Long story short: “Turning the other cheek” does not mean becoming a pacifist. But some of you may require more persuasion than that, so keep reading.
On the 27th of October 2012 I enjoyed taking part in a panel discussion for Elephant TV on Christian views on war. Dr Chris Marshall (a former lecturer of mine) and Adrian Leason spoke on behalf of the Christian pacifist view, and Rev. Captain Paul Stanaway and I represented a just war perspective. Elephant TV is a fairly unique forum in New Zealand, bringing together Christians from different perspectives on contentious issues in front of an audience and cameras, getting a summary of their side of the story and putting questions to them to discuss. I think the event – and the series as a whole – is a fantastic idea to give exposure within the Christian community to the “elephant in the room” (where the show gets its title), those issues that we know are there and are important, but aren’t necessarily being discussed in churches in a way where all sides get a fair hearing.
The hope of all of this of course is not just that people will hear somebody say something they like and make up their mind on the spot, but that they will gain a new perspective to help them think more about these things for themselves. We were only able to scratch the surface of some of the issues mentioned, and as I said to people after the recording – there’s so much that we’d all no doubt like to have added, responded to, explained further, but that’s what blogs are for! Being stimulated to focus again on the issues of pacifism, the use of force and the role of Scripture in the discussion has meant that my thoughts have been occupied by some of the biblical material that frequently becomes part of the arsenal (pun intended) of Christian pacifists. Over the next little while I’ll be discussing some of that biblical material.
This is a discussion among Christians about what conclusions specifically Christian values should lead us to. But the fact is, I’m not a moral relativist, I happen to think that there really are moral facts, and I don’t think they apply selectively to people depending on their religion. If something is genuinely a moral requirement then it’s right no matter whether you’re a Christian or not. Similarly, that which is morally reprehensible is wrong for Christian and non-Christian alike. But still, as Christians we’re especially interested in how biblical values should inform our views on war, since we think there’s really something to those values – they’re more than just the views of ancient fishermen and sheep herders (or doctors or scholars in the case of Luke and Paul). In them we believe that God expresses his will.
The truth is, Jesus didn’t specifically say anything at all about whether or not there are ever circumstances where war is justifiable.
Christians, whether pacifist or otherwise, agree that God’s will is uniquely revealed in the teaching of Jesus. Christian pacifists in particular have made much rhetorical mileage with the claim that their position, much more than any alternative, is a radical effort to take Jesus seriously and to really follow him, even when it’s hard, because Jesus was a pacifist. I have no doubt that those who say this actually believe it. But although I am open to changing my mind, I am fairly sure that they are wrong. The truth is, Jesus didn’t specifically say anything at all about whether or not there are ever circumstances where war is justifiable. However, one episode in the life of Jesus in particular has become the creed of Christian pacifism; the well-known “Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5, and the command to “turn the other cheek.” Here I’ll be looking at that instruction and a few others that appear in Matthew 5:38-41.
The chapter as a whole is a concentrated block of moral teaching, widely seen as teaching that exemplifies the transformed character of people who take part in the Kingdom of God, hailed by Jesus, through whom that kingdom is established. We begin with the beatitudes, calling “blessed” the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who endure persecution for the sake of righteousness, and those who are mistreated because they are followers of Jesus. Jesus calls his followers to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, making a real difference. In a move not always as popular with pacifists, Jesus then announces that he has no intention of setting aside the law (Torah), but of fulfilling it all, saying that no part of it will pass away until everything is accomplished, that members of God’s kingdom must call people to obey the law and not to break it, and that their own righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees. Then we come to the final section of the chapter, a series of moral teachings where Jesus says “You have heard it said… but I say to you.” One of those teachings is the one that I’m looking at today, in verses 38 to 43, and reads as follows:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Jesus gives three examples, which, given the structure of the sentences here, are clearly meant to all express the same idea. But what is that idea? Is it an idea that can be extended to the question of whether or not war is ever justifiable (i.e. the question of whether or not we should be pacifists)? I don’t think there’s anything here to suggest that. Let me break this paragraph down and explain why.
