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Bible Q

Does turning the other cheek mean that you shouldn’t protect your family?

Jesus says:

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Mat 5:39)

Taken at face value, this says that if someone wants to hurt you, you should not resist. (See also John 18:36, Rom 12:19-21, 1 Th 5:15, 2 Tim 2:24.) Instead we should have faith in God to keep us safe. Here’s an example from Paul:

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Tim 4:18

But this leaves open the difficult question of what to do, as a husband and father, about self-defense of defending your family from someone who might try to rape, murder, or otherwise harm them. How would a New Testament believer handle this issue?

Unfortunately, the New Testament doesn’t answer this. We have the principle defined above, set against with natural urge to defend our family (sometimes it’s a marriage vow too). It’s not clear how to resolve this. A clue comes from the general context of Jesus’ remarks in Matt 5:21-45:

  • Forget about murder, don’t even be angry with someone
  • Cut your eye out rather than look at a woman with lustful intent
  • Don’t swear at all – simply tell the truth
  • Don’t resist evil – pray for evildoers who hurt you

And finally:

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)

Jesus is describing a radically different kind of behavior – completely at odds with our instinctive behavior, with behavior that comes naturally. And it’s a standard that no one can meet either. According to this standard, we shouldn’t protect our family with force.

Perfection: it’s something to strive for, everyday.


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