When Armed Robbers Strike
IN Ikoyi, an exclusive West African suburb, mansions have become fortresses. Many have walls that tower ten feet [3 m] high, topped with spikes, jagged glass, or coils of razor wire. Guards man massive gates that are secured with bolts, bars, chains, and padlocks. Windows are barred. Steel gates separate the bedrooms from the rest of the house. At night, large dogs—Alsatians and Rottweilers—are released from their enclosures. Bright lights banish the darkness, and computerized surveillance systems softly beep when all is well.
None doubt the need to make their homes secure. Newspaper headlines lament: “Armed Robbers Sack Community”; “Kid Robbers Go Wild”; and “Panic, as Street Gangs Seize [a Township].” This is the picture in many countries. As the Bible foretold, we truly live in critical times.—2 Timothy 3:1.
The crime rate, including that of armed robbery, is soaring globally. Increasingly, governments are unable or unwilling to protect their own citizens. In some countries the police, outnumbered and outgunned, are poorly equipped to respond to calls for help. Most bystanders are reluctant to get involved.
Victims, unable to rely on help from either police or public, are left to fend for themselves. Said a Christian elder in a developing country: “If you raise an alarm, the robbers will maim or kill you. Forget about outside help. If help comes, fine, but do not expect it or call for it because calling for help might only be calling for more trouble.”
Protection and God’s Word
While Christians are no part of the world, they are in the world. (John 17:11, 16) So like everyone else, they make reasonable provisions for their security. Yet, unlike many who do not serve Jehovah, God’s people seek protection within the framework of Christian principles.
In contrast, people in some African countries employ magic in seeking to protect themselves from robbery. A medicine man may make a cut in a client’s wrist, chest, or back. Then a magical potion is rubbed into the cut, some incantations are offered, and the person is supposed to be immune to assault from robbers. Others put charms or magical potions in their homes, believing that such “insurance” will cause robbers to leave them unmolested.
True Christians have nothing to do with any kind of magic. The Bible condemns all forms of spiritism, and rightly so, since such practices can put people in contact with the demons, the very ones who are promoting violence on earth. (Genesis 6:2, 4, 11) The Bible plainly states: “You must not practice magic.”—Leviticus 19:26.
Some people desperately seek security by arming themselves with guns. Christians, though, take seriously the words of Jesus, who said: “Those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matthew 26:52) God’s people have ‘beaten their swords into plowshares’ and do not buy guns to protect themselves from robbery or assault.—Micah 4:3.
What about arranging for armed security guards? While this would be a matter for personal decision, remember that such an arrangement puts the gun in the hands of someone else. What would an employer expect of the guards if a robber came along? Would he expect the guards to shoot the thief if necessary to protect the people and possessions that were being guarded?
The stand that Christians take in rejecting magic and weapons as tools of protection may seem foolish in the eyes of those who do not know God. The Bible, however, assures us: “He that is trusting in Jehovah will be protected.” (Proverbs 29:25) While Jehovah protects his people as a whole, he does not intervene in every case to shield his servants from robbery. Job was outstandingly faithful, yet God allowed marauders to plunder Job’s livestock, with loss of life to the attendants. (Job 1:14, 15, 17) God also permitted the apostle Paul to experience “dangers from highwaymen.” (2 Corinthians 11:26) Nonetheless, God teaches his servants to live by principles that reduce the risk of robbery. He also equips them with knowledge that helps them to react to robbery attempts in ways that will reduce the likelihood of injury.
Reducing the Threat of Robbery
The wise man observed long ago: “The plenty belonging to the rich one is not permitting him to sleep.” (Ecclesiastes 5:12) In other words, those who possess many things may become so anxious about losing their possessions that they lose sleep worrying about it.
So one way to reduce not only anxiety but also the threat of robbery is to avoid amassing an abundance of expensive possessions. The inspired apostle wrote: “Everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.” (1 John 2:16) The same desires that move people to buy costly things move others to steal. And a “showy display of one’s means of life” can be an invitation to those who are inclined to plunder.
Apart from keeping a low profile, another safeguard against robbery is to demonstrate that you are a true Christian. If you show love to others, are honest in your dealings, and are active in the Christian ministry, you can build up a reputation in your community for being a good person, one deserving of respect. (Galatians 5:19-23) Such a Christian reputation can be far more protective than a weapon.
When Armed Robbers Come
What should you do, though, if robbers manage to enter your home and confront you? Remember that your life is more important than possessions. Christ Jesus said: “Do not resist him that is wicked; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him. And if a person wants to . . . get possession of your inner garment, let your outer garment also go to him.”—Matthew 5:39, 40.
This is wise counsel. Although Christians are not obligated to give criminals information about assets, robbers are more likely to become violent if they sense resistance, lack of cooperation, or deceit. Many of them, “having come to be past all moral sense,” are easily provoked to vicious, ruthless behavior.—Ephesians 4:19.
Samuel lives in an apartment complex. Robbers blocked off the building and moved from apartment to apartment, plundering. Samuel heard gunshots, doors being smashed, and people shouting, crying, and wailing. Escape was impossible. Samuel told his wife and three sons to kneel on the floor, raise their hands, close their eyes, and wait. When the robbers stormed in, Samuel spoke to them with downcast eyes, knowing that if he looked at their faces, they might think he would identify them later. “Come in,” he said. “Whatever you want, take. You are free to take anything. We are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and we will not resist you.” The robbers were taken aback by this. Over the next hour or so, a total of 12 armed men came in groups. Though they made off with jewelry, money, and electronic equipment, the family was not beaten or hacked with machetes as were others in the building. Samuel’s family thanked Jehovah for their lives.
This exemplifies that when it comes to money and material things, victims of robbery who do not resist may reduce the likelihood of injury.*
Sometimes a Christian’s giving a witness can be a defense against injury. When robbers attacked the home of Ade, he told them: “I know things are hard for you, and that is why you are in this line of work. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, we believe that one day everyone will have enough to eat for himself and his family. Everyone will live in peace and happiness under God’s Kingdom.” That sapped the robbers’ aggression. One of them said: “We are sorry we have come to your house, but you must understand that we are hungry.” Although they stripped Ade of his possessions, they did not touch him or his family.
It is not easy to be calm in a dangerous situation, especially when a primary aim of robbers is to terrorize their victims into submission. Prayer will help us. Our cry for help, though silent and brief, can be heard by Jehovah. The Bible assures us: “The eyes of Jehovah are toward the righteous ones, and his ears are toward their cry for help.” (Psalm 34:15) Jehovah hears us and can give us the wisdom to deal calmly with any situation.—James 1:5.
Besides prayer, another aid in being calm is to decide in advance what you will and will not do if you are robbed. Of course, it is not possible to know beforehand in what situation you will find yourself. Still, it is good to have principles in mind, just as it is wise to have safety procedures in mind in case you are in a building that catches fire. Forethought helps you to keep calm, to avoid panic, and to escape injury.
God’s view of robbery is clearly stated: “I, Jehovah, am loving justice, hating robbery along with unrighteousness.” (Isaiah 61:8) Jehovah inspired his prophet Ezekiel to list robbery as a very serious sin. (Ezekiel 18:18) Yet, the same Bible book also shows that God will mercifully forgive the person who repents and gives back what is taken in robbery.—Ezekiel 33:14-16.
Despite living in a crime-ridden world, Christians rejoice in the hope of life under God’s Kingdom, when robbery will be no more. Concerning that time, the Bible promises: “[God’s people] will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken it.”—Micah 4:4.
There are, of course, limits to cooperation. Jehovah’s servants do not cooperate in any way that violates God’s law. For example, a Christian would not willingly submit to rape.