Matthew 5:39 tells us to turn the other cheek. To what extent are we allowed to de-fend ourselves and our families? Did He mean that they could not defend them-selves or their families, even if attacked by goons bent on rape, murder and robbery? Is a man to sit idly by, maybe praying under his breath, and watch his wife or daughters be horribly abused and mistreated? That is what millions of professing Christians and others "profess" to be-lieve. That is what they say.
They acknowledge that in Old Testament times people were allowed to defend their families and themselves. A man wouldn't have been thought much of a man who wouldn't stand up for his wife and children. But Yahshua's teaching in the New Testament is thought to be radically different than the Old. But is it really? and if not, then what did He mean? Here is what He said:
Mat. 5:38-39, Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth: 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.
If you will notice verse 38 closely, you will note that it is not about self-defense at all, but rather about the act of vengeance. Yahshua is saying the same thing as the proverb: "Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render to the man according to his work" (Pro. 24:29).
Yahshua's reference here was to corporal punishment while in custody (see Isaiah 50:6, Lamentations 3:30, 1Kings 22:24). Real or perceived contempt of court was punished by a slap in the face. Both Yahshua Himself, and Paul experienced this treatment (Mat. 26:67, Mark 14:65, John 18:22, and Acts 23:2-3). Resisting govern-mental authority will bring nothing but grief, and Yahshua taught to submit to it.
Now let's read on and see where He said other things that don't sit well with some folks, simply because they don't know what He meant. Mat. 5:40-44, "and if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also. And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two. Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you, turn not you away. You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. 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;..."
Messiah's words about turning the other cheek, walking the extra mile, giving away your cloak, loving, blessing and praying for your enemies must be understood in the context of (a) government officials who had a legal right to slap their subjects, as shown above, (b) creditors who had a legal right to take the debtors shirt as pledge for a debt (Exo. 22:25-27), (c) military and government couriers who had a legal right to require civilian help carrying burdens for a mile (Luke 23:26 for example), and poor beggars who had the legal right to charity in the seventh year land Sabbath (Deut. 15:7-9). These were not criminals or hood-lums.
Turning the other cheek is not required when you are being assaulted by a man with a knife. But when it's over and the man is no longer a threat, you must not retaliate or avenge yourself. Paul wrote in Romans 12:19, "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, saith Yahweh."
Yahweh promises that He will avenge our wrong. But how? And when? In the Here-after? No, the State, the government are instruments that Yahweh authorizes to exact venge-ance on behalf of the oppressed.
Romans 13:1-2, Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of Yahweh: the powers that be are ordained of Yahweh. Whosoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of Yahweh: and they that resist shall receive to themselves judg-ment.
Paul is telling us that legitimate governmental authority is derived from Yahweh, for our good. He goes on, verses 4-5: But if you do what is evil, be afraid, for it (the governmen-tal agency) does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of Yahweh, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.
Yahweh forbids personal, individual acts of vengeance, but He expects the official vengeance to be executed by the State. This passage in Romans 13 is troubling to some be-cause of the corruption we see in our governmental systems today. But remember, the Roman system that Yahshua, the disciples, and Paul lived under was not so lily-white, either.
If we as a people (nation), are entrusted with the responsibility of administering jus-tice, and fail to do so, ultimately this will result in the collapse of our society. We have the responsibility to forgive those who transgress against us, but the State has the responsibility to execute vengeance. They do not have the option to forgive or back down out of a misguided sense of pity.
But this is exactly what has occurred. Soft-headed "judges" (I use the term loosely) continually give goons light sentences or probation time after time, returning these social mis-fits to the streets to prey on us again and again. And when the State fails to carry out their responsibilities (or worse, actually commits atrocious acts against the citizenry, i.e., Waco, Ruby Ridge, etc,etc.) it invites personal and private vengeance. Our system of justice has failed because it has shown too much pity to the wrong people.
If our society is to survive in the face of violence, our government must execute jus-tice--even to the point of avenging murder. Ancient Israel often failed to exercise proper leadership, and the result was a society similar to our own of today: Please read Isaiah 1:16-17, Jer. 21:12, Eze. 13:19-22, and Isaiah 3:1-5.
I have digressed from the intended range of this article somewhat. Let's get back to the subject, "Can one defend himself and his wife and children or other family members against violent attacks without violating Yahshua's command to 'turn the other cheek'?" As we have seen, Yahshua was not addressing a situation where actual serious physical harm or death might result from an attack, but rather, situations that could have arisen under the cus-toms extant back then. We can only use them as guides today: Don't avenge yourself; don't resist authority; it will only make the situation worse; be generous; love your enemies.
Yahshua did not condemn Peter for cutting off the ear of the high priest's servant the night He was arrested. In fact, He said that if His Kingdom were of this world, then His ser-vants would fight to prevent His arrest by the Jews (John 18:36).
I see no scriptural condemnation whatever in defending one's self and/or his family. In fact, I think the condemnation would be for him not to do so. That is one of his duties. A man stands in for Yahweh in the family. And Yahweh is our protector, our provider, our healer, our sustainer, etc. Wouldn't we be falling down on our responsibilities to just sit by and look on while someone did terrible things to our family? But only do what is necessary to stop the attack. Don't let the situation become one of vengeance. Remember, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," saith Yahweh. ~Frank Brown

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