Most people have heard the phrase “turn the other cheek”?
But what does that really mean?
Say a man breaks into my house to rob the place, thinking it was empty, but instead finds me still at home.Â Since I’m no black belt, and probably couldn’t put up too much of a fight physically, let’s say I own a gun.Â When the thief breaks into my home, I’m able to grab my gun right away.Â Gun in hand, what should I do? Start by asking them to leave, seems like a good place, maybe fire a warning shot.Â But what if, for whatever reason, he doesn’t go.Â I’m not able to tell whether the thief has a weapon or not, but should I shoot him anyways, since he won’t leave – after all, he may or may not try to hurt me…is it ok to strike out with violence then?Â What if I see he does have a weapon, is it ok to shoot then?Â And is it ok to shoot to kill?Â Let’s take it a step further, what if I had a family and I thought the thief was going to hurt my family?Â …….
Luke 6:27-29:Â â€œBut I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either.”
As a Christian, what right do we have to violence?
I’m not saying I for sure wouldn’t defend myself or my family, truth is I don’t know how I’d react and it would be instinctual to try and protect them.Â But what should I do, is the question. When I look at all the Martyrs throughout history, and even the apostles from the Bible, I don’t hear of them resisting physically, violently.Â I’ve sometimes thought that perhaps there is a difference in just being attacked in general, and being attacked because of your faith, and that in the latter case you shouldn’t fight back, but in the former you could.Â But I don’t know, the verse in Luke is talking about being treated badly just in general – being mistreated, beaten, and stolen from.Â So that doesn’t support my thoughts.
It seems there are two ways of looking at self defense.Â One, being that if you use violence to the point of death, you are saying that your life is more valuable than the person you’re killing.Â Saying that if one of us has to die, itÂ had better be the other person.Â This makes me think of a quote from the movie The End of the Spear where Jim Elliot’s young son asks him to please fight back if the natives he was going to witness to got violent.Â He replied “I can’t do that … I’m ready meet Jesus.Â They aren’t.”Â That has really stuck with me.Â If I die because someone kills me, I’m absolutely ready to meet Jesus.Â As it says in Philippians 1:21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”Â The person I might be killing in self defense probably doesn’t know Jesus and when they die they will spend eternity in Hell.Â But perhaps they would have had a chance to turn to Jesus if I hadn’t killed them.Â Perhaps not, but would I take that chance away from them because I simply want more time on this earth?
The second way of looking at self defense is said best by Edmund Burke â€˜The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.â€™Â I think this is especially true in cases of fighting to protect someone else. Or, if you would be the only one harmed by a person, perhaps that person would go on to hurt more people after yourself – so forcefully stopping/killing them could be a service to humanity.Â But where is this found in the Bible?
In most issues, let alone on violence, there is a need to make sure the difference between Old and New Testaments is understood.Â In the Old Testament fighting was called for and even applauded.Â In the New Testament, you never hear stories of the disciples fighting, let alone killing.Â Even though they were being persecuted, tortured, and killed.Â Jesus told them they were to expect that kind of treatment, and take joy in it.Â When Jesus came he changed a lot about how we relate to God, each other, and the rest of the world.Â So when people talk about God being a ‘violent’ God, and that ‘of course God condones violence, look at all the killing he did in the Bible’ … they are really only talking about the Old Testament.Â I want to know what the New Testament has to say about the issue.Â And what that means for me today.
I don’t have any firm conclusions on this issue, but I often find myself thinking about it.Â I’d love to hear your thoughts!