Participation in another thread brought up this question, but I think the response I posted there was not entirely relevant. So I’m starting this thread - feel free to jump in. Why did David kill many of his enemies (not all! - he showed mercy to some interesting individuals) while Jesus said turn the other cheek? As Christians how should we relate to our enemies?
I think one important thing to realize is that King David lived in a very different world and at a time when God was working in a different way. God intended to raise David up as a King over Israel and God had commanded the Israelites to put an end to the wicked nations that surrounded them. So David was God’s King in a feudal society surrounded by violent tribal authorities that were under God’s judgment.
We, on the other hand, live in a world where God has called the Church to follow Jesus on the road to the cross. Our victory is through the testimony of Christ and we are not seeking to establish a kingdom on earth. Jesus specifically said “my Kingdom is not of this world”. As followers of God, we need to understand how God is at work in the times in which we live.
That said, the Bible leaves room for governments to punish evil men and to exact justice. As individuals, we are not meant to seek revenge. But even if governments are given authority by God to bring about justice, should Christians be involved in that process? Now we get into differences of opinion.
Here is an article from Christianity Today on five views of war:
And here are just two perspectives on war with articles to delve deeper. What are your thoughts?
Just War Theory
Here are some articles / quotes defending just war theory perspective - the idea that if we must stand up against injustice with force if necessary.
“We have been given several exceptions justifying the reluctant (albeit necessary) use of deadly force. If we exercise one of these exceptions, however, we had better make sure that we are responding to sin, rather than being yet another source of sin.” J. Warner Wallace
"So the problem is not that it looks as though Jesus is telling us to let evil steam-roll over us. The problem is that it looks like Jesus is telling us that the only way we should ever seek to overcome evil is by letting it go and responding with kindness. It looks as though he leaves no place for using force in resisting evil.
Part of the answer to this difficulty lies in understanding the hyperbolic nature of much of the Sermon on the Mount. I don’t think that Jesus is telling us never to respond to evil with force (such as in self-defense) or always to literally turn the other cheek when we are slapped any more than his command later in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:6 means that we should only pray when we are completely alone or his command in 5:29 means that some should literally gouge out their eyes. Jesus himself drove the thieves away from the temple with a whip ([John 2:15]) and Paul at times insisted on his rights as a Roman citizen ([Acts 25:11]; cf. also the interesting instance of 16:35-40). Jesus is using hyperbole to illustrate what our primary disposition and attitude should be, not to say that we should literally give in to every attempt to do evil against us. That is part of the answer.
The main part of the answer, however, lies in remembering that Jesus is speaking primarily to individuals. He is not mainly addressing governments here, but is primarily speaking at the personal level. This text, then, shows that an individual’s primary response to evil should be to “turn the other cheek,” while the other texts we have seen (e.g., [Romans 13:3-4]) show that government’s God-given responsibility is to punish those who commit civil crimes (murder, terrorism, acts of war, etc.). While it is sometimes appropriate even for individuals to use self-defense, it is never appropriate for individuals to seek to punish others. But it is right, however, for governments both to take measures of self-defense and to execute retribution.
There are, in other words, various “spheres” of life. God has willed that some spheres include responsibilities that are not necessarily included in other spheres. Personally, it would be wrong for us to execute retribution on people who harm us. But passages like [Romans 13:3-4] and [John 18:36] show that Jesus is not denying governments the right to execute retribution on evildoers. Therefore, when a Christian is under the authority of the government and authorized to fight in a just war on the nation’s behalf, it is appropriate for him to fight. For he is not fighting as a private individual, but as a representative of the government to which God has given the power of the sword." John Piper
This website has various theological perspectives on why nonviolence is the right answer. I have included the one that I found most convincing. It specifically addresses how just war theory, while helpful for wider society, is (in their opinion) not in keeping with the call to be a disciple of Jesus.
Lisa Sowle Cahill (1948- )
Key Work: Love Your Enemies: Discipleship, Pacifism, and Just War Theory (1994)
"Lisa Sowle Cahill is the J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology at Boston College. A Catholic moral theologian, Cahill has written widely on contemporary social issues, especially bioethics and the ethics of sex and gender, having served as president of both the Society of Christian Ethics and the Catholic Theological Society of America.
In Love Your Enemies , Cahill traces the historical development of Christian pacifism and just war theory, arguing that these two traditions operate according to different logics. While Christian pacifism and just war theory both wrestle with the “problem of reconciling Christian discipleship with public responsibility” and share a presumption against violence, Cahill argues that just war theory tends to function according to a rules-based approach, and its advocates sometimes accuse pacifists of refusing to make any exceptions to the rule against taking life. In Cahill’s account, however, pacifism is not based on rules but on “the simple conviction that violence is just not consistent with the sort of person Jesus is or the life he lived, a life the discipleship community shares.” As with the Trocmés and Stringfellow, so too for Cahill, “the nonviolence of the kingdom of Jesus is not presented in the Bible as an absolute ethical system, but as a calling, as conversion, and even as beatitude.” While just war theory may have some usefulness in guiding wider society, concedes Cahill, nonviolence is the natural outflowing of an alternative Christian society with communal practices of mercy, compassion, and empathy."