A parent contacted me recently, asking about what to tell her sons who are being bullied at school, should she tell them to defend themselves, or to follow Jesus saying, “turn the other cheek”?
Have you ever confronted that question? This is what I shared with her:
One of the reasons God instituted authority is to protect people from evildoers (see Romans 13), so as a parent you are justified in intervening and/or demanding that the school intervene if this happens when your sons are within their oversight.
But what about turning the other cheek? It seems to me that what Jesus is addressing is the accepted practice of taking revenge: “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” and declaring that the Kingdom way is different.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
I don't see that Jesus is herein issuing tactical instructions on what to do while someone is beating me to a pulp. If I have to offer my other cheek to the one who smote me, this is not an ongoing beating. Reading Jesus words, the picture I see is someone slapping my face. So, Jesus is telling me to forget about getting back at the person who insulted/degraded me, and prescribing that I follow his own footsteps, “when he was reviled, he reviled not again…but trusted in the One who judgeth justly.”
One reason God made men strong is to defend the defenseless (see Proverbs 30). When our boys were young we faced this situation too, and I taught our young sons
a) the righteous purpose of a man’s strength: to help women, the weak, and the oppressed.
b) HOW TO use their strength to fight.
c) that it’s no shame to try your best and lose a fight.
d) the sinfulness of using their strength to pick on someone else.
e) to defend themselves and their brothers and sisters if attacked.
In consequence, after just a few conflicts, the bullies went looking for greener pastures. Experience teaches that, in general, standing up forcefully to a bully -- win or lose -- persuades the bully to find someone easier to bully. Jesus teaches, that his followers are to eschew revenge: "avenge not yourselves of evil, as it is written, 'vengance is mine,' saith the Lord, 'I will repay.'" But, the Bible does NOT teach that we may not defend ourselves, our dominion, or others, so there is no Biblical imperative for your son to be a punching bag for a bully.