, that does not necessarily mean that a Christian’s role in society is the same as the police. Ideally, if Christians are doing what they are supposed to be doing, it would seem to me that police functions would be dramatically reduced, even to the point of non-existance. Again, as you mentioned Brian, you’re asking us, with regards to police, to imagine scenarios. Why can we not imagine the same sort of creative faith you express in your home invasion scenario?

    Now… realistically, will we do without police? No… I’m grateful for the police in my community and I see that they are acting as they need to as part of a broken system interacting in a broken world. But, for myself, as a peace-loving Christian, I see my role as to, ultimately, put the police out of work by transforming my neighborhood in such a way that the police would never need to set foot in my house except to get a cup of coffee and a donut on their way to someplace else.

  • Randy Starkey

    Kay – Very well said and I agree completely. I also do believe the woman issue you brought up is a valid factor.

  • Herm

    Dear Pastor Zahnd, the stranglehold of grief, empathy, and compassion around my heart from my committed obligation to endearing reciprocal love complicates my response to this your article of faith. I support your premise relative to my personal life as such is easy now to be fully trusting of my Lord God to provide the security of shelter, peace and joy for my heart, soul, strength and mind. I gratefully carry my cross today that others might live. I trust in the double-edged sword out of the mouth of Jesus to finally vanquish our foes. I, also, will use my guns to shoot through the door being beaten down by those who would clearly rape and pillage from my otherwise defenseless responsibilities within the walls designated by law as mine. If I go to prison or suffer the death of capital punishment for my actions then too I carry my cross grateful that I stood up that others might live.

    I am experienced in war and do not condone in any way wars such as were instigated and fought recently in Iraq and Vietnam. I believe by history that there comes a time where we all are called to stand between the victim and the victimizer with all at our disposal to protect the innocent from becoming a statistic of collateral damage. I cannot in good conscience abide by Romans 13 as truly coming through the Apostle Paul from the Holy Spirit for Hitler was clearly not God’s servant but a servant of the spirit of the beast. I cannot abide in good conscience in support of the religious rulers who instigated and authorized crusades in Jesus Christ’s name financed by rape and pillage. From what I know in good conscience today in real life is that I will flee from war whenever possible but will stand to fight with everything I have at my disposal so that others might have time to find sanctuary from war. My fleeting carnal life has a promise of spiritual eternity if I am willing to lose it to love.

    The most difficult situations I have ever been put in were not in defense of my own life. The most difficult times were when I was the responsible first responder in a situation of triage. I had to choose who had the best chance of survival and refuse care to those I deemed least likely to live and believed we did not have the resources to save. If I have a gun available, am trained in its use and believe this is the best chance to save more by its use I will pick it up without hesitancy to stop the clear and present threat. If I do not have the physical resources of defense available I will let loose the double-edged sword Jesus makes available through my mouth. If either of those hypothetical moments come to pass I trust that what I am to do will have been trained to me the day before as have each and every time previous I have had to be responsible for triage.

    Brian you are right in the same vein as Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Jesus Christ were right. You are in good company. I am right in the same vein King David was right. I do know, according to the Gospels, that Jesus had Simon Peter put his sword away. I do know that Jesus said to His disciples, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” This was when He was telling His disciples how to now go out differently to the gentiles in comparison to the previous commission which was purely to the lost sheep of Israel.

    I can and have walked without sword, purse, bag, sandals and staff into the lion’s den and the Holy Spirit faithfully told me what to say appropriate for life in that moment. I don’t fear those who can kill the body but not the soul. I fear leaving lost one sheep of God’s creation because I chose not to react in defense of their life. That is what I mean by the stranglehold of grief, empathy, and compassion around my heart.

    I love the “gook” I killed who had just killed my loved chess mate from the day before; the rest of the squad survived. I live with that forever a part of my heart and mind. I am obligated to them to share the joy and peace I have been graced since that they were unable to … complicated.

    God bless your efforts to guide us all in what we, as disciples of Jesus Christ, should do first to prevent Hitlers, Stalins, rape, pillage and genocide. What we do next because we did not reach out first in love becomes a heart and mind felt triage in the field of battle that each of our consciences must be in sync with guidance of the Holy Spirit to perform according to God’s will.

  • Seth

    Thanks for making this book free for Kindle! I have been greatly challenged by your book, not the least by your personal journey. Thanks for sharing. One thing I had hoped to see fleshed out a bit more in your book was a treatment of OT scriptures dealing with the Canaanite conquest and the wars of the nation of Israel. I understand that the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ acted as a cosmic game-changer that inaugurated a new kingdom with a new political structure – one without war, as you argue in your book. What would you tell people who grapple with scriptures such as Joshua 10.40 (“Thus Joshua struck all the land, the hill country and the Negev and the lowland and the slopes and all their kings. He left no survivor, but he utterly destroyed all who breathed, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.”) in light of your book? Here we see YHWH commanding war, yet the Gospels reveal a Messiah who rejected empire-war. How do you resolve this? Thanks!

  • The peace of Christ be upon you, Herm.

  • J Ringley

    Have you never heard of Dietrich Bonhoffer? Theologian and co-conspirator with a group of German officers that attempted to kill Hitler. Outspoken critic of Hitler and Hitler’s deliberate takeover of the Lutheran church. Hanged for “treason” two weeks before Hitler killed himself. Went to the gallows without any doubt that his cause was just.

    Only a fool can predict publicly that he would stand by while his family was raped, or state that he could willingly take on an armed gang and not cower and let that happen. How can I state that? Because only those who have experienced that situation can know how they would react. The rest the best of us can do is be thankful we haven’t had to experience it.

    Peter said he would follow Christ to his own death, but before the cock crowed three times he denied he even knew Jesus. The difference between Peter and Brian Z? There was no internet in the times of Jesus to promote his book.

  • Amanda Salley

    I have thought about how I am going to put into words what is rolling around inside me….not sure if you will ever read this, I guess after the first 100 comments it gets tiresome and you may leave it to the people to hash it out among ourselves OR you may read every single one, i don’t know. But here goes….Your right….about where we put our trust. I NEVER thought I would say that bc of the last article I read you wrote about why you don’t own a gun. That article bothered me bc you had implied that gun owners are violent people, which isn’t true. Guns are tools, people are weapons. If it wasn’t a gun, it would be another tool someone would use if they were intent on hurting another. Heck, Cain used God’s creation.

    However, back to this article, I agree (in part) with this article bc of the comment of Jesus. We, I, had and still do to a degree trust my own self defense option (gun) to protect me more then I do about proclaiming the name of Jesus to an intruder. That got to me…A LOT! I don’t agree that the imaginary scenarios are that imaginary. They happen to people all over the world everyday. I wonder how different Hitler’s reign would have turned out IF people had fought back instead of getting on those trains(or it could have been worse idk) I think that is what people are asking you.

