The ongoing public debate about the “stand your ground” laws got me thinking. These laws in Florida and several other states give people who believe their safety is being threatened by an assailant the right to use deadly force to defend themselves. I’ve been considering the way Jesus defended himself.
Jesus did stand his ground, but in a very different way from what the stand-your-ground laws currently outline. His words in the book of Matthew in the Bible explain the stand he took. He said, “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” (Matthew 5:38, 39). And he also said, “[A]ll things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).
Jesus’ actions coincided with his words. When men approached to arrest him unjustly, one of the disciples struck out with his sword to defend Jesus, and cut off the man’s ear. In response, Jesus quelled the disciple’s reaction and healed the man (see Luke 22:47-51). Also, when Jesus was crucified, he prayed that his persecutors be forgiven, because they didn’t really understand what they were doing. “Father, forgive them;” he said, “for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus’ life made the perfect Love of God tangible to human consciousness.
In her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, says, “Jesus aided in reconciling man to God by giving man a truer sense of Love, the divine Principle of Jesus’ teachings, and this truer sense of Love redeems man from the law of matter, sin, and death by the law of Spirit, – the law of divine Love” (p. 19).
This is the “ground” that Jesus chose to stand on. His words and actions were motivated by his desire to show the pure goodness and love of God to humanity. Jesus didn’t strike out at those who tried to harm him. He didn’t condemn them either. If Jesus had been motivated by self-justification or retribution, instead of love, he would have acted differently and wouldn’t have made the love of God evident to the people, then and now. Jesus’ actions revealed Love as the real essence of existence.
As more cases citing the stand-your-ground laws as justification for actions enter the justice system, the long-term effect of these laws will continue to be considered and debated. However, we don’t need to wait for this debate to reach its conclusion in order to choose the ground we will stand on today.
Jesus has showed us the way, and we can follow his example. Perhaps as we each increase our own grasp of divine Love through living it more fully day to day, eventually there will no longer be a need for laws of this kind. And this prophecy of Isaiah will be fulfilled: “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9).