Is it okay for Christians to strike back in self-defense?
First, here’s a relevant Scripture: Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; 40 and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; 41 and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (RSV)
The eye for an eye rule was in effect in a time when the grace and example of Jesus Christ was not known. Jesus opened the way to freedom and peace, and the laws of retaliation found in the Old Covenant do not supercede those of the New. However, this does not mean that turning the other cheek is to be taken in the strictest literal sense, either. Otherwise, it would be impossible to even defend yourself in an argument. What Jesus does mean, I believe, is that we are not to react out of blind anger or rage when someone has wronged us. We’re not to stoop to the same level as our persecutors. Otherwise, how are we any different from those outside our faith? How can we grow into the likeness of Christ if we don’t put our faith into practice? St. Paul, too, addressed this issue very well. Romans 12 20 “No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” So, I believe that a Christian can strike back in self-defense, but must not resort to the tactics of their abusers. Others may be cruel and vengeful, but Christians have a higher standard to appeal to. YSIC,
Jesus taught to turn the other cheek and to forgive a brother seventy times seven. This I believe is an admonition against the emotion of anger and hatred. A practical application of self control. Where one considers the spiritual condition of others ahead of one’s own affront.
When Peter cut off the ear of one of Jesus’ accusers at the time they captured Him in the Garden, Jesus admonished Peter and healed the cut ear. He told us to ‘not resist evil’. The example set by Jesus throughout and during His trial and execution is one of placidity. At no time did Jesus offer resistance. It is clear to me from these and other examples that we are to not offer resistance when we are being persecuted for Jesus’ sake. We can not witness for Jesus if we return aggression for aggression. In this context therefore, we should not strike back. This means that we should not strike back in cases where we are defending God, or our belief in God. He will fight those battles Himself. We should be prepared to suffer persecution without resistance as He did.
However, in conflicts between men where the motive is NOT to punish us for our Christian beliefs, but to steal from us, to hurt us or those we would protect, as in bullying, an act of war etc., it is a different matter. The bible is full of stories of men of God committing violent acts against others, often with assistance from God to do it and even at His command. Many of these were acts of aggression as well as self defense, as in the case of the Children of Israel in their conflicts with the Canaanites and Philistines.
Consider King David. Here was a man who, at the age of 12 years, had killed both a lion and a bear with a slingshot, in defense of his father’s sheep, and fearlessly, with the same humble slingshot, killed the Giant of the Philistine army, Goliath. I can imagine what would happen if one were to offer a personal challenge to King David. One would have been killed with all dispatch and had one’s foreskin taken as a trophy. Yet consider David’s conflict with King Saul. Because Saul was God’s anointed king, David steadfastly avoided killing Saul. In these conflicts because the argument was over who was God’s anointed, a spiritual matter rather than a human one, David turned the other cheek.
If I am persecuted because I am a Christian, I am to offer no resistance, even unto death. If I am trying to set an example of Christian behavior to another, at a personal level, I should turn the other cheek. If I am set upon by robbers, or if I am defending another from assault, or if I am acting in defense of my country against an enemy, I will fight with all I have and ask God to lend me strength. No soldier or police officer need fear to do their duty.
I would think that because of the natural urge to hit back when attacked, often we do not consider what we should have done until after it is done. Where does one draw the line? How much does one put up with before one offers violent defense? It is one thing to look at bible examples but in the heat of the moment, these decisions have to be made rather quickly. If one is in tune with God and has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, this is something one will ‘know’ when the time arrives. The Spirit will guide and instruct us as we go through every phase of our human lives.
To refrain to defend oneself when pain and suffering is inflicted, when one is able to offer defense, is very hard to do. Reflect for a moment on what Jesus went through for us. Here was a ‘man’ who was also the God of heaven with unlimited power available to him. None of us in the same position could have offered much resistance even though we might have wanted to. Jesus could have called thousands of angels to His defense. To have that power available to defend Himself and not use it, must have been the greatest temptation of all. Is there a sense of awe when considering this? Would you like to express your appreciation for what Jesus did? Would you like to return His love with love of your own? If you accept His offer of redemption and ask Him to take care of your salvation, He will be overjoyed. That is why He suffered as He did. Go in peace….
Matthew 5:21-22 says……You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do Not Murder, and Anyone Who Murders Will Be Subject To Judgement.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, “Raca” (an Aramaic term of contempt) is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, “You Fool!” will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:38-39 says……You have heard that it was said, “Eye For Eye and Tooth for Tooth.” But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. Matthew 5: 43-45 says…….You have heard that it was said, “Love Your Neighbor And Hate Your Enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. MAY ALL BE BLESSED! Love,
I do believe in self defence. For example: IF someone were threatening to break in my house in the middle of the night, I would not shoot him but I would hit him unconscious. Then I would wait for the police to arrive.
The original law stated and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth..
When Jesus came he showed us a better way, which was turn the other cheek. This is the best way, but he never said that the law or the prophets where incorrect, just that his was more perfect.
Legally if you want to you have the RIGHT to claim and eye for an eye. You still have that right that is Gods divine justice.
If you are driving and someone bumps your car, you have the RIGHT to call a policeman and have them ticketed for following too closely. This is the right you have under the law. But if there was no damage done, you can just say “Don’t worry about it, its okay.” This is your choice to give up your right because no real damage was done and you can forgive them. If you call the policeman anyway you are not wrong, its your right under the law that we live in.
This is similar to what Jesus said.. A slap on the cheek is a small offense , your not really hurt, the better way is to turn the other cheek. This is you voluntarily giving up your right to justice under the law. You gave it up of your own accorded because it was a better way.
Also to add that a person who has no choice .. in the matter where he is injured by someone and cannot fight back is not turning the other cheek he is helpless and brings no glory to GOD by being a victim. But to give up the justice on your own brings God Glory.
Cale R. Carter
According to St. Matthew 5:38-40. It is wrong to strike back. Instead of striking back at one who strikes you, let that person strike you on your other cheek (verse 39). If one takes you to law and sues you for your outer garment, let him have your inner garment also (verse 30). Give to every one who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow of you (verse 42). It is a wonder that the Lord had even a single disciple left after He had completed just one portion of His sermon, but the fact that they remained with Him demonstrates the power of His companion, the Holy Spirit. That same Holy Spirit will still support those of us who are fully committed to live for Christ today.
We are to refrain from hating our enemies, that instead we are to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. (Verse 44). I know it is hard, because I work with people who do not mean me any good, they are out to make a name for themself and they do not care who they hurt in doing so, according to God word, I have to love them anyway. We must strive for the perfection that the heavenly Father has possessed even in all eternity (verse 48).
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Hi, I am replying to the Bible question. I think that if it is a physical attack we are allowed to defend ourselves because I don’t think God would like His children being hurt or possibly killed when they could have fought back and saved themselves, thus being able to do more work for the Lord and bring others to know Him.