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you…
“An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is a quotation from the Torah, the law of Israel. it is the principle known as the lex talionis (the “law of the talon”). In brief, it meant that the level of compensation demanded for a personal injury could be as significant as – but not more so than – the harm done. Nobody could take sevenfold vengeance upon you for something you had done, since that would clearly be disproportionate. So while the law here guaranteed a person’s right to be compensated, it also protected those from whom compensation was required. There is no shortage of those who think that here Jesus is rejecting this principle, because he says “but I say to you.” The context in which Jesus said this, however, makes this claim very difficult to sustain. It is true that on a couple of instances Jesus did intend to be understood this way. A good example is: “You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Here Jesus takes a saying (one that certainly isn’t part of the Torah) and clearly rejects it by requiring the opposite. But he doesn’t always do this when he says “But I say…” For example in this same passage Jesus is recorded as saying:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Here it is clear that Jesus is not rejecting the commandment from the Torah. Nobody imagines that Jesus thought that adultery was now acceptable. What he is doing is cautioning people not to think that simply following the commandment as written is enough to fulfil its moral purpose. Not only should people not commit adultery, but they should also cultivate attitudes that lead them away from committing adultery.
The same is true of Jesus’ use of the lex talionis. The point is not that people should reject it, and that civil justice for wrongs done should abandon the principle of proportionality. The point is that strict adherence to this practice does not get to the heart attitude that God wants, and people should be cautioned not to think otherwise. You might take a poor person to court because they crashed their car into your imported marble garden statue worth ten thousand dollars, and sue them for absolutely everything they have (all fifty dollars of it). After all, you’re entitled to be compensated for the amount of your loss – or as close to it as possible. And hey, you’re limiting your claim to the damage done right? You’re not taking any more than that, so you’re not being unjust, right? In rebuking a person who actually did this, you wouldn’t be renouncing the lex talionis principle. You would simply be recognising that on its own it doesn’t tell you how to be a person of wise or just character, and you can follow the letter of the law while still ignoring its intent.
It is important to note that this reference to the Torah sets the context for this cluster of sayings. When Jesus says “but I say,” we should see that Jesus is about to tell people the way that they should behave in the circumstances under which they might apply (or misapply!) the lex talionis itself. Hence, we are dealing with personal interactions within society where people might think that they have a rightful claim against another person for some grievance done to them. So let’s look at how Jesus wants to add to this.
Do not resist the one who is evil
Non-violent resistance can be a powerful and moving act. But it is resistance nonetheless.
One of the things that frustrates many pacifists is that they are sometimes misunderstood as saying that in the face of war, oppression, or attacks on the vulnerable, we should simply do nothing at all – that we should be absolutely passive. I agree with them that this characterisation is simply not fair. Pacifists advocate non-violent resistance as a protest against injustice. Of course, pacifists aren’t the only ones who advocate this. Anyone who thinks that the use of force should not be our first resort will readily admire and perhaps take part in non-violent protest. Martin Luther King is a great example of just such action. Non-violent resistance can be a powerful and moving act. But it is resistance nonetheless. Pacifists want to see this cluster of instructions as not being limited in scope, but applying to all circumstances. While they are opposed to the use of force, they are not opposed to resistance per se, so it appears that they cannot have it both ways. They cannot say that these teachings apply in all circumstances and that certain forms of resistance are acceptable. But if they are going to concede that resistance is acceptable after all, isn’t it a slide away from their radical following of Jesus teaching here? So why does Jesus say in such a blanket fashion, “do not resist the one who is evil”?
Pacifist author Walter Wink found fault with the translators of the King James Version here, claiming that they have terribly skewed the meaning of this saying:
When the court translators working in the hire of King James chose to translate antistenai as “Resist not evil,” they were doing something more than rendering Greek into English. They were translating nonviolent resistance into docility. The Greek word means more than simply to “stand against” or “resist.” It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection. Jesus did not tell his oppressed hearers not to resist evil. His entire ministry is at odds with such a preposterous idea. He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition.