    What I do agree with is people, Christians, put to much trust in their self defense options more then they do Jesus’s ability and capability to protect us in our time of need or everyday life and then say it’s naive not to trust your self defense option bc the world is crazy. As if the name of Jesus is lacking. I’m not ready or know if I ever will be to put away my gun but I do see your point on where we are placing our faith.

  • Dear J. Ringley,

    “Only a fool can predict publicly that he would stand by while his family was raped.” I agree. And I certainly never suggested any such thing.

    Have I heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer? I’m fairly certain I’ve read all of his works. You might be interested in this scholarly work published last year: “Bonhoeffer the Assassin?: Challenging the Myth, Recovering His Call to Peacemaking.” I read it in Jerusalem last year. Very well researched. It will help you get some facts straight about Bonhoeffer’s remarkable life.


    I would suggest that the biggest difference between the Apostle Peter and myself is that he was a great apostle, while I’m a mediocre pastor. What we have in common is that we are both sinners saved by Jesus.


    Brian Zahnd

  • Thyrymn

    I just finished my second time through and I do not understand what we do when a state is turns evil. It is all and good to go back and ask the deeper questions, but I’m having difficulty following how that make for a practical answer to a current problem. Sure, it might be caused by a history of bad Christian theology and warmongering. But when you are stuck, what are the practical steps to be taken in order resolve — say — a conflict between Buddhist and Muslim in Myanmar? We can go back in history and trace all the mistakes people made (like in the Hitler example), but what are the practical steps to resolve evil in the political state?


  • Bill Brown

    I agree with you. There is much violence that can and should be avoided by Christians, but some that cannot. To exalt nonviolence as THE ONLY response in ALL circumstances is to elevate a theological position above God himself, who is seen in scripture leading his people in a variety of ways in response to situations where human security is threatened. The ultimate goal is always the restoration of a lasting, godly peace. And one day that will come. But to stand by and watch someone else be harmed when it is in one’s power to stop it can be just as evil as throwing an unnecessary punch or firing an unnecessary bullet.

    World War Two is a complex tangle of issues. It involved both people who truly believed in Christ and many who did not. You are right on: We must take the world as it is, not as we wish it were. Regardless of what could have happened in Europe in the decades leading up to Hitler’s rise to prevent it, the fact is it didn’t. And because Hitler did in reality come to power, it was imperative for those outside Germany to stop him. The only Christ-honoring response for those within Germany was to work against him (which is the path some Christians chose to take, including even at times violence). But, of course, America’s actions in that war were not always as righteous as many like to think either. In the end, nations are just conglomerations of people, and all people–even saved ones–are a mixture of good and bad, wisdom and folly.

    There are many other examples in history with similar lessons. As horrible as it was, it was the Civil War that led to the release of enslaved Africans, not pacifistic attempts at abolition. Many slave owners were Christian, or considered themselves to be, but they never would have relinquished their “right” to own slaves apart from coercion.

    If you want to read a true story written by a man who had to face gut-wrenching choices about life and death, mercy and retaliation, hunt down the old book “Invitation to Moscow” by Z Stypulkowski. It was written by a devout Polish Catholic who was in the resistance movement as he watched his homeland raped by both the Nazis and the Soviets. His perspective is worth a thousand times more than those of us who sit back and debate these issues in the comfort of relatively secure America, knowing our families are safe.

  • Randy Starkey

    Bill – Good points, and I really agree it takes being very open to the guidance of God in every situation. Not easy. Peace is the goal, but I do reject hyper-pacifism as unbiblical. Will look for that book! Thanks!

  • Kenny

    Before I tell you how much I liked you’re book, I will. Let me tell you why it comes come at such a relevant and important moment.

    My wife, son, and I live in Jerusalem. We live about a mile from Muhamad Abu Khader, the kid who was killed by Israeli extremists a few days ago. And, yes, things are very tense here at the moment! We are followers of Jesus. We have two main purposes here: first, to live incarnationally among Palestinian Muslims sowing seeds of the kingdom. Second, I am a doctoral student in Arab and Islamic studies. My research is focused on conflict, trauma and spirituality among Palestinian Muslims in East Jerusalem. So I spend a lot of time thinking about how Islam works itself out in people’s daily lives, especially in light of the ongoing conflict.

    Given that, I doubt you’d be surprised to learn that my beliefs and convictions are often challenged. One of the challenges I face is seeing the oft-overlooked underbelly of American Evangelical ideology – the ideology I was raised on. People write books, they visit, they send us emails. They are hardly aware of their own end-times obsessions and their unquestioned commitment to exerting power through force. Both of which have little (if anything!) to do with the teaching of Jesus. One is misplaced priority. The other is, as you would say, Mars.

    I want to thank you for writing this book for two reasons. First, you have challenged your readers to question their assumptions about war and invited them to follow the Prince of peace. This is a blind spot in American Christianity that desperately needs to be addressed. Thank you! May many people read it and be changed! Second, you have helped heal a fellow follower of Jesus from the temptation of giving up on the community that brought him to faith. As I read the book I felt a huge burden lift from my soul. We can stand together and worship the Prince of Peace! Thank you for bringing a message that is both confession and guidance.

    Peace, Shalom, and Salaam!

    P.s. Next time you find yourself in Jerusalem I’d love to treat you to a coffee.

  • Herm


    I read your response to Pastor Zahnd several times and am drawn to respond to you. I don’t know why but my heart and mind agree that you could use a response, even if from me. I know that Pastor Zahnd is a really good and sincere moderating shepherd who reads everything that is on this site. I know, also, that he responds when drawn to do so. The same source Who draws the three of us out is tickling my heart pretty strongly toward you, hopefully my mind can give you some peace.

    This is not a critique of the way you posed your searching/questioning heart and mind. You did very well to question without a question mark. Great job for it got me to thinking and I can’t ask for anything more, thank you. I hope this is as clear and thoughtful as your post.

    I am a sailor with a boat that I am responsible to, as well as all passengers on board. I am required to carry safety equipment by the Coast Guard and I intentionally exceed their expectations. All the safety equipment most likely will never be used but when necessary to do so hopefully life and limb will be saved because the one piece of equipment most necessary was available, functioning and we knew how to use it.

    I have safety equipment in my home that most likely will never be used. I have safety equipment for the car, backpacking, hiking, bicycling and motorcycling particularly in the back country that most likely will never be used but when necessary life and limb will be saved because the one most necessary was there to be used.

