If a robber breaks into your house and you kill him, does that mean you selfishly value your own filthy mammon more than a precious human life made in the image of God?
Preying on Christian naiveté is a way-of-life for many, so naturally, this accusation has crept up a lot lately. But then that’s only because preying on Christian naiveté is so effective. American Christians have doubled-down on the “innocent as doves” half of Jesus’ instructions, but completely forgone the “wise as serpents” part.
We know by natural law that defending our homes is the right choice, but we often have trouble articulating why. That vulnerability is only multiplied when our understanding of Scripture is so impoverished. We are easily deceived when the Devil quotes little snippets about “living sacrifices” and “turning the other cheek” out-of-context.
Christian congregations ought to be ashamed of this failure to catechize our brothers and sisters. So let’s take a moment to rectify it. Your impulse to violently defend your home is not a product of your sinful flesh in need of some mortification. The trendy accusation is just one more example of deceitful rhetoric designed to shame righteous men. Here are two subtle but enormous lies enmeshed in the idea that it’s greedy to violently defend your household from intruders.
It doesn’t take long to get to the first of these lies. Your accuser already needs to stop at “When a robber breaks into your house” because he’s already made a grievous misrepresentation: You do not properly call someone a robber until after they leave your house with your goods. Likewise, you don’t call someone a murderer until after they’ve killed you, a rapist until after they’ve violated your wife, or a kidnapper until after they’ve taken your children. So which exactly is it who has only now just broken into your home?
And what do you know about this intruder? Is he armed and nervous enough to shoot someone by accident? Is he out on parole and willing to murder witnesses to avoid going back to prison? Is he impulsive and willing to take more than he planned if the opportunity arises? You have no idea. But when someone invades your home, you do know one thing as an absolute certainty: a criminal who fears neither God nor man has come to commit evil against your household. Preemptively labeling a home invader as a robber is pure presumption that puts your family at terrible risk. Do not believe the lie. Reject the label of “robber” that Satan slips in when he frames the question.
The second lie is the subtle contention that your home is merely a place where you keep your stuff. (And often, your accuser doesn’t even realize he’s telling the Devil’s lie here because that’s exactly what he already believes about his own home.) But the home God has given you is not mammon by default. Though the buildings and contents may qualify in many cases of excess, your home is, first and foremost, a responsibility. When God first created man, he charged us with two tasks: to be fruitful & multiply and to subdue the Earth. That means having a family and creating a place on Earth for them to live in peace and blessedness. The Fall into sin has not revoked that responsibility; it has only heightened the bodily necessity of fulfilling it with excellence.
I’ve written about it before, but it cannot be said enough: Fathers are the highest form of civil authority established by God through the 4th Commandment. Other forms of earthly government are downstream, wielding authority delegated by fathers. The direct purview of each father may be far smaller than even the tiniest nation, but it is a weighty responsibility nonetheless, with authority to match. Just as the king bears the sword on God’s behalf for the sake of his nation, the father bears a smaller sword on God’s behalf for the sake of his household. And like state governments, he has not been give the sword in vain. God has given him the responsibility to defend his family–including with lethal force when necessary.
But what about those who are not fathers? Well, by necessity in a fallen world, heads of household must carry on the father’s responsibility when sin or death has robbed them of a father. But even bachelors are not off the hook here because the vast majority of such men would be better characterized as “not fathers yet.” Most men have been called to marriage and family.
The work of preparing for a household begins well before marriage. Just as a man must first learn a trade that will eventually be sufficient to support a family, he must also learn to maintain and defend a home sufficiently for a family. What woman in her right mind would willingly marry a man with a record of steadfastly refusing to ever defend her and her future children? What man in his right mind thinks he can just flip a switch from doormat to defender upon saying his vows?
To be sure, those called to permanent celibacy have a greater measure of freedom in this matter. Theirs is not to have families, but to serve Christ’s Kingdom in different ways; courting martyrdom for the Gospel may end up being a part of that calling. But if you have family or are preparing to have one someday, you have a very different responsibility.
What then of the home invader? How are you to love your enemy as Christ commanded you? Many Christians are tempted to think that their death would somehow benefit the villain and thereby grant him the mercy we ourselves were shown. But how exactly? If you sacrifice yourself, your home, and your family to this evil man, what have you given him except a harsher sentence on the Last Day?
You claim you’ll tell him about Jesus? Even if the Gospel is on your lips as you abase yourself, your actions have spoken louder than your words and swallowed them up. Jesus said they would know us for love we have for one-another, but you demonstrated hatred of your own household instead. Paul said that a man who does not provide for his own household has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever, but you openly refused to provide your household with the protection they needed. And you committed these great evils in front of the man you want to save and under the banner of our Lord? One such as you associating himself with the Gospel openly slanders Jesus Christ. How exactly do you think it will go for you after the intruder sends you to meet your Maker?
There’s a difference between being living sacrifices and being consumable resources for the wicked. There’s a difference between being living sacrifices and being living sacrificers of those in your care. So by all means, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and give up your cloak. But always do so in service to the responsibilities God has given to you. But if you would instead offer your children’s cheeks and strip your wife’s cloak for nothing more than a meaningless display of your own false piety, consider well the words of Jesus Christ:
And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God) then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.”