I think the text means exactly what it says, but with an understood reservation in favour of those obviously exceptional cases which every hearer would naturally assume to be exceptions without being told…That is insofar as the only relevant factors in the case are an injury to me by my neighbour and a desire on my part to retaliate, then I hold that Christianity commands the absolute mortification of that desire.  No quarter whatever is given to the voice within us which says, “He’s done it to me, so I’ll do the same to him.”

Perhaps people who use Scripture to contend that we should never defend ourselves from or protest foul treatment should call themselves passi-thiests.  Their doctrine, which isn’t biblically supported, fosters a passive and victimizing approach toward life, for themselves and for others (remember Jesus’ statement about children and millstones?).

On October 2, 2006, Charles Carl Roberts IV, a milk-truck driver, entered the one-room West Nickel Mines School in Bart Township, Pennsylvania, with a handgun, a shotgun, a bolt-action rifle, about six hundred rounds of ammunition, cans of black powder, a stun gun, two knives, a change of clothes, and a box containing a hammer, hacksaw, pliers, wire, screws, bolts, and tape.  He barricaded the school doors before binding the Amish hostages’ arms and legs.  He ordered them to line up against the chalkboard and released the fifteen male students, along with a pregnant woman and three parents with infants.  The remaining ten female students he kept inside.  The teacher contacted the police upon escaping by using a neighbor’s phone; the first officers arrived within ten minutes and tried unsuccessfully to communicate with Roberts.

Police broke through the windows when shots were heard.  The gunman apparently killed five girls and himself.  Three of the girls died at the scene, two more the next morning from related injuries.  They were shot execution-style, in the head.  Their ages ranged from six to thirteen.  It’s likely more would have been killed if not for the bravery of the police, who thankfully possessed and used lethal force.  Praise God that this calamity wasn’t even worse.

How can a person abhor the use of deadly force in his own hands but not hesitate to call 9-1-1 in order to bring deadly force to the door when needed?  If someone believes it’s morally reprehensible to use deadly force, why is it not sinful either to have it used on his own behalf or to have it used for others at his behest?  Such thinking reminds me of legalistic people who will not work on Sunday but who go after Sunday service to restaurants where an entire crew works to feed them.  If it’s wrong to work on the Sabbath, why make others work?  It’s wrong to perpetuate transgression, just as it’s wrong to transgress.

Self-defense and proper self-regard do not equate retaliation.  They do not represent eye for eye, tooth for tooth.  Their aim is not revenge but rather to keep boundaries established and clear, and when possible to protect from harm.  Many of the Ten Commandments are based upon the foundational premise that sin between humans has at its base the violation of one by another.  If one does not hold firmly to right boundaries, one facilitates sin and its subsequent horrors.

Who even talks about moral courage today?  Spiritual growth, especially courage, is fed by what we do in community.  It’s faith in action, discernable by others and yourself.  Remember, the Bible says the righteous are as bold as lions; right now, we think the righteous are as soft as marshmallows.  I’m going with the Word; I hope you do too.

And I hope you agree by now that standing up to the injustice of bullying is the Christian thing to do.  People of a faith that promotes justice for all must take the lead tackling mistreatment—in this case, school-based abuse. 


Paul Coughlin is the author of numerous books, including No More Christian Nice Guy and No More Jellyfish, Chickens or Wimps. He also co-authored a book for married couples with his wife Sandy, titled Married But Not Engaged. His articles appear in Focus on the Family magazine, and he as been interviewed by Dr. James Dobson, FamilyLife Radio, HomeWord, Newsweek, C-SPAN, The New York Times, and the 700 Club among others. Paul is founder of The Protectors, the faith-based answer to adolescent bullying, which provides curriculum for Sunday Schools, private schools, retreats, and individuals that trains people of faith to be sources of light in the theater of bullying. 

Visit Paul's websites at: http://www.theprotectors.org, and http://www.paulcoughlin.net

Visit Sandy's website for reluctant entertainers at: http://www.reluctantentertainer.com