in defense of violence, part two :: it's my cheek he's talking about

August 26, 2009


Continuing my awkward (but important) stand in defense of violence today.  Can’t help myself.  After all, I titled my last post “part one,” so I really have no choice but to continue with a “part two…”  Even if I’m reluctant to be this guy.  Christian guy.  Carrying the banner for violence.  What?!

Well, that’s just it.  In “part one(…which I encourage you to peruse if you haven’t read it yet.  It’s short, entertaining, and controversial.  Like Tom Cruise, without the creepy.  Promise.) I basically state my belief that idealism must take a back seat to realism when our family, our nation, or our neighbors are threatened by evil people.  As a Bible-believing Christ follower, I’m called to be a “mirror-bearer,” accurately reflecting the truth as it really is, not just painting a picture of the way I wish it was.

Further, I asserted that the pacifist idea that no good can come from violence is, basically… malarkey.

So I’ve gotten some press-back.  This came from my good malarkey-filled Facebook friend (who I might add, was courageous, gracious, and good-natured enough to respond in the comments section):

What does the Bible say about war & violence, particularly the NT?  Josh, are you saying that we are NOT called to live nonviolently?  I would have to firmly argue that Christ calls us to live at peace with our brothers & sisters…

Hence, the “part two” today.  There’s an elephant in the room.  And it sounds a lot like Jesus.  It sounds like “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  It sounds like “Love your enemies, do good to them…” and “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”  It sounds like Jesus is a pacifist.

Hold on just a minute.  Because this is really important to clarify right now:  I get “weebed out” speaking for Jesus.  Gives me the willies.  Basically I’m only comfortable with Him speaking for me.  So please consider the following opinions MY opinions, not whack-you-with-my-Bible fundamentalist “voice of God” stuff.  Cool?  Just humble me.

I believe that Jesus’ words about loving our enemies (the above taken from Matthew 5 and Luke 6) are commands, not options.  But Jesus is talking to His disciples – his people – and a crowd that had gathered and sought Him out to hear what He had to teach them.  This was not a political speech, presented to a governing body.  It was not aimed at Rome, or at any government, council, or militia.  This was His word to me.  When someone mistreats me, plots against me, even does me direct harm, Jesus’ word to me is “Love them.”  This is what “turning the other cheek” is all about.  It is my cheek – I have the right to offer my other one as an example of God’s patience and grace alive in me.

Jesus said, “Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…”   You.  Hate you, curse you, mistreat you.  It’s your cheek.

But Jesus did not say, “If someone does another person harm – curses, mistreats, endangers, maims, disfigures, enslaves, humiliates, murders – another person, offer up their other cheek, too… and yours as well.”  I guess I’m more comfortable stating for the record what Jesus did NOT say here, because technically, I’m correct. *holding breath anyway*

Jesus was speaking to individuals about their/our own heart’s condition.  He revolutionized the whole world with a command to LOVE OTHERS before avenging/defending our SELVES.  But there is another side of God’s nature.  He is a God of love -AND- justice.  And when we present God’s love devoid of the reality that He is also just, we are forsaking our mirrors (reality) for the happy little trees (idealism).  (Click here to see what I’m talking about.)

I still refute the pacifist baloney that no good can ever come of violence.  I will stand up for the JUST use of violence – the measured, principled, restrained use of violence to protect and defend OTHERS from harm.  I stand behind the police, who stand between my family and the thief in the night.  I stand behind the soldiers who have bravely fought for freedom in Iraq, Korea, France, Germany.  I believe in the righteous obligation of a husband to fiercely protect his wife and children.  And I do believe in the right to defend one’s-self from gratuitous violence.

I said before, and I’ll say it again from the rooftops, I don’t want to be an advocate for violence.  I want to be an advocate for reality.   And I HATE violence.  I hate that we live in a fallen world, where sin is alive and well in humanity, and evil is allowed to wander.  I hate it.  But I’ve read the Book, and Jesus wins.  In the mean time, I must sadly tolerate violence as, sometimes, the most effective means of propagating JUSTICE and DEFENDING those who need protection.

I do not intend to speak for God.  He does not need me to stand between His truth and your heart.  Just consider the possibility that the most LOVING and the most JUST response to counter evil may be a strong, abrupt, physical defense of the vulnerable.  I can offer my own cheek.  But I do not believe we are supposed to offer theirs.

The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne.  He observes the sons of men; His eyes examine them.  The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence His soul hates.  On the wicked He will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.  For the Lord is righteous, He loves justice; upright men will seek His face.   [Psalm 11:4-7]

If I am wrong, I am open to hear it.  Lord, forgive me if I misrepresent You.  What do you think?

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Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.

No responses to in defense of violence, part two :: it's my cheek he's talking about

  1. Hey, Josh…great post. I do not think you are misinterpreting the NT. In fact, check out what Phylis Tickle has to say about the words of Jesus (book by the same title). I don’t want to fully advocate her book or works because 1) I haven’t read it (only heard her speak and read _about_ the book; and 2) I probably would take issue with some of her theological points of view.

    Her premise is that our view of Jesus is often filtered through our current ideology/philosophy, etc. If you look solely at the words of Jesus that are common in all the Gospels, the Godspell Jesus that is so warmly embraced by our culture gives way to a more assertive, “call it like it is” Jesus.

    This is not to say that Jesus endorsed violence by any means, but it does say that his meek qualities should not be mistaken for weakness. However, his more assertive comments were directed towards the religious establishment (and not, incidentally, the occupying Roman government, as some sects of Jews of his day had hoped). I could be wrong in this analysis, so please let me know if I am.

    All this to say “Amen, br. Josh.” The only thing I would add is that we should not always trust that the violence enacted on our behalf is applied justly. We should always hold up the mirror to those who act on our behalf, and respond (nonviolently) if we feel that we have been misrepresented or if the just deliverance of violence was more than reciprocal. (Note: Before judgment is passed, I am not attempting to make a reference to past events, whether in recent or distant history.) We shouldn’t stand for others to act without moral compass when defending our liberties. You have probably implied that (or at least that’s what I inferred), but it was worth bringing to fore.

    One more thought…we Americans have an issue with ambiguity. To feel that we must put all our eggs in the pacifist basket is not logical. It is equally illogical to state that because only 90% of our eggs are in the “peace basket” that we are somehow promoters of violence at will. Your stance is balanced, which is what we, as temporary inhabitants of this fallen world must find. We are in the business of reconciling without compromising…not easy.

  2. NOTE: Got a GREAT resource from a pastor friend of mine (thanks Steve!) Pastor Greg Boyd posted about his belief that the Bible supports a total non-violence policy for believers. While I don’t agree with him on every point, I recognize that he is a true scholar and his post is FULL of great Biblical passages. As you consider what is TRUE, I encourage you to prayerfully read this, as well >>

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