We received the following question:
THIS PAST YEAR I HAVE BEEN FACED WITH TWO OPPOSING VIEWS ON THE TOPIC OF NON-RESISTANCE. I STAND IN NEED OF UNDERSTANDING THIS QUESTION. DO YOU KNOW OF A MORE BALANCED VIEW ON THIS TOPIC. CAN YOU HELP? THOUGH THE TOPIC MAY BE EXTENSIVE. ANY ENLIGHTENMENT WOULD PROBABLY HELP ME. THANKS
The question is very valid and very challenging and one not to be taken lightly.
It is a broad topic with implications at many levels of life.
If we choose to ignore the Old Testament (as many do) then the answer is even more difficult.
But if we consider the Old Testament (not to the exclusion of the New!) then we might gain some insights.
Assuming also that the events recorded in the Old Testament are not merely allegorical stories, but rather are historical facts with spiritual application, we consider that God delivered Israel out of Egypt with a mighty arm and an outstretched hand. It could be that this has a parallel in individual salvation - deliverance out of sin. But once Israel was delivered FROM Egypt, their life was NOT a trouble free, peaceful panacea. God had promised to "give" the land to Israel, and yet God told them (through Joshua) that they must go in and possess it. As they went in to possess the land, they were to drive out the enemy, and in some places we read that they were instructed to obliterate the enemy, leaving no survivors. Again, if that is entirely allegory, then that is not very helpful. But if it is historical fact, then there was definitely some killing going on, some "aggression" being exhibited, etc. - although it was never necessary to do so out of hatred, vengeance, etc. We read of MANY examples throughout the Old Testament historical books of Israel going out "to battle" - in a few cases they were allowed to just sit back and watch the marvelous deliverance of God without raising a finger in battle, but most of the time there WAS a battle and the Bible records x-thousand died in this battle and x-thousand died in that battle. And this was apparently not in contradiction to the "Law" since God was "in it", God gave assistance, etc.
Moving on to the New Testament, we find that there are people today who believe that we are currently living in the millennial kingdom. Those who believe this are obviously attempting to make the "Sermon on the Mount", etc. the "rule of law" for today and they believe they are instrumental in bringing about the betterment of society so that it gets the world ready for Christ's return. I personally do not believe that line of thinking. I believe that Christ WILL return to the Mount of Olives one day and will establish an earthly kingdom over which He will reign. In the meantime, just as faithful Anna and Simeon awaited the first advent of the Christ and were blessed for so doing, likewise in this age WE are told "blessed are those who are found watching WHEN He returns" (He WILL return - Maranatha!)
It seems that we are to be salt and light - there are SO many ways in which this is to be evident in our lives. But not necessarily in the area of total non-resistance. Willing to be defrauded rather than retaliate, and not taking a BROTHER to court? Yes. Willing to turn the other cheek? Yes (Fruit of the Spirit includes longsuffering, temperance, meekness, patience). Willing to forgive when we are "wronged"? Yes. Praying for those who despitefully use us? Yes. We could certainly go on with other examples.
A believer's way of life is not one of aggression, of retaliation, of coveting and taking, of senseless, unkind treatment of others, etc., etc., etc. Yet, there SHALL be wars and rumors of wars, nations SHALL rise against nation. In the closer-to-home realm, the Good Samaritan is praised (and rightfully so) for his aiding a downed "enemy" - we do not know what the scenario would have been if he had come upon the robbers in the act of the robbery. Should he have let them finish their dirty deeds, or out of love, intervened for the protection of the "innocent" party? Not wanting to get into a situational ethics discussion here, we could possibly be missing the greater teaching and not realizing that there might be room for more than just an all-or-nothing stand. For example, the "law" declares an eye for an eye. Jesus' teachings, rather than being all about totally prohibiting resistance of any kind, seemed more to be teaching grace vs. law - the letter of the law kills, the spirit gives life. Perhaps that argument is hard to follow - sorry. Let me try another example: In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he speaks of husbands and wives. If one spouse is saved and the other is not, there is no REQUIREMENT that they split up - if the unsaved WILL NOT live with the saved person, then the saved person may have no choice!, but GIVEN a choice, the saved person could CHOOSE to remain! Another example - The law allows you to recover stolen property from the thief, and you have every legal right to do so. But whether you recover it or not, you have the option of forgiving the thief. Furthermore, the "Mosaic law" actually requires the thief to restore four-fold (or more). A Christian might well be content with the return of that which was stolen and deliberately NOT exert his "right" under the law to extract the punitive damages - an act of love, mercy and grace - in addition to basic restitution/(justice).
As much as lies within you live at peace with all men. That certainly is a challenge. Most men do not want to live at peace with us!
We can do good to, and for, those who are against us and still not let them kill us.
I hope the following example is a help and not a hindrance, but the U.S. bombed Japan in order to win a war against an imperial country that was determined to extend its kingdom. The bomb was dropped in order to win the war and to minimize the amount of lives that would have been lost in the future if things would have continued on. HOWEVER, following the victory, Japan did not become a colony of the U.S., Japanese people were not made slaves to the U.S., great amounts of aid - monetary, technology, humanitarian, etc. - were freely given to those who were our enemies - but we did not just let them destroy us. That may not be a good example, but it is an illustration nonetheless. Let's say you really don't like me - I mean you REALLY don't like me. You call me names. You insult me. You harass me. You flatten my tires. You're just plain mean - and it keeps getting worse. Every morning I say good morning to you (and I really mean it!). Although you don't know it, I pray for you every day. Every opportunity I can find, I do good to you - I hold the door open, I wipe the snow off your windshield before you come out of work, etc. But if you pull a gun on me, I won't help you pull the trigger. I could only hope to "resolve" the situation without anyone getting hurt. And if you went to jail for doing that (assuming I was still alive), I could continue to pray for you and to do good - to visit you in prison, to provide food to your wife and children, or whatever. But total non-resistance was not practiced. I can't think of any more specific Bible verses at this moment to support that position, but that's where my heart would be on the issue at a personal level. I suppose the same could be applied to a national level.
Another aspect of the Lord's teaching (I believe) is that the gospel does not go out by force! This is SO contrary to the jihad of Islam. Islam must MAKE the world Islam. But for the Christian, the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We cannot legislate or otherwise mandate Christianity (nor should we want to or attempt to). The world will not live peaceably just because we live peaceably. They can only live at peace with one another when they first come to be "at peace" with God.