Do you know who is the strongest person who ever lived? Jesus Christ. He was frequently in volatile environments and situations of extreme pressure, but He always kept His composure and was in control.
As I read the Gospel accounts, I see that Jesus always operated from a position of love, wisdom, and self-control. This is the essence of true strength.
Walk the Second Mile
Jesus said in Matthew 5:41― If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
I wondered why He said this. I discovered that Roman soldiers had to walk almost everywhere they went, carrying heavy packs. Roman law allowed military personnel to command those who were not Roman citizens to carry their equipment a prescribed distance―one Roman “mile.” But having reached the milestone, the civilian had no further obligation.
When a Roman soldier made them go one mile, the Roman was controlling them. But when they said, “Okay Roman, you made me go one mile, now I willingly choose to carry your gear one more mile,” they were saying, “I choose to show love by carrying your gear another mile.” This demonstrates how to be the master of the situation―not the victim.
Turning the Other Cheek
Matthew 5:38-40 reads― You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
I always struggled with this verse. It went contrary to what came natural to me―and just about everyone else I know. Unprovoked insult or injury instantly prompts our retaliation.
An interesting aspect of this Scripture is the fact that the right cheek is specified. Since most people are righthanded, the only way they can strike someone on the right cheek is with the back of their hand. That is the classical insult or challenge: a backhanded slap on the face. The strike on the right cheek was a most grievous insult in the ancient world. The prophet Micaiah was struck on the cheek by a false prophet (1 Kings 22:24). The ultimate example, however, is Jesus Christ (Isaiah 50:6).
The Lord is saying to us, “I want you to walk in love and forgiveness, not hatred, revenge, bitterness, and retaliation. I want you to walk in discipline, and not be out of control. I do not want you to be a victim, nor do I want you victimizing others.”
Passive, Aggressive, Assertive
God’s Word does not teach us to be passive or aggressive, but to be assertive. For example, when Saul threw the spear at him, David was not passive―he did not just sit there. Nor was he aggressive. He did not throw it back. He was assertive―he moved to avoid being hit.
Likewise, when the Jews sought to throw Jesus off a cliff, He did not passively allow them to do so. Nor did He aggressively try to defend Himself or take some of them with Him. He assertively walked right through the crowd and went His way (Luke 4:29,30).
The magistrates in Acts 16:22,23 ordered Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown into prison. They sent their officers the next day to release them, but Paul and Silas did not passively and quietly leave. Nor did they aggressively retaliate and seek revenge. But they assertively insisted that since they as Roman citizens were publicly beaten without a trial, the magistrates themselves must come and escort them from the prison (35-39).
Whenever I am in a confrontation, being threatened, or in an intense or volatile situation, I always try to respond from a position of love, wisdom, and self-control. Then I believe I am following Jesus’ example, fulfilling His commandment of going the second mile and turning the other cheek, and am adhering to New Testament truth and principles.
Freedom to Choose
I strive to have the attitude that you cannot kill me, because I am already dead to self and alive in Christ. You cannot steal from me because I do not own anything―it is all the Lord’s anyway.
You can do whatever you want to me, but through the help of God’s Spirit, I can choose to show love, wisdom, and self-control. You can throw me in prison for my Christian witness and think you control me, but like Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25, I can still sing praises to the Lord. You can beat me and hate me, but I can still choose to love you. You can curse me and gossip about me, but I can pray for you.
You cannot control and victimize me because God’s Spirit is in control and enables me to respond the way He wants me to. He does not want us being enslaved by hate and revenge. He wants us to be in control―manifesting wisdom, love, and mercy.
I was speaking at an Arabic church to people from several Muslim countries. One Iraqi man who had acted as a translator for Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm told me that when the U.S. was so accurately hitting Iraqi targets, he was falsely accused of providing secret information to the Allies. While he was being beaten, his attackers stopped when they noticed that he was smiling. He shared with them how he was blessed to suffer for Christ. After the war, he and his pregnant wife fled Iraq to Jordan then came to America.
The preceding was excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, Self Defense from a Biblical Perspective.