Questions From Readers
● Jesus said: “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other also to him.” How does this harmonize with the right of self-defense that Jehovah’s witnesses believe in?—K. K., United States.
Jesus did not say if someone hit you with a club or with a clenched fist you should allow him to strike you again. If an attacker wants to hurt you physically he uses a weapon or at least doubles up his fist when he hits you. On the other hand, if he wants to insult or humiliate you or provoke you into a fight he may slap you with his open hand. A slap is not an attack with intent to injure or kill, but is to insult the one struck. Such personal insults or attempts to provoke one into a fight should not stir the Christian to retaliate. If the blow is struck and the striker then waits to see the result, the Christian will not retaliate and thus be drawn into a brawl.
However, this refusal to pay back insult for insult does not mean Christians are to be pacifists or that they must never resort to self-defense. Christ Jesus himself will go forth to fight Jehovah’s battle of Armageddon, at the head of heavenly armies. Christians resurrected as spirit creatures will serve with him in that war. In ancient times Jehovah’s people fought at his direction and with his help. Today Christians rightfully defend the Kingdom interests, their meeting places, their right to assemble, their property, their brothers and sisters and their own persons. They do not arm in advance, in anticipation of trouble. But when attacked they may ward off blows and strike in defense, though not in offense. If attacked on public property they will call on officers of the law or withdraw, if possible, but in their homes or at their meeting places they need not retreat. They have Scriptural and legal rights to take defensive action. They are not thereby violating Jesus’ words at Matthew 5:39, for those words pertain to personal insults, not to attacks designed to do serious physical damage to one’s person.