    Most of the safety equipment cannot be utilized safely or effectively by a child or an adult not trained their use. A few of those come immediately to mind; flare gun, auxiliary engine, fire extinguisher, reflecting mirror, whistle, life jackets, matches, bolt cutters, fishing gear and knife.

    I live close to the Canadian border so to avoid inconvenience if I am boarded because I strayed into their waters most of the time I am not carrying a gun on board as safety equipment that most likely would never have been used anyway. I am usually carrying when in the backcountry. I always have special use guns in my home (locked but available) for defense against crazed or territorial animals. I used to live extremely rural and have had times where a gun was used to remove threatening rattle snakes, feral cats and once a cougar caught killing our livestock. We live in the city now and the guns have less potential purpose except to possibly be the safety equipment that could save life and limb. My fire extinguishers lay pretty much dormant due to the now near proximity of the fire department but available for first responding should the unlikely need arise.

    I might sound paranoid to all who don’t know me and just read that last paragraph. For those who know me they would temper that paragraph because they know I, also, have all the tools necessary to pull my entire engine apart for my car, put it back together and tune it up. I have done that only twice in my 70 years of life but I feel more comfortable having the right tools for the job should the need arise.

    Amanda, you imply that you have a gun available. You seem to be questioning by defending just how necessary that gun is as safety equipment to save life and limb. My sail boat functions very well without any safety equipment but should it fail to float its on board life jackets are pretty handy even though I’m still a fairly strong swimmer. When I sail there is always the slim chance for unexpected violent storms and catastrophic equipment failure. There is always the even more slim chance that in the disaster before me as the primary responsible person aboard all is beyond my skills and the limitations of my safety equipment. Do I quit sailing because that can happen? Do I not care to carry any most likely not going to be used safety equipment because there is a chance their usefulness may be exceeded?

    Who do I trust when all else fails in this imperfectly safe world?

    Can you visualize God talking amongst themselves and deciding the safest place for each of us is kept locked separately in a padded room? I’m a father that cared enough to look at all possibilities to preserve my children and their mother. My now grown children were monitored and moderated but were never kept from danger or responsibility in a padded room. The disciples had two swords, the gun equivalent of their day, on them when Jesus was taken to be crucified. It is important to note that the disciples amongst them had two swords not eleven. Simon Peter was pretty good with his because he took only a warning ear. Jesus apparently didn’t feel a need to carry at any time because He said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”

    This is me putting “into words what is rolling around inside me.” I like tools and developing the skills to use all tools graced at my disposal responsibly and constructively. We as mankind have been graced adaptable inquisitive minds to reach outside ourselves and hearts capable of empathy to moderate constructively with love all we touch. In my lifetime tools, such as this Internet, have brought the world together like never before and I love learning better every day how to use them all constructively. I calculate with what I know today that there are enough tools possible that it will take me an eternity to learn how to use them all constructively. All tools in untrained hands or when not moderated by love are dangerous. That is why only those who can love each other as themselves and recognize the only perfect Authority according to Luke 10:27 will inherit eternal life.

    I trust my Father to moderate me because He knows me, loves me and He has. As with my father before Him I still am allowed to rummage around in the garage to discover new tools I want to learn how to use constructively. I have found from trial and error that it saves time, limb and life while learning if I ask my Father to teach me. I am really lucky because I, also, have a big Brother who takes me by the heart and the mind to teach me step by step in lecture, lab and out on the job.

    I don’t need any tools to survive eternally only the constructive attitude to be one of heart and mind trusting in the Family of God. But all tools and safety equipment, including guns, are made available at the right time to learn how to use responsibly before they are necessary. Don’t ask me ask our Father in Heaven and our brother Jesus Christ. Then you will know the only perfect Truth.

    Love you! Selah

  • Glen Willits

    Brian, I have been reading your blog for a few months now, and I really appreciate it. You discuss many of the same questions I have been wrestling with.

    The strong support of much of the Christian community for both war and gun ownership does seem to send the wrong message, and is a personal position I have been re-evaluating. Your post is helpful in that thought process.

    After reading this post, I have been surprised at how many people seem to have read it differently than I did. I didn’t take your response to the “home invasion” question as a literal response of how you would act. I took it as a Smart-Alec response to a Smart-Alec question, and I thought it was great.

    It’s bizarre that some people are so opposed to your position of peace, that they feel they need to trap you in a contrived scenario in which you will be forced to violate your convictions. That seemed to me to be the point of your post.

    I read another writer recently who said that he believes all war is evil. He also said that even if some wars might be necessary (e.g. WW II and Hitler), that only makes it a “Necessary Evil”.

  • You have read it correctly, Glen. My home invasion response is a joke of sorts; but a joke that makes a point. If someone tries to trap me in their imagined scenario, I am free to counter with my own imagined scenario.

  • Mark Basil

    Dear to God Kay;

    In Orthodox Christianity we have an ancient concept called “Economia”, which means how to apply the teachings of the Church in a particular challenging situation. Everything in our messy, confusing real lives requires pastoral care and wisdom. It is not possible for us to do all that Jesus does or commands without first being healed and transformed into His likeness. For most of us this is a life-long work of walking in the Holy Spirit, passing from glory to glory as we grow into Christ’s likeness.
    Until we are made perfect or complete, as our Father in Heaven is perfect, we cannot expect to love our enemies with self-giving love. But we can admit our weakness and sinfulness; our fear and brokeness even while we fail to manifest perfect Christian virtue in obedience to Christ’s hardest commandments. In fact this too is the way into the Kingdom: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
    Economia is essential to our spiritual lives. A good pastor (as Brian clearly is) will not force us to obey Christ’s commandments where to do so would break us, rather than heal us. Because on a deeper level, honestly falling short of Christ’s call is true obedience to Him- we admit our spiritual poverty, we admit we are not God, we are not perfect. Christ did not die to make bad people good, but dead people alive. This is what Christ wants from us, for it is out of our weakness that His strength will be perfected. Let us be humbled by our honest failures and fears.
    So I believe you have a way out of the “dualism” of your conscience or your bodily wellbeing: you can choose to participate in self-defense because of the evil that has been done to you and the fear it has created, while doing so from a posture of poverty, admitting to Christ that you know this is not perfect but it is the best you can do in your brokenness, and asking his forgiveness and healing. God resists the proud, but to humble his mercy flows like living water.

    May God bless you;
    -Mark Northey

  • Randy Starkey

    Mark – let’s not put guilt on Kay please. I am a pastor also, and to ascribe her self-defense response as something she needs to ask forgiveness for, or to quantify it as something she would do out of weakness, is strictly you imposing a theology upon her that many people, including myself as a pastor, distinctly disagree with. There are simply theological differences here in the Body of Christ, and I personally don’t want her imbibing guilt on this. She is intelligent and perceptive and I’m sure she can think/pray it through. The notion of self-defense always being wrong comes from a flawed interpretation of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, IMHO. I fully oppose the violent spirit of our age, but *proper* self-defense is not part of that.

