It always seems to happen eventually. It finally happened for Keith, a friend of mine, and the results could have been devastating but turned more to the comical. Keith is a relatively new Christian. He's been saved for some time but just now really coming into his own as far as his walk with Christ. Years ago, while talking with him one day outside my house, we were interrupted rather rudely by someone demanding that we both hand over our money.
I knew the guy as a neighbor in the area, but Keith had no idea what was going on. "Friend of yours?" Keith asked nervously looking at me. I smiled and said, "I'll handle this." I just looked at the guy and said nothing. I'd heard this before, and I'd hear it again, but this was a first for Keith, so I wanted him to hear it all. You see, my neighbor is a devout atheist, and as much as I enjoy speaking about my faith in God, he enjoys mocking it whenever he gets the chance. As he gets no-where with me personally, he often inserts himself into conversations when I am in public and talking with others. Kinda rude and annoying, but I figure its a free country, and Keith needs to hear this.
My atheist neighbor, let's call him Joe-Bob, proceeded to quote the Bible where it says, "Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again." - Luke 6:30. Joe-Bob began to make all kinds of outrageous demands as well as asking for our wallets, keys to our cars, and everything we own. "If you're really a Christian, Jesus commands you to do these things in the Bible." I stopped him right there. I've tried talking with Joe-Bob before, but he's of the mind that no explanation is ever good enough, so I didn't even bother.
I called him by name and said, "If you want to take my wallet and money and everything I own, you are welcome to try, but know that I am going to be dialing 9-1-1 in the next 10 seconds telling them that someone is trying to rob me." That's when Joe-Bob went on a rant, saying how he knew it, we weren't really Christians, and that we were all (all two of us?) a bunch of hypocrites and on and on until I finally said, "5" and then "4" as I pulled out my cell phone and was actually going to dial 9-1-1 so he could yell into the microphone. He just started walking away after that waving his hands and muttering things I could not really understand.
Keith looks at me, "What was all that about?" I went straight to the point. "What do you think of what he said?" Keith doubted such words were even in the Bible, but I took him inside, opened a Bible, and there they were. Keith was rather speechless, as I imagine most Christians are when confronted by such lunacy. Let me pose the question to you now. How would you have explained what happened to Keith and the verse in the Bible?
Too often, we are tempted to simply dismiss the charges made by atheists without ever seeking the truth from God's Word because we are afraid the truth might be something we don't like. However, if we understand a few things about God up front, we need not fear. God is not the God of confusion or lunacy. If we are God's children, then we assume first of all that God's heart toward us is good. Second, from that perspective, when we hear or see something about God that doesn't sit quite right, then either our perceptions on the situation are incorrect, or our interpretations of events are incorrect. In the end, a righteous God does not sin, so we must try to align ourselves with God first.
I talked with Keith about the circumstances surrounding the passage when Christ uttered those words. Jesus was speaking to many groups and factions (Pharisees, Zealots to name two) of the Jews in the open air, in their land, during a time of Roman occupation. Rome was the law, and the Jews of that period were an occupied people under invasive Roman government control. Whatever the Romans wanted, they took, and for their part, the Jews saw the Romans as the enemy. Take a look at the middle-east today to see how well that culture tolerates any kind of occupying force!
To keep things simple, in Christ's directives in Luke 6: 27-36, Jesus starts out with "Love your enemies." Jesus was wise and would never have said anything publicly against the Roman government, but here the Jews would have translated "enemies" as "Romans". As Jesus goes on, you can imagine how well the Jews would have received the message (not so well and somewhat begrudgingly if you ask me) but the principle Jesus was preaching was this - do not escalate a bad situation. In those verses, Jesus gave some very precise examples as a guide to do just that.
Jesus does not specify Romans as enemies, but the context of the situation provides clarity of purpose and intent to His words. When you understand "Romans" as "enemies" and the situation of the Jews, the passage makes perfect sense. Still, there is a principle here that we can also learn from regarding our own enemies - do not escalate a bad situation! Does that mean that we should roll over and allow someone like Joe-Bob to rob us? Just think about it, and simple logic will tell us "Of course not!" However, if Joe-Bob was a Roman and I a Jew in Israel during that time period, I could not call 9-1-1 for help, and in fact, any response at all would just make an already bad situation even worse.
The principle of non-escalation of a bad situation does not mean Christians should not defend themselves within the scope of the law. As we live in a completely different society and world today, Joe-Bob is going to have to keep his hands off my property if he wants to stay out of jail, and you, my fellow warrior-poet in Christ, are free to respond to any assault within the limits of the law.