Need help with Matthew 5:38

Discussion in 'The Gospels & Acts' started by Matthias, Jan 10, 2013.

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  1. Matthias

    Matthias Puritan Board Junior

    I believe this verse is one of the most misused passages of scripture. Yesterday, this verse was used by someone at my Bible study to dogmatically assert that Christians who defend themselves in ANY instance are sinning. I know this verse does not teach Christian Pacifism, and in context is not even dealing with the subject of self defense, so what would be a good solid way of answering someone who uses this verse to teach that defending oneself is a sin?

    Thanks for the help, and I look forward to your replies!
  2. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    If they are 'dogmatic' about their passivism, it is going to take more a drive by scripture quotation. It will probably take a lengthy conversation. You could start by pointing to the many times in the OT God righteously commanded the Israelites to take up arms against their enemies.
  3. SolaScriptura

    SolaScriptura Puritan Board Doctor

    It is pretty easy for even a novice student of the Bible to demonstrate that the Bible does not teach that non-resistant pacifism is an absolute.

    It is much more difficult to ascertain when in real life, precisely, it is ok to use force (of arms, even) as the way to best glorify God in the circumstance or when non-resistant pacifism is the appropriate God-honoring response.
  4. rookie

    rookie Puritan Board Sophomore

    I remember once thinking about this verse when we were doing some street preaching in town here. I handed a tract to a gentleman, and I am assuming the other man with him was his boyfriend, became very agressive with me. I thought he was going to hit me...I thought to myself, if you swing, hit hard, hit good and knock me out with the first hit...then I don't have to worry about this verse or the ones that Christ told his disciples to get swords to fight, or showing the other cheek. If I'm out for the count...I didn't have to worry about anything.
  5. Matthias

    Matthias Puritan Board Junior

    I agree.. do you have any advice on how to handle this second part of your post?
  6. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    If the civil magistrate commands you to take up arms in self-defense then that is a good indicator it is from the Lord. (Rom 13:1) One cannot argue that God never commands His people to take up arms when the Bible is chock full of examples to the contrary.
  7. AlexanderHenderson1647

    AlexanderHenderson1647 Puritan Board Freshman

    I hope this is helpful. Often this passage is quoted but it is not given its proper place. It reads:

    Matt 5:38 "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 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."

    They will have a hard time arguing that this is a call for pacifism. A smack on a check is not a tackle or a roundhouse punch or a barrage of strikes or a 9mm pointed at your head or a ball bat swinging at your temple. It is AN INSULT. It is no different now that it was then. No one "smacks" in an attempt to disable a person or kill them. It is an invitation to escalate the physical conflict. It is to say, "I am a bigger man than you" or "I dare you to do something about that!" A Christian man/woman OUGHT to have NOTHING to lose in being put to such a worldly challenge. It is foolish to suggest that this is a "new ethic" that Jesus offers. Notice in all that Jesus "revises" in NT when he says "you have heard it said," take careful note that he NEVER says "You have seen it WRITTEN..." Any time "it is written" is used by Jesus, that is the final word EVERY time. It is how he combated Satan's temptation, the Pharisees' efforts at "gotcha" the Saducees' word games, et al. In this passage he is checking some of the traditional usages of the rabbinical/Talmudic/Pharisiacal sort that augmented the Law's intent.

    If anyone is interested in how Jesus feels about a man being armed and ready for defense, notice this passage.

    Luke 22:36 "Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one."

    These garments in Hebraic culture, garments were one of your most valuable primary possessions. Even the Roman guard took Jesus' for their "spoil." Matthew 27:35 "And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots."

    In fact, it was part of the Israelitish Commonwealth's judicial law that the garment be spared even in a case of debt.

    EX "22:25 If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. 26 If thou at all take thy neighbour's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it unto him by that the sun goeth down: 27 For that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin: wherein shall he sleep? and it shall come to pass, when he crieth unto me, that I will hear; for I am gracious."

    Jesus is telling his very poor disciples (as far as we can tell - they, we are told to sell EVERYTHING and follow him. They had only a handful of effect each to wit, "Matthew 10:9 Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, 10 Nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat.") who often didn't know where they would sleep, in what conditions (Gethsemene for ex), etc, to purchase a sword. He commanded that even these who could end up in abject poverty to give up even this legally protected garment to have the most advanced weapon available in that day.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2013
  8. Christusregnat

    Christusregnat Puritan Board Professor

    Seems like a good opportunity to discuss covenant theology, and the unity of the doctrines of salvation and ethics between the two administrations of the covenant of grace. Next, you could try and convince them of paedobaptism ;)
  9. Eoghan

    Eoghan Puritan Board Senior

    [BIBLE]Luke 22:36[/BIBLE]

    I once had a discussion with a friend in a pub about pacifism. He was surprised that I did not think this was a Christian principle. Priding himself on Biblical literacy he refused to accept there was any such verse. I went home and brought a Bible to the pub. "Surprisingly" finding the verse in scripture did not alter his opinion. I think pacifism is a political (?) view for which people look in scripture for support.

    There are two proverbs which are contradictory, "Answer a fool according to his folly", and "Do not answer a fool according to his folly". In context each makes sense, but who bothers about context. Indeed how many people can say they have read the Bible - I mean all of it? I am reminded of DA Carson saying that an interviewer had been doing background research for an interview - six weeks of prep. It included reading the Bible - and she felt she had a really good grasp of what it was all about. It would be laughable were it not the opinion of the world. It is right up there with, "Why would you read a book twice?"

    Biblical illiteracy is on the rise - and I don't mean in the world!
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