  • Randy Starkey

    Glen – I don’t see people being smart aleck, but rather asking a sincere and obvious question raised by the position presented. That is hardly an attempt to “trap”. Is that the defense you use instead of straight on theological discussion? And the scenario mentioned is not imagined, as it happens too often these days.

  • Mark Basil

    I hear you, Randy.
    I do not intend to add guilt- I suppose I dont see admitting my own weakness and sinfulness as grounds for a crippling guilt so much as room for the holy spirit to work the soil of my heart. “A broken and contrite heart O God, you will not despise.”
    Clearly our theologies and I think anthropologies are different. Where we agree is that guilt is unhelpful, and that Kay must think and pray through this as we all must.


  • Dan

    You disagree with violence from Christians, Brian, but you believe in Police function? I am a bit leery of this. Big Brother is watching us.

  • Randy Starkey

    Hi Mark – Yes, agreed. Peace. Dialog is good.

  • A believer, reader and thinker

    It seems to me that those who feel it is right to use violence to defend oneself and one’s family can extrapolate that logic into convincing themselves to murder abortion providers. After all, isn’t that “doctor” killing innocent unborn children? What a noble thing – to use violence to save the lives of many! The logic of that argument may be bullet-proof, but I don’t think that is how Jesus would want us to behave. Thank you Brian for a thoughtful conversation!

  • Glen Willits

    Hmmm…so attempting to reduce his entire book down to a single, contrived scenario is “straight on theological discussion”? I suppose if you view the world in extremely black and white terms it might be. Either there are zero scenarios in which you would reluctantly use force, or you can’t claim to be peace loving.

    Imagine I advocated a view that stealing from others is wrong. I do live that way, including the fact that I refuse to download pirated movies and mp3s. Would it be a valid challenge to my position to ask “So are you saying that if your family was starving and destitute, and you knew for a fact that your son would die tomorrow if you don’t steal some food or money, you still wouldn’t steal?”

    I would consider that a similarly ridiculous question. I can’t say what I would do in that situation without being in it. The answer to that question does not change my perspective that I will try to live with integrity and avoid stealing, even when I know I wouldn’t get caught.

  • Thyrymn

    Hello Brian.

    I am cognizant that you are free to counter with your own imagined scenario so I tried to find a real one and let you respond with practical advice for a person in that situation. Thank — thyrymn.

  • Randy Starkey

    Glen – who said anything about trying to “reduce the book”? This relates to 2 questions Brian was saying he was always asked in his interviews. I simply disagreed with you that it (the home invasion question) was smart aleck. Or that it was a “trap”. The “imagined” scenario actually happens in today’s society. It’s a *legitimate* question. If you want to discuss it, do it straight on, as I said. To imply the question is “ridiculous” is ridiculous 🙂 Read Kay’s post please for a real life scenario.

  • Glen Willits

    Randy, I’ve been called worse than ridiculous. I may well be.

    I think it’s helpful to recognize the difference between the validity of the scenario and the validity of the question.

    A trap question works like this: Take a viewpoint a person is espousing, and butt it up against another viewpoint that person also holds. The question is asked in a way that forces the questioner to choose between violating one of their two viewpoints. It doesn’t matter which way the person answers, the questioner will jump on the response. e.g. “You claim to be non-violent, but you say you would fight to defend your family?” or “You would stand by and watch while your family is raped and murdered?”. The question is worded to be no-win. It is in no way an attempt at sincere dialog.

    The fact that the underlying scenario is plausible is important, because if the questioner is called on the validity of the question, that’s what allows them to put on their most sincere expression and say “But I’m just trying to have an honest discussion about a real-world scenario”. But they are not.

    I agree that in a sincere discussion on non-violence, how we should handle direct confrontations of violence is a valid area of discussion. But that wasn’t what Brian was describing.

    Do you feel that the way a question is worded has no effect on it’s validity or sincerity? Do you feel that no question is a trap question if it contains a kernel of plausibility? Hmmm…that last questions feels like a trap in itself. Sorry. 🙂

  • Randy Starkey

    Glen – I didn’t call YOU ridiculous, I said to assert that the question is ridiculous, is ridiculous. (i.e. that assertion). 🙂

    On the actual question, I certainly agree that a certain question due to wording can be baiting. The Pharisees did it to Jesus. But in this case *every interviewer* (per Brian) was asking Brian this. I can guarantee you the trap questions being asked of Jesus were not universally being asked of him. But only by those with wrong motives. Now, I can’t guarantee the *sincerity* of every one of Brian’s interviewers, but the universality with which the question is asked certainly attests to its *validity*!

    To quote you…

    “I agree that in a sincere discussion on non-violence, how we should handle direct confrontations of violence is a valid area of discussion. But that wasn’t what Brian was describing.”

    Ah, but I do believe he was describing that. The interviewers were asking a valid question. To which I believe we owe a valid answer. Who wouldn’t want to know in good conscience what to do? Which I gave as, as much as I abhor violence, there are times, not necessarily every time (there was one time I stood in front of a drunken man with a broken Wild Turkey bottle neck pointed at *my* neck, and the Holy Spirit led me to stand there – quite vulnerable I might add – and take authority over the demonic forces driving the poor fellow, and that worked.) where self-defense by force is entirely legitimate. (Not just the result of my “lower Chrsitianity” or my “weak faith”, something I would need to ask forgiveness for, as Mark was stating.) I also would not have had any problem using force on that drunken fellow if my spiritual approach had not worked. I don’t think I would have needed to kill him 🙂

    So, to summarize, I don’t think it’s appropriate to denigrate the question (considering every interviewer asked it), but rather to give a straight response. In view of peace and the Jesus Way and the Kingdom of God, my response is that peaceful theology does not necessarily exclude the use of force for self-defense. That is a misrepresentation of the Sermon on the Mount and it’s hyper-pacifism. Now, you can disagree with my answer, but you still then need to answer the question posed instead of attacking the question. It just doesn’t fit the trap model.

  • Michael Snow

    Wonderful response. I think that we also need to give people
    perspective: This question about family always comes up at the start and ends up
    being a smokescreen to avoid reality. I wuuld say, yes, that is a good
    question but that for my whole life I have seen Christians picking up
    their swords and marching off to war. but I have never seen hide nor
    hair of the homicidal maniac attacking my family, nor do I know anyone
    who has. I am going to address reality, not fiction.

  • Thank you, Michael.