A proper translation of Jesus’ teaching would then be, “Do not retaliate against violence with violence.” Jesus was no less committed to opposing evil than the anti-Roman resistance fighters like Barabbas. The only difference was over the means to be used.
This, certainly, would help the pacifist reading of this passage – although it would not make the case of course. It would help the pacifist cause because in order to take this passage as a call to pacifism – the rejection of force against all adversaries in all circumstances, it would have to be a passage telling people how to behave in all circumstances. Clearly, offering no resistance to evildoers in any circumstances is at odds with the pacifist principle of non-violent resistance. Wink thus seeks to resolve this tension by saying that Jesus wasn’t speaking against resistance generally, because the word specifically means violent resistance or revolution. Wink emphasizes this elsewhere:
[The translation is] not wrong – the word antistenai – anti means “against” and stenai means “stand” – means to stand against somebody or offer resistance. But what was overlooked by the translators is that antistenai is a technical term for “warfare.” It refers to the marching up of two armies in solid ranks until they collide in this deafening cacophony of steel against steel, and they suddenly stand there and disembowel each other until one side has had all it can take and they break and run. Antistenai is the word that describes that bloody encounter.
However, this claim is not correct and is fairly easily falsified by the evidence. This Greek word (antistenai) really does just mean to resist or stand against in the general sense. True, a violent confrontation would be an instance of such resistance, but the claim that this word specifies violence and is a technical term for warfare is not true, which is why the translators consistently do not translate it that way in Matthew 5. A number of examples of this word’s usage in the New Testament readily confirm this. Here are a few:
And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.
Here the word is translated as “withstand.” In context this clearly means that the men who opposed Stephen were unable to verbally refute what Stephen was saying. This was not the “bloody affair” that Wink claims is indicated by this word.
When they [Barnabas and Saul] had gone through the whole island as far as Paphos, they came upon a certain magician, a Jewish false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, a man of intelligence, who summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
Here a man is ideologically opposed to these Christian missionaries, and this opposition is expressed with the same word used in Matthew 5. Elymas did not violently attack or engage in war against Paul and Barnabas.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
Here Paul is recalling his confrontation with Peter about his partisan behaviour towards Gentiles when fellow Jews were around. While we might not have a word for word account of everything that transpired, the deafening cacophony of clashing steel and the disembowelling of poor Peter is unlikely to be what Paul means. This was a verbal confrontation.
I won’t cite more examples. The above is enough to show that Wink’s claim is not correct. The Greek term used for “resist” in Matthew 5 is not a “technical term for warfare.” The word occurs twelve times in the New Testament including Matthew 5, and not one of those is a reference to physical force of any sort, let alone warfare.
If the instruction applies to all possible contexts (i.e. its scope is universal), then it means that people should never offer any resistance of any kind to any evildoer, which is clearly not what most pacifists believe. This leaves the Christian pacifist with two options when it comes to Matthew 5. They can take it as a condemnation of all forms of resistance, whether violent or not, or they can grant that there is a context to Matthew 5 that is less than universal in scope, thereby surrendering the claim that this passage must militate against the views of Christians who think that war may be acceptable under some conditions. I propose the latter option for two reasons: Firstly, Jesus resisted people who did evil in one form or another, an observation that I take to be fairly uncontroversial. The clearing of the temple is a well-worn example, and there are numerous examples of verbal confrontation on Jesus’ part. Hence it is unlikely that he would also tell people that there is never a time where resistance against evil is appropriate. This suggests that the prohibition here is intended to apply to a specific type of context. Secondly, as we saw above when discussing the lex talionis, the context of this saying is one of personal interaction in response to wrongs done against you (i.e. the sorts of conditions under which one might think that the lex applies), and the examples that follow show us what was meant by not offering resistance to the evildoer. They provide the scope of the sorts of interactions that Jesus is drawing attention to, and they also tell us who is meant by the term “evildoer” in this context.
