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drone strikes and turning the other cheek

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Jesus, in Matthew 5:38-39 ESV)

"...for he [the civil ruler] is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer."  (Paul, in Romans 13:4)

Can we as Christians approve a drone strike which kills a terrorist while at the same time maintain the teaching of Jesus to "turn the other cheek"?    

This was a question I was asked the other day after church and what follows is my short answer.

National defense may be a complicated issue, but we need to beware of making a category mistake at the outset by confusing social ethics and personal ethics

All throughout the Bible we see the state (as ordained by God) is allowed to take actions of judgment (e.g. courts, military) where individual persons (or families) should not. To take the life of a murderer by the state (through the courts) is a case of criminal justice, but if individuals (or crowds, as in lynching) do this, it is another case of murderRevenge is not justice.  

In Jesus' day the Pharisees made the category mistake in the other direction: they had adopted a social ethic from Exodus 21 and Leviticus 24 (i.e., an "eye for an eye" for the courts) for their own personal ethic. As followers of Jesus, when we are insulted or maligned or sued we are not to have the same spirit or approach as criminal courts. 

Even common sense would dictate that though we as individuals might forgive others their offenses against us, and we might remit debts owed to us, yet we would not want our courts doing that.  We expect our courts and our government to uphold law, to protect civil liberties, and to defend our commonwealth from violent persons and states.    

One may disagree that our President that, in ordering the recent drone strike, he went about it the wrong way or without due consideration.  That may be the case and is freely debatable in a democracy.  But one cannot say that our nation in facing world terrorism has no right to do so and must turn the other cheek.



Melanie said…
I like reading your thoughts! Keep it up. Melanie
Unknown said…
Very well put. Thank you for taking the time to address this issue. Carla

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