  • Michael Snow

    Blessings. Most Christians have no idea of the context of Romans “13” http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/romans-13-in-context-sword-pacifism/ nor that Jesus’ response to the two swords was “enough” http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/two-swords-enough/

  • Herm

    Thank you Michael. I have studied in context Romans 13 from many sources, including those saying that it was added in Nicaea in 325 AD to support Constantine. I have passed this by the Holy Spirit for counseling and was asked, “Would you turn in your Jewish neighbor to the Nazi government submitting to their legal edict to do so?” I was asked, “Would you pay taxes to the reigning Nazi government to finance Auschwitz to cleanse by genocide?” My answer from both my heart and mind in sync is an immediate absolutely no. None of Romans 13 purported to be a significant part of the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans has convinced me that it is from God relative to the examples of Stalin’s and Hitler’s governments especially; “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.”

    I do not fear for my life and am totally convinced to carry my own cross that others might live. I am convinced not to intentionally hurt or destroy my neighbor as I would want my neighbor convinced the same. Taken at face value and in full context Romans 13 just does not pass the smell test no matter how many different ways I sniff. I am willing to test everything for validity from any perspective I am introduced to when the Spirit knows I’m ready. My faith for the future is hope filled with the promise of eternal peace and joy because I know a valid, tested and working family relationship with our creator God.

    Until I am introduced to an understanding better than what “A brief look at Romans “13″ in its historical and textual context:” did for me Romans 13 remains insignificant to my relationship with Caesar, President Obama, and Hitler. I have an active Lord God on Earth and Heaven by the name of Jesus Christ who tells me, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” I gladly pay Caesar what is Caesar’s, and more, but will in no way give up to Caesar my love for my Lord God and my neighbor as myself. From Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” creates too many conflicts between the differing laws of Hitler and Jesus for me so I fall back to the law I can trust from Jesus Christ.

    I hope I didn’t just talk around Romans 13 so much that I just muddied the waters for others. My hope for others will always be the same or more peace and joy that I am graced with today. Even though life is infinitely complicated in relationship with the Holy Spirit I really am not conflicted, just the opposite.

    Thank you Michael for even caring to read what I have expressed. I am flattered. peace

  • Herm

    Woe! I am one of those of whom you speak. Look and see how I posed my response to “Hitler’s Home Invasion”. It does NOT in any way seem to me that I can extrapolate into convincing myself to murder abortion providers … extremely the opposite. I have empathy, compassion and love for the threatened mother and father I know much more than the unborn child I do not. We have no guarantees for life or continued life and are not responsible to anything according to God’s law beyond that of Luke 10:27. I fully believe that abortion and birth control are purely within the God given domain of the parent’s choice and responsibility. I believe that in the image and example of God we must be responsible to those we choose to give life to that didn’t have any choice of life themselves. I previously used triage as the best example I could in how we must perform responsibly. We kill life every moment of our lives to survive on this Earth through antibodies, harvesting food crops/herds, pesticide and even when saving the specie of threatened wolves to kill the deer or the straying child in the wilderness for their nourishment.

    I believe that there is no God given authority given to populate the church by outlawing a doctor/parental choice of birth control or abortion. I respect women much more as equals in their contribution to the good of mankind; well beyond than that of being relegated by men the role as only a child bearing animal for propagation of our specie.

    I have faced death several times calmly when only my life was at stake. I cannot from empathy and compassion face calmly the “what if I had a gun could I have saved them” when under attack. I do not attack my neighbor’s family but I will defend my family from attack. The first part is not to make my family a target. I cannot be calm when other lives are at stake relative to my chosen actions or inaction. I feel so sorry for those who do not know at least that depth of love for others and I know God does feel an infinitely greater depth of love than I.

    Jesus knowingly chose to be murdered even more so than the ignorant of God who chose to murder God in God’s name. He did so because God is empathetic and compassionate for the weak, poor and meek of mankind especially after He lived as the Son of Man. He died that they might live. He knowingly used violence against Himself to defend His family when He could have refused to do so.

  • Herm

    Dear Pastor Zahnd, forgive me please if I am the fly that keeps distracting you that your swatter just can’t quite seem to find. Forgive me please if I am overstepping my bounds, you have been gracious and merciful to me, thank you.

    In the same vein as this particular blog post you have recently tweeted publicly, “Re: A Farewell To Mars. From now on this is my answer to the home invasion question: What does that have to do with my book? Next question.”

    Esprit de corpse is a powerful phrase that when adopted binds a military unit together beyond all religious and philosophical feelings or thought. When under attack all church and public school teaching is no longer entertained for the entire focus is you and your squad to survive this skirmish with all you have together. In the United States of America’s military there is a well taught chain of command that solidifies when in actual combat. I knew the voice of the ranking member and knew exactly where I was in the chain of command. If the ranking member for that moment told me to run across a field through a barrage of enemy bullets I would not have hesitated for the survival of my unit depended upon my following orders. That is a real life war that from my first hand experience I can no longer endorse the reasoning for. Esprit de corpse is a strong bond of empathy, compassion and love for the family unit that I in that moment of conflict depended upon the cohesiveness that we may live. No veteran who has experienced the power of esprit de corpse will ever deny its value to life.

    In my year of service to my country in Vietnam the home that I honorably worked to support was purely where my unit hung our helmets together. I was in communication with my family in the USA and that did tether a significant part of my heart and mind to them even though they seemed like a fantasy that had been programmed into me while asleep in Vietnam. Reality was to survive there. God had actually guided me to deny my ministerial deferment and enlist to answer my query directed at Them as to what really is reality that I can share constructively. This may be what I am doing right now.

    To complicate this picture I need to relate that I nearly walked (AWOL) totally away, never to return to the States, when I read in the Stars and Stripes military newspaper that congress was going to outlaw dissension, especially in our colleges and universities. What was I fighting for if not the freedom to question what was actually constructive for eternity and to discern what was intimidation, manipulation and confusion for only individual short term profit? When not in reactive battle questioning was most necessary among ourselves so we could be more effective next time as a unit. There are some ugly parts of reality here that I will not expose for the uninitiated that I cannot look in their eyes to know how to communicate.

    How many of King David’s soldiers died in battle because of King David’s imperfections/sins (Bathsheba comes to mind) while serving God under King David’s command?

    Most veterans of war are convinced to serve because they truly do see themselves as protecting their family’s home from the ugliness of malicious invasion and subjugation.

    I love you and the foundation of your teaching in the reality of our Lord of Peace. Symbolically I do know we strayed from His authority when the “church” took the mantle of Rome in place of the cross. We are continuing to stray dangerously further away from the authority of our Lord God when “christians” are declaring independence from any government to pursue freedom for ALL to carry guns and Bibles while calling to deport all those subversive genders, races and religions who are dissenting others. When did Jesus Christ decree we were suppose to be independent of all regulation (except birth control and abortion) and moderation? When did Jesus Christ decree women were vassals of mindless propagation so that the only lawful regulation “christians” will enforce is no choice for mothers and/or doctors to use birth control or abortion as an educated solution?

