Should a Christian Woman Resist a Rapist?
Pacifists often quote Jesus’ words “do not resist evil” out of context and divorced from the Lord’s intent. If one is to universally never resist evil, we are forced to confront the possibility of contradictory commandments from the Lord Himself. But the Lord never contradicts Himself.
So what does Jesus mean when He says “do not resist evil”? And is it ever appropriate for a woman to resist a rapist, even if it means using lethal force?
To the first question, Jesus was talking about taking petty insults patiently without reviling to prevent escalating a disagreement into a violent or even murderous altercation. He certainly was not prohibiting resistance against all evil. For instance, the Lord has resisted unrighteousness from the beginning. He resists the proud. Joshua resisted the Canaanites. Phinehas resisted evildoers. David and Samson resisted the Philistines. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego resisted Nebuchadnezzar. Jeremiah resisted false prophets, corrupt leaders, and a luke-warm church. Mattathias resisted Antiochus Epiphanes. Jesus resisted the Pharisees and the divine claims of Rome’s Caesar cult. John the Baptist resisted Herod’s adulterous marriage. Peter resisted the council. Stephen resisted the elders. Paul resisted false apostles. Jude resisted false teachers. Jesus is still resisting the luke-warm church. Furthermore, we are commanded throughout scripture to resist oppressors and evil people as well as the explicit command to resist Satan (James 4:7, 1 Peter 5:9) and the evil powers that exist (cf. Ephesians 6).
It is clear that Jesus is not saying we should resist all evil at all times from all sources. To the contrary, we should resist Satan. We should resist oppressors. We should resist any physical and spiritual attempt to steal, kill and destroy. But we should always be slow to anger, quick to listen, and willing to turn the other cheek rather than turn an argument into a fight.
To the second question: is it ever appropriate for a woman to resist a rapist, even if it means using lethal force? It is not only appropriate, God commands that she resist the rapist.
What Would Jesus Do?
Did Jesus say anything about rapists and how a woman could and should respond to attempted rape? Thankfully, yes.
“[The Owner] would have thwarted the thief!”
In the Old Testament He advised women to resist, to yell for help, and to bring the rapist to justice (which would’ve been death). In Deuteronomy 22 the Lord confirms that it is righteous and even necessary for a woman to resist rape and the rapist:
“What if a man meets a girl who’s a virgin but who’s engaged to someone else, and he has sexual relations with her? If this happens in the city, bring them both out to the gate of that city where the public will stone them to death: the girl, because she was in the city and could have cried for help but didn’t, meaning she consented; and the man, because he violated another man’s wife. Expel the wicked from your community this way. But if this happens out in the country—if a man finds an engaged girl out there and overpowers and rapes her—then only the man must die. – But don’t do anything to the girl; she did nothing wrong and doesn’t deserve to die. When this man came after her, she cried for help, but no one was there to respond. She’s as innocent as the victim of a sudden murderous attack—there was nothing she could do.” (Deuteronomy 22:23-27)
And in the New Testament Jesus said of those taking something that doesn’t belong to them:
“But you should know this:If the owner of a house had known his house was about to be broken into, he would have stayed up all night, vigilantly. He would have kept watch, and he would have thwarted the thief” (Matthew 24:43)
Is not a woman the owner of her body, especially her sexual organs? And is not the rapist a thief, cowardly taking something that doesn’t belong to him?
Remember also that women have been increasingly guilty of rape toward men, especially those in authority positions. So this is not just an issue for women.
Let’s also remember that Jesus also died for rapists. Repentant rapists who receive Jesus’ sacrifice for them, show genuine remorse, and cease harming women should be forgiven by their victims. But this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be incarcerated. While anyone can be forgiven, sin has earthly consequences.
But for sexual predators who refuse the Voice of Truth telling them to “STOP!”, Jesus tells us to thwart the sex thief!
And if the rapist resists non-lethal attempts to stop the assault, using lethal force might be the only option that remains.