But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
The three examples of non-resistance that Jesus offers are meant to serve the same purpose – to illustrate what it looks like to not resist the evil one in the sense that Jesus intended. Let’s start with the striking of the cheek.
Turn the other cheek.
The specific language, not of beating or injuring a person but striking them on the cheek, is a reference to a demeaning gesture, not to the kind of assault that could plausibly require forceful self-defence. In 1 Kings chapter 22, the King of Israel gathered his false prophets before him to reassure him of victory in his approaching battle with Syria. One of those false prophets, Zedekiah, proclaimed that he would push the enemy back and destroy them. However, Micaiah, a prophet of God, arrived and announced that God had sent the King prophets – false prophets – to deceive the King so that he would rush out to battle and be defeated. “The Lord has declared disaster for you,” he proclaimed. Then comes verse 24: “Then Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah came near and struck Micaiah on the cheek and said, ‘How did the Spirit of the Lord go from me to speak to you?’ ” The King has Micaiah seized and thrown in prison. Zedekiah was not attacking Micaiah or trying to injure him. He was showing him contempt, acting in the King’s presence as though Micaiah was a charlatan.
Perhaps a much clearer example appears in Lamentations 3 as the writer is describing the way that a suffering person waits for the Lord’s deliverance. Verse 30 reads: “let him give his cheek to the one who strikes, and let him be filled with insults.” Here is a device in Hebrew verse called a parallelism, where the same idea is expressed twice in two different ways. Having one’s cheek struck is set in parallel with being insulted, indicating that a strike specifically to the cheek is seen primarily as an insult.
As a number of commentators have, Herman Ridderbos draws attention to the significance that Jesus refers to the right cheek first:
Jesus specifically mentions the right here, even though a blow from a right-handed person would normally fall on the left cheek. This probably means that the blow is delivered with the back of the hand, since then it would indeed fall on the right cheek. We know for certain that such a blow was considered particularly insulting. The injustice that is willingly accepted here is therefore not so much a matter of body injury as of shame.
H. N. Ridderbos. Matthew: Bible Students Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 113.
The left hand would not have been used here. Right-handedness was the norm, with the notable exception of the tribe of Benjamin, and a number of people have noted the association of the left hand with unclean acts (e.g. washing after defecating). To strike the right cheek was therefore to use a backhanded slap with the right hand, as Ridderbos noted. It is a slight against the other person, demeaning their status and shaming them. But what is the significance of the response – turning the left cheek to the person who has demeaned you?
Some have said that by turning the left cheek to the superior, one is simply making it practically difficult for them to slap, since you can’t easily hit the left cheek with the back of your right hand. I go further. You can’t backhand the left cheek, but you can punch it with the right fist. Here the insulted person would be saying. “You’ve insulted me. Now are you going to beat me too?” The presumed answer among people who care deeply about their own honour and status would be “No, of course not.” To do that would be to make it obvious just how evil their attitude towards you really is. People – even people who treated others with contempt at times – were not morally dead, and a response like this would (hopefully) stir them from their moral slumber. It would bring shame upon them, to publicly beat an oppressed person. Rather than seeking redress (i.e. according to the principle of eye for eye), Jesus’ follower who finds himself in these circumstances uses them to expose the unjust treatment dealt out by the respectable members of society. Others have taken the gesture to simply mean “try again – you have failed to put me in my place, and I am not insulted.”
Wink also took the turning of the cheek as a (perhaps purely rhetorical) invitation to punch the other side, as I (tentatively) do. However, he took this to mean that the aggressor is being called to treat the other as an equal:
Notice Jesus’ audience: “If anyone strikes you.” These are people used to being thus degraded. He is saying to them, “Refuse to accept this kind of treatment anymore. If they backhand you, turn the other cheek.” (Now you really need to physically enact this to see the problem.) By turning the cheek, the servant makes it impossible for the master to use the backhand again: his nose is in the way. And anyway, it’s like telling a joke twice; if it didn’t work the first time, it simply won’t work. The left cheek now offers a perfect target for a blow with the right fist; but only equals fought with fists, as we know from Jewish sources, and the last thing the master wishes to do is to establish this underling’s equality. This act of defiance renders the master incapable of asserting his dominance in this relationship. He can have the slave beaten, but he can no longer cow him.
