“Can I shoot my wife’s assailant?” Dr John Piper suggested that this is the fundamental question at the root of the argument between himself and Dr Jerry Falwell, Jr. concerning Christians’ Biblical rights to defend themselves and their loved ones. The argument (link) formed due to Piper’s disagreement with Falwell’s campus address at Liberty University, in which Falwell challenged students to get certified to carry and carry a firearm to school. Piper suggests that Christians are to submit and endure, whatever comes their way, for the glory of God. While there are others refuting Piper’s criticism (link), I’m reminded of a disturbing discussion I had a few years ago with a couple of Christian friends at college.
My friends (a guy and a girl) and I were discussing the very scenario Piper brings up – If an assailant were to break into our group and attempt to rape the girl, what would be the Christian thing for each of us to do? While I was rigid in my stance all the way through the discussion, we entertained thoughts as to submitting and yielding (for the girl), kneeling down and praying, and defense (for us guys) and resistance (for the girl). In the end, both of my friends opposed my stance. My guy friend said that he would not lift a finger against the assailant because God is in control of all things and because his humble response might, at some point, bring the assailant to salvation. My girl friend acknowledged that a meek and submissive response to being raped would likely have a profound impact on the assailant, possibly making him seek salvation at some point, but she didn’t know if she could simply yield to being raped, even though it would be the ‘Christian’ thing to do (in her opinion). My opinion was simple: Protect my friend, killing the assailant if necessary.
Coming from a family where several female relatives have been raped, one murdered, this defense scenario is personal to me. I’ve long struggled with my protective instincts warring against what theologians like Piper propose as Christian sanctification. Of course, I’ve tried many ways of having it both ways, justifying my natural tendencies with technicalities. If I ever marry, I intend to include the phrase ‘to protect’ in my wedding vows (It’s appalling how many versions of wedding vows say nothing of a man protecting his wife), but I know it’s largely due to my need to say, in the event of lethally defending her, ‘I’m justified because I promised.’
Perhaps Piper is right. Perhaps this is the ultimate surrender that God seeks in a man. Perhaps this is what it takes to be welcomed as a ‘good and faithful servant.’ In the end, nevertheless, and after much thought and meditation before God, I know that I will kill in defense of my loved ones. It is not in my blood to willingly yield them to pain and suffering when it is in my power to protect them. May God forgive me, but I would rather be judged for rebellion than to live with the guilt that Piper’s ‘sanctification’ would bring.