In the New International Version of the Bible:
I’ve read all of the translations available at the above website and there can be no doubt of Jesus’ intended meaning: If you are struck in the face, present your cheek to receive yet another strike, and if someone steals your coat, give him the shirt off your back, and never ask for either to be returned.
Yes, that’s about as clear and unequivocal a statement as I’ve ever found.
To follow His way is to be a pacifist.
But let me now tell you what has again raised the conflict in my mind.
On a recent business trip, I received a grandfather’s testimony. The story centered on his grandson and it involved abuse, abuse so severe it may only be through the miracle of an answered prayer that the boy still lives.
Here is an extract of two paragraphs that begin to tell the story.
As I sat and listened to Bill, I tried to imagine myself in his shoes and how I would feel, and more to the point here, I asked myself, what would I have done, what would I do in a similar situation?
And when Bill paused for a moment to get his emotions in check, I confessed, “If I had been in your position, Bill, I tell you truly I would now be in prison for killing the person who committed these horrible acts.”
So, here is the conflict: What would Jesus have us do when faced with such evil?
To resist evil through the use of force is clearly contrary to the above passage from Luke. I’m sure Jesus would pray for both the little boy and also for his abuser.
But if the abuser appears in my presence and begins to harm the boy, what then? Do I stand between the abuser and shield the child? If the abuser pushes me out of the way, do I again put myself in harm’s way? And if the abuser raises a weapon to put me out of the way permanently, do I, at that point, take this passage to heart and turn the other cheek and, in so doing, allow evil to have its way? Do I, through inaction, allow evil to have its way?
Or, do I resist? Do I resist evil, especially when I might be able to stop it? And if I resist, how strongly do I resist?
Just how universally do I apply this passage from Luke?
Pacifism in the face of violence to oneself is one thing. But what about when the threat is to others?
Let me ask you a question. If you had been on-board the second plane that struck the World Trade Center, if you knew what was probably going to happen in the next few minutes, what would Jesus wish you to do? Would you charge the terrorists knowing they have weapons and that you will probably be killed for naught just because there is some small chance you might be able to stop the murder of thousands of innocents even though your life is probably sacrificed no matter what?
We could pray that the Lord would give us answers to such questions but, for myself at least, I would rather pray that I am never faced with situations such as these.
Lord, keep me from such terrible tests.
And regardless of that, I also know that no words will suffice to rule if and when such a situation comes up in my life. No amount of preparation, of study, of contemplation will prepare me.
When faced with evil, what will I do?
When faced with such evil, I cannot tell you now what I will do then.
It is impossible.
Instead, I pray that should such a situation arise in my life, that Jesus will be there, that He will stand beside me, take me by the hand, and show me the Way.
God, help me. Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
Because I am sure that, before that moment, there is nothing to say or do that will guarantee my actions.
All I can do now is pray that He will be with me then, and that He will give me His guidance.
Free Will is a terrible responsibility.
Lord, help me use it as You would hope.
In your hands, Lord. I’m in your hands now, and also then, and then forever.