By turning the cheek, then, the “inferior” is saying: “I’m a human being, just like you. I refuse to be humiliated any longer. I am your equal. I am a child of God. I won’t take it anymore.”
What Jesus is calling people to do then, in this view, is to assert themselves and their status. I have a couple of reasons for doubting this. Firstly, it is very far from obvious that to beat a person with the fists (not spar, as in a boxing match) is to treat them as an equal. Wink does not name any Jewish sources and I am unable to find any to support this contention. Certainly the members of the prestigious Sanhedrin would have regarded Jesus as an inferior, yet that most Jewish Gospel, Matthew, notes (26:67) that “they spit in his [Jesus’] face and struck him. And some slapped him.” Slapping is here distinguished from the striking method that was used by some, and the Greek word used for “struck,” ekolaphisan, specifically refers to a blow with a closed first. More importantly, in context (especially in light of the two examples that follow), it is highly unlikely that Jesus is really calling people to assert themselves, as I think the reader will appreciate shortly.
I maintain, then, that Jesus really is saying: When the one who does evil to you – in this case someone who presumes to be a social superior – slaps you, insulting and demeaning you, turn them the other cheek as well, which they will have to hit with their fist if they hit it at all. However, it is important to note what I take to be the cultural assumption being made here: That the person who strikes your right cheek is someone who is concerned with status and honour, and that in offering them your left cheek, your assumption is that they will not launch into a physical attack on you.
Let them have your cloak as well.
The second example is even more clearly associated with the lex talionis, as it involves one person suing another. But why would anybody sue you and take your tunic? Surely if somebody is suing you for recompense, they want money (or perhaps a replacement for something you broke). The reference to taking a person to court for their tunic is drawn from the Torah, in Exodus 22:25-27.
If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. If ever you take your neighbour’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
Here, a poor person has borrowed money and given their cloak as collateral. Why their cloak? Because they have no other possessions. Even when they give their cloak as collateral, the lender must return it to them at night – after all, it’s all they have, and they need it to keep warm. Here, the cloak is held as more of a token gesture than anything else. It’s not worth a lot, but merely signifies the existence of the debt. Here’s the rub: When a person defaults on a loan, the lender has the legal right to sue them for the collateral and keep it to defray their loss. But just imagine a lender in the above scenario who decided to sue this poor person for their cloak. Would they really be living out the intention of the Torah here? Clearly not. This would be a moral outrage, an inexcusable mistreatment of somebody with no means of their own.
Now Jesus’ reference to a person being sued for their tunic makes sense. In the Torah the cloak refers to the outer garment, whereas in Matthew 5 the word translated “tunic” appears to serve that role. If someone is suing you for your outer garment, they are rich and you are poor. They are a lender and you have nothing. You are in their debt and no way of redeeming yourself. As in the previous case, there is a serious imbalance in the status of the two parties. What should the poor person do in this situation? As in the previous example – shame them. The other person has behaved inexcusably towards you and there’s no resistance you can offer. You’re powerless, resourceless, exposed and absolutely weak in this scenario. The powerful person is doing what gives rise to our English expression, to “take the very shirt off someone’s back.” In the previous example the victim was to offer the abuser the opportunity to go over and above what any honour-conscious person would consider, for the sake of shocking them into realising the nature of their actions. The same applies here: Give them your undergarment as well. What was left? Nothing – or at least nothing worth speaking of (if anything). Public nakedness was equated with shame in the culture into which Jesus was speaking – it was shameful for one adult to just look at a naked adult other than their spouse (as in the story of Noah in Genesis 9:20-27). You would be graphically showing them the shameful, unjust nature of their actions. Although not a common gesture, I know of a case where a man who felt oppressed by a government agency charged into their office and literally threw his shirt at them, exposing himself as he cried – “Why don’t you just take the bloody shirt off my back!” This is what is happening here. It is not a gesture of loving generosity as some imagine it to be (not that there’s anything wrong with generosity of course!), but a desperate act of exposing unbearable injustice in the only way that one is able.
