Jesus did not encourage domestic violence or other abuses when advising us to love our enemies or turn the other cheek. God doesn’t desire those who seek to follow Him to live in guilt because of any confusion regarding His ways. The Bible surely is not advocating a spouse continue to allow their partner to beat them or that soldiers cannot protect themselves in times of war. War with your enemies may be necessary to either protect yourself or others abused by evil dictators. But, there may be times when evil can be overcome with good than guns.
What did Jesus mean when He said: If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek; if someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt (Mt. 5:38-48, Luke 6:27-36). Jesus was not advocating nudity but perhaps illustrating the ridiculousness or cruelty of people’s ways. An “eye for eye” helped protect the weaker from further revenge being justified. But, the law can only protect but not change hearts. The law can condemn adultery but lust is a form of betrayal as well. The law cannot speak to forgiveness or showing mercy.
Jesus defended Himself rather than turned the other cheek when slapped by an official (Jn. 18:23). Would Jesus say Paul was wrong to escape from harm to protect himself (Acts 9:29-30)? Paul advised if possible live at peace with others, suggesting we can’t always leave in peace. (Rm. 12:18). Jesus was not suggesting passivity but actually provoking possible ways to avoid continued violence. Restraining can sometimes lead to less violence as violence breeds more violence. An attitude of going the extra mile is responding in less human ways. Actions often speak louder than words in responding to a wrong.
It is natural and appropriate to seek vindication from enemies (i.e. Rev 6:10-11). It is supernatural to show grace and forgiveness to those who seek it. Compensation is often impossible. Reputations that have been stolen for a time cannot be returned or childhood memories erased. We can pray for our enemies by hoping they seek forgiveness rather than continue to harm others. Jesus simply was saying there are times to show mercy than seek justice. There are times to not demand being treated as we want to be treated.
The Bible is not contradictory when it says to love your enemies but have nothing to do with divisive people (Titus 3:10). Uh, our enemies may have a touch of divisiveness in them from time to time. Jesus obviously had certain circumstances in mind when He encouraged loving your enemies. The Bible often warns followers to confront one another morally and withdraw fellowship if necessary in hopes this leads to change. But, our enemies may not have tasted or understand Jesus’ life changing message. We may only convince others of our Creator’s love by demonstrating God’s unimaginable love toward us.
We must use our brains and not feel guilty when we must protect ourselves physically or emotionally. Jesus expected us to use common sense in difficult relationship situations. I may give a brief talk to parents about the radical idea that they must love their teenagers the way they wished their parents had loved them at that age despite all their crazy behaviors. We must choose our battles. I may not have addressed that parents must show tough love sometimes for the sake of change if drug use or bullying is involved. Allow God to tug at your heart. Seek the wisdom of others. Make the best current decision and have no regrets. God doesn’t want us always wondering if we did the right thing. Seek God’s help in showing radical, unimaginable love in hopes to impact the world for good as Jesus did.