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Pacifism: A Hypothetical Scenario

Scenario: An evil man breaks into your home and tells you he will kill you and all of your family. He is armed with a large knife. You say, “over my dead body,” grab a kitchen knife, and attack the man. He attacks back. A vicious struggle ensues. Finally, after what seems like hours, you are able to gain the upper-hand, and slit the man’s throat. As his body falls to the ground – lifeless and convulsing – you look up and your son is standing there, pale and speechless. You are suddenly aware that your hands are drenched in blood. He asks you one question:

“Dad, I thought Jesus said not to resist an evil man, but to turn the other cheek?”

What do you say?


  1. I think this shows that one needs to explain the meaning of Scripture to your kids BEFORE things like this happen. Otherwise, it can appear convenient.

    • What Scriptures would you apply to this situation? What do you think a Biblical response to intruders/perpetrators of violence be?

  2. I think a believer is to oppose evil and protect the good.

    There are some verses that have been used by believers who are pacifists to endores their pacifism. They seem to be very committed believers, so I respect their committment, but I think they are misunderstanding those verses, similar to misunderstanding the commandment to not “murder” as “Do not kill.”

    I put murder in scare quotes as that is the closest English word, but there are other things involved in the prohibition in Hebrew, beyond murder, but we do not have a word for it. English carves up reality differently than Hebrew does (or Greek does for that matter).

    • What would you say to Jesus’ words: “You have heard it said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you do not resist an evil person…”

      This seems opposite to what you started your response with.

  3. Cultural context is critical.

    Mat 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
    Mat 5:39 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.

    v. 38, this is an extract from Torah, that which was WRITTEN or therefore READ when heard. EX 21:24, Lev 24:20, Deu 19:21.

    The Pharisees had their so-called Oral Torah which was SAID as it was not at that point written down. So one should see that Jesus is commenting on something where an extract from Torah was made, but was thereby misunderstood or misapplied. We all know it is possible to take too short of a concept from Scripture and try to make it mean what it does not. In Torah, these laws were redress under justice limiting. One could not seek another’s life for losing an eye, for example.

    v.39 evil one slaps on right cheek, offer them the other (left) cheek. This is cultural. The Romans would slap an underling with their right hand in a back slap, which would hit the underlings right cheek. An equal would be hit with a fist, not a back slap. When Jesus says to offer the left cheek he is saying that the supposed underling is an equal and should be treated as an equal and the supposed underling can ask for such equal treatment by offering his left cheek. If the evil one strikes it, then he has admitted the supposed underling is an equal. It is a question about what one who is lacking power can do to assert equality.

    • It’s interesting that every application that comes out of a contemporary scholars always has a Marxist/class-struggle flavor to it. It’s always all about the under-dog becoming equal with their oppressors. Do you think this reading is completely without bias on the part of the interpreter.

      By the way, in a series I am enouraging others to listen to, Bruxy Cavey brings up exactly the same context, and comes to a radically different conclusion. Might be interesting to listen to.

  4. I did see that Bruxy came to pacifist conclusions.

    Every detail in Scripture is there for a reason, not the least of which was that the materials were expensive and so things were condensed to save space.

    I really respect the Mennonites’ beliefs, but I disagree with them on pacifism. If you wish to study why some do NOT thing Jesus, etc. taught pacifism, I recommend Hebrew Roots of Christianity scholars, altho they are far from monolithic. They are trying to establish the cultural context of Scripture.

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