    Wow, I’m getting pumped here and pausing in counsel to understand why.

    Our government, family, home, nation, church, mind and heart are all being invaded by the authority of Roman rule and self centered independents today. It isn’t guns, war or disagreeable fellow human beings that are disturbing me right now. It is in the over all perfection of the moderating regulations of …

    So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12
    Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40

    … that the church professing to be His students just doesn’t get and/or abide by. This is my home under invasion. I will defend it. I am defending it right now with the power of the written word pouring out from my heart and mind. It is a double edge sword hopefully cutting out the cancer destroying our body of Man and the church of Jesus Christ as the Teacher and the High Priest.

    Hitler had already invaded homes and subjugated families to his will when the USA went to war to stop him from invading ours. I would do the same today after careful research and counseling with my Lord God to be certain I was not the invader and to trust exactly what I was picking up my cross to do. Iraq and Vietnam would not have passed the test of research directed by Jesus Christ to His students. The only way we carnal human beings know how to control and regulate self-centered, cancerous and destructive cells in our bodies is to surgically cut them out or nuke them to defend the rest of the constructive body.

    Jesus Christ gives us the choice to, under His authoritative law, give up totally on Man to embrace fully only God or to act in love as strongly as God does to defend and protect Man that They created in Their image. I’m not giving up on Man, who as a body I do hate and love, until my last breath. Peace and joy for all is my and clearly Jesus Christ’s goal. Peace and joy is not possible for those who do not know the daily relationship and grace of God in their lives. It is not evangelical pursuits that are keeping my good Samaritan neighbors from knowing the peace and joy I share with our Family of God today. It is the cancers of self centered independent divisiveness and coveting that coldly justifies the sacrifice of non-invasive others for their short term (120 years compared to eternity) profit that is keeping my good Samaritan neighbor from knowing the peace and joy I know. Love conquers all and it will finally conquer the sword when we learn how to share our cup running over with all regulated (tempered) only by the bond of love.

    I don’t know how to fully express the picture I see that gives me hope that we will bond in love and then conquer the destructive swords of intimidation, manipulation and subjugation of our invaded homes. Inside each home our Lord is sitting at the table to share the feast that we all can digest to live if only we all recognized His presence. Let us allow His light to shine through us rather than continuing to usurp His brilliance to flaunt our own.

    Next question 🙂 .

    Brian, thank you for stimulating me to feel, think and express this deeply in sincere but loving dissent directly from my heart and mind. selah

  • Vladimir

    I tell youi the truth when you dont judge self defnce but are flexible to the point,there is no need for violence

  • Randy Starkey

    Vladimir – Only sometimes is there “no need”. Not every time.

  • Justin Bronson Barringer

    Brother Zahnd, thanks so much for the work you continue to do through writing and preaching on peace. I don’t mean to be a self promoter, but this post made me think you might like the book Tripp York and I put together. It seeks to address commonly asked questions about Christian nonviolence. The book is called A Faith Not Worth Fighting For and has essays by Greg Boyd, Amy Laura Hall, D. Stephen Long and a host of other great scholars and practitioners. Anyway, I thought it might be up your alley. Shalom.

  • Matthew Bradham

    I don’t want to dismiss everyone is saying in this long conversation at all. And I’m not even saying that I have everything figured out. But how is self-defense like Jesus? How is Defending others violently like Jesus when He defended others by dying? I feel like people are saying that violence is “ok”with very pragmatic and utilitarian responses…but none rooted in Jesus.

  • Randy Starkey

    Matthew – To give a brief answer, Jesus laid down His life to purchase our salvation. Bought us with a price. He didn’t defend Himself because His death had a unique purpose. Atonement. He didn’t die as an example of non-violence. That is a misnomer. In other situations He *took* human life. I.e. Ananias, Saphira, Herod. He’s God. He created our lives and He has a right to take them. Now, we don’t have that prerogative as we are not God. But, the Scriptures do support human self-defense, when necessary.

  • “Take up your cross and follow me.” -Jesus

    “Whosoever boasts that he is a Christian, the same must walk as Christ walked.” -Menno Simons, 1539

  • Randy Starkey

    Brian – yes, agreed!

  • Matthew Bradham

    In your response you say that scriptures support self-defense when necessary. Where? Find me a NT example.

  • Matthew Bradham

    And in your response you act as if the cross was simply a matter of atonement, when it seems to be much much more than that. The cross from Jesus & Paul is more than a transaction. It’s the new kingdom ethic in every situation. Not even just in regards to violence…but also not excluding it. How can you defend yourself and deny yourself at the same time.

  • Herm

    “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters– yes, even his own life– he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. – Jesus


    Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”


    Pastor Zahnd, is it possible that you have been shown the fallacy of war and then turned completely around to embrace the fallacy of non-resistance? Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Jesus never to my limited but studied knowledge gave an example of a response to shoot or be shot. If I read the two valid scriptures above from the mouth of the Word I could easily take it that I am to give up any resistance to protect the carnal who gave me life and the carnal I gave life to. Perhaps you’re right that I should have faith that my Father in Heaven will do what’s right without me so I should get my nose out of His business. By the message I hear you sharing I should do nothing but tell others when they’re wrong as Jesus did and then after three years pickup my cross, carry it to the top of the hill and have someone nail me to it as an example to my body of Man. I already failed the first example of Jesus’ ministry on Earth in that I married, had children that I now know I should hate to be His disciple and lived to age 70. I hindered my children from claiming the kingdom of heaven because I loved them enough to pragmatically provide, with God’s assistance I thought, them an environment to grow up to provide an environment for their children to grow up and in doing so I forced them to honor me that they may live long in the land.


    Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven. Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law–a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household. Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. – Jesus


    I will gladly accept being defined as utilitarian and pragmatic. This is a violent world with power and majesty so unfathomable that if unleashed to their full potential is well beyond what our fragile carnal bodies can survive. Our Father clearly holds them at bay and I have faith that He will continue to do so until we don’t need this planet any longer. Brian, do you have any scars from mountain climbing? Could it be that you tore muscles that healed stronger because of your attack on that mountain? Have you had rocks fall from above or dislodged rocks to fall below? Did you learn from mountain climbing any pragmatic and utilitarian reality that helped you climb better and safer next time?

