Abuse and Submission

Abuse and Submission

… What’s Biblical and what’s intolerable?
First of a four part series.

One of the most common questions we receive by letter, e-mail and from callers on New Life Radio has to do with the tolerance of verbal and physical abuse within a home as well as with hostile people who persecute Christians.

Should we take a path of passivity or should we resist?

How do we reconcile victimization and abuse with submission within marriage?

What exactly does abuse mean?

When do we turn the other cheek?

Here is a question recently posed by an e-mailer and my response.

“Thank you for the detailed and thought-provoking response you provided for me, below.  Yes, exactly, you are right that I am focusing on the meaning of Jesus teaching on ‘turning the other cheek.’  It’s interesting to me that, in John 18:23, even Jesus himself doesn’t literally turn his other cheek after he is unjustly physically struck, but rather Jesus immediately verbally confronts the man who hit Jesus for no good reason.  It’s also interesting to me that Paul stands up for his personal rights very assertively and boldly in Acts 16:37, and Paul aggressively prevents himself from being physically harmed in three passages in Acts — namely in Acts 22:25 and Acts 23:1-3 and Acts 25:11.  From these passages in Acts (namely, Acts 16:37, Acts 22:25, Acts 23:1-3, and Acts 25:11), it seems like Paul felt very comfortable defending his own human rights, with an unwavering commitment to never let himself get unjustly harmed by anyone.

      In essence, it seems to me that Jesus and Paul set and maintained healthy boundaries with people in a variety of different circumstances and settings, demonstrating to me that Jesus’ command on ‘turning the other cheek’ must have meant that Christians should never return insult-for-insult or abuse-for-abuse, rather than a literal instruction for us to keep receiving mistreatment from people or to actually invite people to mistreat us even more….”  Bob

Hi Bob,

It seems as though the central question that you raise stems from trying to understand the concept of “turning the other cheek”.

Here are some thoughts in no particular order.

  1. Let us never forget that the gospels are a historical account of Jesus’ head on collision with the nation of Israel and their distortions of the Law.  Often, Christian New Testament readers think that all of the “you” verses in the gospels pertains to them.  Not always so.  Thus, we need to be careful what principles we draw from the gospels.  It was a transition from Israel being the light of the world to the Church becoming the light of the world.  Jesus fulfilled the Law and we are not to follow many parts of it literally, as Israel did.  The law was a tutor to lead Israel to Christ, for He was the end of the law to those who believe.


  1. The idea of contrasting the Law (eye for an eye) with a new plan was something radically different for the new emerging Church.  The Law for Israel within its borders consisted of civil, moral and ceremonial law for the nation of Israel.  Eye for an eye was literal as was stoning someone for immorality etc…  Today, the church does not practice Israel’s civil or ceremonial laws.


  1. Yes, Jesus, Paul and the other Apostles were verbally resistant toward persecution from Gentiles and Jews alike.  They verbally proclaimed the truth.  As you noted, they utilized the laws of the land (Roman) to appeal for protection.  Romans 13 tells us all to obey the laws of the land in which we reside as Christians (somewhere in the world other than in Israel).  Moreover, that the Gentile governments are for protection and have been placed there by God.  Our laws say that it is wrong to abuse others and that it is punishable by law.  I tell men and women to call 911 if their spouse is dangerous toward themselves or others.  When called, the police arrive and take them to jail or to a local hospital for evaluation.  The courts will punish domestic violence with jail time as well as restraining orders and court ordered anger management.

…to be continued.


Milan and Kay