“Repay no one evil for evil… If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” These verses are consistent with the non-aggression principle: one should do their best to avoid physical conflict—one is to never initiate violence, but is free to defend themself against violence initiated by others. As much as it depends on us, we are to live peaceably, but if someone insists on assaulting us, that is if they initiate force, we can or should respond in like manner to protect ourselves or others. This is distinct from retribution, retaliation and punishment.
God says leave vengeance to Him, as He will take revenge.
These admonitions are intended for the individual and do not necessarily include civil authorities. “Do not repay evil for evil” means to not seek out retribution and vigilante justice against your offenders, but to relegate such endeavours to the government as we see in the next paragraph, and we can be relieved that those who escape punishment will not have their transgressions forgotten by God.
For offenses that do not threaten life and injury we are admonished to turn the other cheek. We are to overlook offenses and insults. Paul said “we bless when we are cursed.” This is a peaceful way to defuse conflict and aggression and to deflate ill-tempered people. However, all things considered it does not preclude self-defence if necessary.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities… authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority?… For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans chapter 13)
So God has established legitimate authorities and government to dispense His judgement on earth. When human courts are carrying out fair and righteous judgements they are acting on behalf of God to judge the evil-doer. However, when governments require us to violate our strong scriptural convictions we are compelled to disobey. The Pharisees commanded the apostles to cease preaching but they refused to obey. Clearly, Christians shouldn’t be seditious and unruly but orderly and godly, engendering a reputation as a law-abiding and civil people. Civil disobedience can be a peaceful way of upholding convictions when they are at odds with the law, and we are seeing Christians resorting to this more frequently as of late.
Western democratic nations possess the rule of law, due process and representatives that legislate, for the most part, moral laws. If communities and individuals refuse to comply with authorities, if they resist the police and break the law of the land, they are not merely defying and rebelling against the state, but also God.
The Bible seems to encourage civil society, and its teachings are consistent with the social contract, which confers powers to the courts to act on our behalf, and judge between us in matters of justice. The Bible discourages mob justice and the rule of the jungle, which we see in some third-world countries. Often people caught out for minor infractions will incur extreme mob punishments and death, far in excess to the severity of the crime. Our courts are designed to be disinterested and impartial, as righteous judgements are equitable and proportional, not influenced by passion and fury. However, as the values of society shift away from biblical ones, we are finding that our courts are veering away from strong sentencing.
Jesus himself even submitted to the religious authorities, to the point of surrendering His life as a sacrifice for the sins of mankind. However, that was the task Jesus explicitly came to fulfil. We find that Christians are encouraged in parts of scripture to flee and avoid persecution where possible, but if that is impossible we are to stand firm and resolute in our testimony and beliefs. And for us today, avoiding persecution, rather than surrendering to our enemies, means participating in elections and local government, to ensure righteous people are in power—to protect our interests and our right to spread the gospel. In North Korea, Christians are in concentration camps. Some countries in the world have no Christians, and the light of the gospel has successfully been extinguished by the Adversary.
Jesus wasn’t entirely a pacifist, however; He was aggressive and even violent when it came to people desacralizing or profaning God’s temple. Now the real temple and house of God is His people, who are His body. And we can be sure that God’s wrath is storing up for those who harm the body of Christ.
Amos is an evangelical conservative, who cares about where the world is going, and seeks to understand why it is happening, especially in light of prophecy and the spiritual powers behind the scenes. Amos currently lives in Auckland New Zealand. Amos pursues salvation for the lost, and considers himself a defender of traditional Christian values, liberal democracy and the historically unprecedented freedom and liberty established and defended by our forebears—which unfortunately, is gradually being eroded.
Amos Sale previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/amos-sale.html