    Jesus by how He is portrayed in the New Testament has been legitimately defined a zealot without any utilitarian and pragmatic tendencies what so ever. I would say that what I know to be true today in my heart and mind after asking God to baptize me with the Holy Spirit permanently that Jesus Christ was much more balanced than we give Him credit for. I now believe that the disciples, apostles and chroniclers of Jesus Christ were in fact leaning toward over zealousness in trying to portray and share what they had witnessed but could not possibly conceive enough to be pragmatic and utilitarian. Jesus was not sharing theory He is teaching those who would learn from Him reality in what works. The law (Decalogue with the law of love) works and most of us today still don’t get it. The law God shares with us is not enforced by Their police and courts but by real life action versus reaction; spiritual and carnal. The law of gravity is a carnal example of the reality of God’s law more so than our law against trespassing as God’s law eventually enforces compliance all by itself.

    Balance around a pivot produces our desired results more often than placing all the weight of our efforts to only one side. Reciprocal love has proven in reality to naturally balance (physically, socially and spiritually) that all might best survive and Jesus Christ teaches that. To love the children of my creation in my DNA image means I will without hesitation offer my life up as a sacrifice that they may live to be born of God as Jesus did in love for me. I would react to put myself in front of the car barreling down on my children while pushing them out of harms way. I will gladly go to prison or lose my eternal life to stop a rape or murder in any way I can because my love is now that deep for my neighbor and my enemy. It works to stand up to the bully and say by any means not in my house and/or my Father’s house to become an influence of balance through love.

    I love the selfless love of the martyr who sacrificed that I might live. I love also the selfless love of those farmers who toil in their fields all their life that I might live. I am not selfless for I love my self as much as I can to love my merciful neighbor with as much love as I can muster.

    I first realized the reality of God when I saw the reality of Their hand working to maintain balance in my community that did not comprehend the imbalance of their self centered efforts. I have since grown to appreciate that hand working in my own life to balance what I give and what I receive while growing stronger to be given more to give away. The reality that the Holy Spirit could actually reciprocate a perfectly functional and balanced love with me continuously in my heart and mind didn’t happen over night yet I grew to where I now trust that very relationship as utilitarian and pragmatic with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind and all my strength.

    Balance when following the ever present Guide allows me to stop the violator with the means provided and then without pause become an instrument of healing to those wounds I had inflicted (with minimum to no collateral damage). Imbalance is subjugating others to my self centered will and profit by the instruments of force, intimidation, manipulation and confusion.

    Balance is using a water hose or fire extinguisher in harms way to delay the fire while waiting for the fire department to arrive. Balance is standing up to the invaders to delay loss of life and limb while waiting for the police or military to arrive. Imbalance is to place all responsibility for your and yours salvation on everyone else but yourself. Imbalance is not taking the responsibility to check and balance the authorities’ influence over you and yours.

    It was the authorities (secular and religious) coercing the ignorant masses for justification who crucified Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility to not be ignorant and to stand up to authorities who do not serve the good of their constituents. It is each of our responsibilities alone to choose to accept the real life, pragmatic and utilitarian authority of our Father in Heaven or not. I know for certain that if I don’t choose any action or inaction time will choose for me and in relationships that is always fatal. When climbing a mountain there is not always three points of security and a reactive reach, step or jump must be taken to keep from falling and that is the law. Passive resistance is not always the answer to life and the Holy Spirit can be trusted to tell us each when it is the answer for that moment only. My pragmatic and utilitarian instincts still will not passively give my life (or the lives of those I am given responsibility for) away to the frenzied attack of a bear in its domain when an alternative is at hand.

    I am convinced that my home and the nation of my responsibility are safer and less of a target to be acted against when an otherwise invader is convinced by, “not in my home you don’t!!!” According to tested real life examples that is why the most proven defense from a bear attack is not to stand passively by or to run but is to puff yourself up to appear larger and more threatening.

    Of course, there is always the choice to without any resistance allowing invaders to have yours as their conquest and then passively refuse to do anything for your new masters. If you and yours live long enough the responsibility for non-producing lands becomes too much of a burden and they will pragmatically move on to more profitable ventures of colonization. That’s utilitarian economy of state that capitalism and communism have in common.

    Our Father’s authority does not move to more profitable ventures of colonization. He gives us the framework necessary to be profitable for all by teaching us the law of reality for all. We can interpret the infinite fullness of that law to be unattainable or in our hearts and minds realize fully that we attained it by Way of the Holy Spirit.

    This is way too long a response but to respond fully to share the picture in my heart and mind takes much more than this … and so much more than 140 character sound bites … but maybe that’s the limitation of thought that our minds can accept to learn each time. Thank God for the promise of eternity! Thank God for venues of exceptional questioning such as this!

  • Randy Starkey

    Matthew – Obviously this is a theological issue that can be a significant discussion, but 4 passages I’d mention are…

    Luke 11.21 – Jesus mentions being armed to protect against the strongman. He’s not going to use an illustration in a positive way if He totally disapproves of the illustration.

    Luke 22.36 – Jesus allowed for self-defense among His disciples (AFTER they had first learned to trust – His first commision was WITHOUT a sword). (I’ve heard some really convoluted explanations by those who try to explain this away. Fits with what Peter described as “twisting” the Scriptures IMHO.)

    Romans 13.4 – This of course has primary application to police authorities, but the principal is the same in self-defense. And that’s why in our country it’s legal if your home is invaded to defend yourself. Same as if the police did it. It’s *not* legal in other scenarios. So, for example, I know of churches that have been invaded by armed people and those people have been legally shot by non-police personnel at the church. That certainly is self-defense. A life may have been lost (sad), but more lives were protected, which is a biblical concept. Now, if you want to say the church should ALWAYS have used other means (to maintain a doctrine of hyper-pacifism), that is simply naive, as Pastor Brady Boyd of New Life Church in Colorado Springs tweeted last week, whose church faced this situation. I say force should be a “last resort”, but do it if necessary, especially to save lives.

    Proverbs 25.26 – a Proverb that relates to our responsibility to protect life.

    See also http://www.biblicalselfdefense.com/

    My basic view here is that truth often has two sides – like a coin. And those two sides are both expressed in Scripture. So one side of the coin here is peace is the goal, and shedding blood is terrible and not a Kingdom value, and will totally disappear in His coming Kingdom (yes, I know it’s here now, but NOT fully and we all know that). The other side is at certain times and in certain situations, this side of the 2nd coming, God allows it.

    Now, any attempt to wipe out or explain away either side of the coin takes you away from truth. A real coin has two sides. Another example of truth similarly revealed like this is God’s sovereignty and man’s free will (I understand it takes prevenient grace for man to choose for Christ, but he still has to choose). Take away either of those sides of the coin and you don’t have real life. You have theological make-believe.

  • Herm

    Mercy, mercy! Thank you!