Go with him two miles.
Why would anybody force you to go with them for a mile? Are people that desperate for friends?
Judea was an occupied territory, dragged kicking and screaming into the Roman Empire. If you were a Jew who didn’t like it, that was frankly too bad. There was nothing you could do about it, and violent resistance was not only futile, it was downright suicidal. The Jewish attempt at revolt in AD 66 led to an unspeakable slaughter of Jews, leading up to the utter destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in AD 70. Along main Roman roads are mile markers. A standard Roman mile was a distance slightly less than the modern mile. It was supposed to represent the distance covered with one thousand paces, and was about 1,479 metres (4854 feet) long. According to Roman law, a Roman soldier could require a local civilian in an occupied town to relieve him by carrying his pack for the distance from one marker to the next – but for no further than that.
This provides the historical background to Jesus’ instruction. Again, it is a situation of power imbalance. You couldn’t resist the Roman Army, no matter how put out you were. For a Jewish peasant, having to walk a mile carrying a load on your back from where you were presumably toiling to make a living and then having to walk back again was no small inconvenience. According to Roman law – to the rules of the oppressing power – he had the right to take your time and energy. Very convenient for Rome, but manifestly unfair to those on the receiving end. They didn’t even want the Romans occupying them, let alone making them carry heavy loads. If a solider of the occupying Roman army commands you to carry his pack for one mile, go further. He wasn’t entitled to require you to go further – just like the person had no right to hit your other cheek, and the lender had no right to take all your clothes. This is the pattern – get the wrongdoer (the one who is evil, as Jesus puts it) to see that they are doing wrong by lowering yourself to the very bottom. “Fine – why don’t you just treat me like a slave!” Yet again, the assumption is that the oppressor will not do what you are allowing him to do because he knows he has no right to do it (and in this case he may get into trouble for doing it).
What all three of these scenarios have in common is that they are instances of a person abusing power over the powerless, and the powerless literally has no way out of the situation. The use of force would either land them legal trouble or get them killed. They had no legal comeback, and it is doubtful that the oppressor would simply have listened to a polite request (although in some cases, who knows?). In those circumstances, the appropriate response is to lower oneself in such a way as to vividly demonstrate the abuse that is taking place, shaming the one who is perpetuating it. It’s important to note what they are not: Scenarios where a person is in physical danger, being violently attacked. It would be unconscionable for Jesus to have said that those who are the victims of physical abuse should simply acquiesce, and allow the abuse to continue.
A direct consequence of this observation means that it is not legitimate to take this cluster of commands – including the widely quoted “turn the other cheek” – as a moral prohibition on the use of force under all circumstances, because it is clear that not all circumstances are like the ones Jesus has in mind. What, for example, do these moral appeals call us to do if we are in a position of seeing people viciously beaten, clearly about to lose their lives, and we have the ability to forcefully intervene to save them? Nothing, as it turns out. That is a set of circumstances entirely unlike the ones described here. In that situation, we are not powerless, the offence is not merely one of demeaning others or exploiting a social power imbalance but of serious physical harm where an immediate response is called for, and the lex talionis has nothing whatsoever to do with it (we are not talking about a wrong that was done to me for which I might seek redress, but rather the defence of helpless victims from a likely untimely death).
For these reasons, it is not legitimate to appeal to the instruction to “turn the other cheek” as a justification for moral condemnation of the use of all force against others (“violence,” as pacifists prefer to call it). Those Christians who do use force to defend others should not – on the basis of Matthew 5:38-43 at least – be accused of being disloyal or disobedient to Jesus.