“Turning the Other Cheek” Does Not
Mean Pacifistic Non-Resistance to Evil
“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.” (Matthew 5:38-39)
By telling them to “turn the other cheek,” Jesus taught His disciples not to pursue personal revenge against those who had wronged them. However, in many churches today a pacifistic interpretation has prevailed and so it is taught that this is a general ban against any kind of forceful resistance to evil. But it should be obvious that this command does not apply to defending the judicially innocent from those who would do them harm, or taking action to defend our own lives and the lives of those around us against violent attack. In such cases, a Christian is not acting out of personal revenge, he is attempting to prevent the perpetration of evil and the destruction of lives. When one defends himself, his family, or his neighbors from the attack of a man set on doing evil, such as a man who is intending to commit murder, he is not returning evil for evil. He is actually returning good for evil because preventing the fulfillment of the evil man’s intent is a benefit both to that man and to others who might have become his victims, if he had not been not stopped. Turning the other cheek in such cases is actually evil because it allows the violent man to fulfill his malicious intent and continue his destruction.
The command to “turn the other cheek,” was given with the intent of addressing the behavior that found men seeking to avenge themselves against others for personal or individual affronts. Christ is denouncing the impulse in us that always desires to “even the score” with those who have wronged us. He is not teaching that we should become radical pacifists and turn a blind eye to someone destroying life or causing serious injury, and He is not forbidding us from using force when we have the opportunity to prevent a crime by doing so. Only a fool, a coward, or a lunatic could accept such a belief to the extent that he passively allows rapes, murders, or other grievous crimes of violence to be perpetrated in his presence when it is in his power to prevent them by physical intervention, including the use of deadly force if necessary to stop the criminal.