  • Randy Starkey

    Yes, I agree it is more than atonement. But I don’t agree Jesus via the cross is espousing absolute value non-self-defense. If you believe that you will logically need to get rid of the police. Self-defense properly understood is not violence IMHO. My reply is consistent. It doesn’t defend and deny. It qualifies actions.

  • Chris Campbell

    Pastor Brian,
    I had a question that I cant seem to get past. How does God the father , after what Jesus described as satan falling like lightning from heaven, and the angels reserved in chains for eternal punishment. This looks to me like a strong put down of the enemy, kinda violently ? Jesus returning and executing the heads of nations ? I am having trouble here , this seems to be the very thing He is telling us not to do, but Himself doing ? I’m open.

  • Herm

    Chris, what if, just what if, the original post above, sincerely and honestly from the heart and mind of Pastor Zahnd was not complete? Is anything complete until the end of eternity?

    There is no God given formula beyond the Decalogue, Luke 10:27 and the quick rule of thumb Matthew 7:12 that I can review to know how to respond. I am repulsed by violence and don’t seek such a force as an answer to sustaining life. I am attracted to peace and don’t seek a total absence of stimulation as an answer sustaining of life. Apparently, according to Genesis it is the knowledge of what is repulsive and what is attractive is a responsibility we first accepted by choosing to feed our hearts and minds off the fruit of the tree of good and evil. With that knowledge we became forever responsible to the knowledge of death, especially to the cause and effect culminating in the dead knowing nothing without any choice.

    What was Jesus, with full knowledge with the Holy Spirit, so anguished over (Luke 22:42-44) when He knew His Father could and would raise Him from the dead? Was it the violence He would have to endure for our sake as a child of Man or the absolute final peace of knowing nothing? Until He died on the cross He knew as the Son of God all knowledge, good and evil, and shared the full heart and mind of His Father at our beginning without end or pause. He had not known death but did know what death was. He knew nothing for three days which though seeming instantaneous upon being raised is eternal while dead.

    Violence and peace are conditions in their totality are overwhelming and beyond what I cannot bear and I do not want. God in all Their love, grace and full knowledge of the whole of me has not challenged me with a totality of either but a healthy balance of both. And so God does for all of Man.

    I will not intentionally challenge my fellow Man with a totality of either always tempered to balance both by love of my Lord God, my merciful neighbor, my childlike self and my enemy.

    In triage I could be responsible for who lives and/or who dies because not in all cases on this planet can all live. Some can live by my choice and my first choice is that none die.

    I will not go to war in the name of God and most especially to defend my God’s honor. I am in no way omnipresent or omnipotent and know through the Holy Spirit that God is. If I choose to defend God who has at least twelve legions of angels at Their disposal I don’t understand my role as a new born child of God.

    In more down to Earth terms it is never good to defend by violence your carnal parent’s reputation because some eight year old child calls them derogatory names. Every time when such self centered verbal bullying threatens the “sticks and stones” formula is a healthier guide to defending your family. If some one is physically attacking those you would choose first to live then to counter violence the laws of physics tell me that like charges repel. If I am without children or charges depending on me for their survival then I choose the double edge sword out of my mouth shared with me from the mouth of Jesus through the Holy Spirit and carry my cross. Both the Father and the Son of God did not die that we may live. It took the Father of the Family of God with triage authority over life and death to remain alive to restore life to the Son.

    I will not compete against anyone of mankind in the name of God and I will remain competitive to grow stronger. I will not murder the abortion doctor in the name of God. I will not murder any of any race, creed, gender, sexuality, allegiance or religion in the name of God. I will not kill to defend my God. I will not seek that my team wins over any other team in the name of God.

    I will when called by my Father to do so serve to balance peaceful and violent forces effecting mankind that the most of Man possible will live temporally and eternally. I choose to love all of mankind to the best of my ability dependent upon the counsel in my heart and mind of God to do so.

    We do not change the violent force of a raging river to become a peaceful brook in order to produce hydro electric power. We redirect that force to power good in hospitals or evil in electric chairs (does my judgment show?).

    Good is constructive to life and evil is destructive to life and God does not balance good with evil. God’s choice, to me, is not to abandon violence or peace but to harness each in a combination most constructive and productive for all of Man and all of the Kingdom of God. When we know and share the love of God the balance is perfect because none of us needs to be special when we realize we are all special, abundantly loved and protected by our divinely benevolent Lord God.

    God blesses you with or without me! God can share the truth directly with you to give you respite in peace and reward in joy. I hope, although, you are “open” to some of this offering even if only just from my heart and mind.

  • Chris Campbell

    God bless you Herm, but I have no idea what you were saying.

  • Herm

    Sorry Chris, this is what happens when I can’t look you in the eye as I share. A little of what I am suggesting is that violence and peace are a reality that we must balance within what is our responsibility. Jesus has a much greater perspective than we do so His responsibility is much greater. As an infant child born of God today I am not responsible to fight wars in my Father’s name. I am responsible to love and be loved only especially within the most divinely nurturing Family. I use a degree of violence to pound in a nail with a 16 ounce hammer and use a degree of peace through the finest grit sandpaper to finally shape a rough piece of wood to bring to life its beautiful one-of-a-kind grain. If I used total violence with a hundred pound plus sledgehammer I would destroy the wood forever. If I used total peace I would do nothing and the wood remains in its weather worn state left to become ash and dust. Balance is what God brings to me as I would do for that piece of wood. I cannot refine the Father who is perfect but the Father yearns in love to refine me to my full potential, can and does. In any case as a student of Jesus Christ I do not put down the enemy but love them. I will protect my carnal responsibilities with violence meted out to stop the threat of an enemy and in the ensuing peace treat all wounds that God teaches me to. God is not my responsibility to protect though thankfully They have accepted the responsibility to protect me. I hope this satisfies your questions some. Thank you Chris!

  • Jeremy

    Mr. Zahnd, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I would please ask that you answer the following, because I would like your thoughts as well.

    Home invasions with intent to harm have happened to many people in the past. Some of those individuals chose to disarm, kill, or otherwise defend themselves and their families. In your opinion, did they do the wrong or right thing by defending themselves against this attack? When they defended themselves, are they doing wrong in the sight of God?

    Thank you

  • I pass no judgment. None whatsoever.

  • breadloaf

    You have to be a marcionite to keep this straight in your head. Pacifism is lovely for those who live in lovely safe homes.

  • Redirect Hitler into whom? Mozart?
    The exact opposite of the plot from “The Boys from Brazil”.

  • James Cooke

    Joe, this is where the creativity comes in! On more than one occasion, a future political monster was to be found in seminary, studying the Bible! What an opportunity! Where did they get onto a violent and political (to say nothing of unGodly) path? Find that fork in the road and you imaginary time travel will succeed every time.