Retaliation

Should a Christian retaliate?
We should show the world that Christians are different through non-retaliation

(Mat 5:39-47 NIV) But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. {40} And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. {41} If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. {42} Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. {43} "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, {45} that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. {46} If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? {47} And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

(Rom 12:20-21 NIV) On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." {21} Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

When we do not retaliate, we make our enemies feel bad. We are not doing so as an indirect way of getting back at them but rather by making them feel bad, we show how different a Christian can be.

Avoid retaliation as far as possible

Genesis 26:19­22 (NIV) Isaac's servants dug in the valley and discovered a well of fresh water there. 20 But the herdsmen of Gerar quarrelled with Isaac's herdsmen and said, "The water is ours!" So he named the well Esek, because they disputed with him. 21 Then they dug another well, but they quarrelled over that one also; so he named it Sitnah. 22 He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarrelled over it. He named it Rehoboth, saying, "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land."

We must leave vengeance to the Lord.

(Rom 12:19 NIV) Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.

The Bible recognizes that it is not always possible to leave at peace with people.

(Rom 12:18 NIV) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

To imagine that the only option given to Christians is peace is to deny the validity of church discipline and civil justice. Peace is never maintained by giving in to all the demands of evil.

We can retaliate only as the last resort

The Christian should try his best to be at peace with everyone.

(Rom 12:18 NIV) If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

We have to exhaust all possible avenues of peace before we retaliate.

We can retaliate if that is the only way to enforce God's commandment

(Acts 5:28-29 NIV) "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said. "Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man's blood." {29} Peter and the other apostles replied: "We must obey God rather than men!

What should we do when someone will not live at peace with us?
Bring the matter to the church

If a fellow believer is doing the evil, we should take the issue to the church for discipline of that sinning member.

The church should decide on whether a believer has done wrong to another believer.

(1 Cor 6:1-6 NIV) If any of you has a dispute with another, dare he take it before the ungodly for judgment instead of before the saints? {2} Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? {3} Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life! {4} Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! {5} I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? {6} But instead, one brother goes to law against another--and this in front of unbelievers!

Punishment is meted out on the believer if he refuses to change his ways.

(Mat 18:15-17 NIV) "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. {16} But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' {17} If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

Bring the matter to the state

If the offender is an unbeliever, we should appeal to the state for justice. (Rom 13:1-7)

This is what Paul did when confronted by a murder plot. He did not hesitate to seek the protection of the state when his life was in danger. (Acts 23:12-35) He knew that while personal insults could be endured by taking the way of peace, when lives are threatened, the way of peace has to give way to the way of justice.

The state's power to retaliate

God gave certain rights to the church that He denies to individuals.

For example, while an individual is told that he should not use violence to resolve conflicts with others (Rom 12:19), God has given the state the responsibility of using violence (the sword) to punish wrongdoers.

(Rom 13:1-4 NIV) Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. {2} Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. {3} For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. {4} For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.

Self defense

Jesus told His disciples to buy weapons to protect themselves.

(Luke 22:36-38 NIV) He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. {37} It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors' ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." {38} The disciples said, "See, Lord, here are two swords." "That is enough," he replied.

After Peter cut off the Roman soldier's ear, Jesus did not tell him to throw away the sword but to put it back in its sheath. Obviously there are other occasions when the use of that sword would be appropriate.

(John 18:11 NIV) Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?"

Jesus said that He could call upon legions of angels to defend Him if He chose to.

(Mat 26:53 NIV) Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?