The theme of defending a nation is prevalent throughout the entire Old Testament and still applies. Furthermore, we are told to defend the weak, the oppressed, and the fatherless in many places such as Isaiah 1:17 and Psalms 82:3. I could give you many more verses about protecting the weak and especially children, but suffice to say, it is our duty to do so. God himself is called a warrior in Exodus 15:3-4 and as soldiers approached John the Baptist in Luke 3:14 they were told to be content with their wages. Please note they were not told to stop being soldiers and this would have been the perfect time, since they specifically asked.
So what about verses that say things like “turn the other cheek”? I do need to account for these. Remember I talked earlier about context? Well let’s look at this specific verse (Matthew 5:38-39) and unpack what it truly means by putting it into context. Matthew 5 is the start of what is called “the sermon on the mount” and goes through chapter 7. Jesus is explaining that everything (everything) is a heart issue. He is giving us a more perfect understanding of our own guilt under the law. So this verse has to be read with the verses preceding it for true context of meaning.
In these verses Jesus is directly addressing the human heart. Specifically its capacity to justify itself. Too many people think they are “good” enough and, therefore, not guilty of sin.
Jesus destroys that notion in these verses, giving a more perfect understanding of the law, by explaining that sin is an issue of the heart. In fact all of scripture boils down to a “heart” condition.
It always has been.
For example, in Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus explains that adultery is not limited to just physically cheated on your spouse, as was the Jews understanding of the Old Testament laws. Have you ever undressed someone in your head or had fantasies? According to these verses God considers you guilty of adultery.
He also explains in Matthew 5:21-22 that murder is also a condition of the heart, which is not limited to only the act of killing someone, but that if you’ve ever wanted to hurt someone in your mind; if you have been so angry at someone that you wanted to wring their necks, then, according to Jesus you are guilty of murder.
Likewise, in Matthew 5:38-39 when he uses the phrase “turning the other cheek” he is talking about retaliation and vengeance. You are not allowed to take revenge. It is made abundantly clear in both the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 32:35) and the New Testament (Romans 12:19) that vengeance is only to be taken by God himself. You don’t have a right.
We are called to protect the weak and our countries, but not to take vengeance. The Bible teaches that we have the right to self-defense, Exodus 22:2: “If the thief is caught while breaking in, and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guiltiness on his account.” I always wonder how these people that say we should NEVER use force or violence would react if someone was in their house raping and planning to kill their daughter or spouse. Would they defend their families? We are called to do this by scripture. It is our duty.
Here is the type of scenario Jesus was referring to when he referred to “turning the other cheek” and not taking vengeance… Let’s say you were able to subdue and bind the intruder in your house that wanted to rape your wife. But as you looked at him your heart was filled with rage and you began to beat him with a baseball bat. Now he is subdued, this is not necessary anymore to protect your family. This is a heart filled with rage and it is murder according Jesus. You are now guilty of something.
So, in the real world and war how does this play out? If you go to war to protect the weak (such as the people being tortured by ISIS) you are not doing anything wrong. If you are doing it to protect your nation from imminent attack, you are also well within your rights. In fact, you are doing exactly what scripture asks you to do. It all comes down to your heart and your motive. God (including Jesus) directed Israel to engage in many conflicts throughout scripture.
It is true. We are called, by Jesus, in Matthew 5:9 to be “peacemakers”. It is more perfectly explained in Romans 12:18 “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Please notice that it says, “If possible”. So let me ask you a question. Has ISIS made it possible?
Now don’t get me wrong.
I pray that members of ISIS and I would share the forgiveness of Christ one day. It doesn’t matter how many people they have killed because, by God’s standard as laid out by Jesus in Matthew 5:21-22, I am guilty of this myself ten thousand times over.
Never forget that Jesus forgave, redeemed, and used a person (the apostle Paul) that murdered his followers. The Apostle Paul became a missionary and shared the grace offered by Christ to the world. This same murderer was used by Christ to write most of the Epistles in the New Testament.
But why is Jesus called the “Prince of Peace”?
Why did it say in Luke 2:14 that when Jesus was born he was bringing “peace on earth” and “good will towards men”, like we sing about every Christmas?
Well you have to understand what peace He brings. Jesus did not come to bring peace between the United States of America and any other county. The Bible never claimed that Jesus would stop wars in this age. The peace in these verses is a very specific kind of peace. He offers peace between us and God. The phrase, “good will toward men” is referring to God offering us “good will” and forgiveness. According to Romans 5:10 our sin makes us enemies of God, but Jesus offers us peace with God if we accept His sacrifice.
Do you have questions about how to obtain this peace from Jesus and get forgiveness from sins?
Again it’s all in the heart! God is always about the heart! Not just to use it to convict you of breaking His laws, but to save you from that penalty that goes with breaking that law… death.
God’s law is clearly laid out in the 10 commandments.
Have you ever lied? Even a little one?
Have you ever committed adultery (sex outside of marriage)? Remember God’s standard in Matthew 5:27-28.
Ever commit Murder? Remember God’s standard in Matthew 5:21-22.
Are you guilty? The penalty is Hell.
Jesus paid your price on the cross. (Romans 5:8)
You just have to accept His gift. But it’s a heart issue.
Romans 10:9 says, “…if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Notice the verse says you must believe in your heart. It’s always about the heart with Jesus. Look at all of His interactions with people in the New Testament. He always goes right after their heart, every single time! He gets to the “heart” of the matter.
You can’t fake it. You can’t say it and not mean. It’s not a spell like in Harry Potter.
Pray the following prayer (or something like it) and mean it.
“Jesus, I am guilty of breaking your law. I accept your gift and sacrifice for my sin. Come into my heart and save me.”
The words are not the biggest deal. It’s the heart that matters.
In closing, Jesus is NOT a peace-loving Hippie.
He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:5-6)
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