What Does The Bible Say About Standing Up For Yourself? A Christian Study

by David Peach · Print Print · Email Email

When standing up for ourselves and our own rights we should look to what the Bible has to say on the subject. We have verses that talk about “turning the other cheek” (Matthew 5 and Luke 6) while we are also taught that there is a spiritual battle going on around us (Ephesians 6) and that we should be ready to stand in the fight. So which one is right and which should be our guiding principle?

I don’t pretend to answer every possible scenario in this article, but I do desire to give a couple of principles that will help you make decisions when it comes to standing up for yourself (and others).

What Does The Bible Say About Standing Up For Yourself

Respond with grace, mercy and love where possible.

Grace and Mercy — Turning the Other Cheek

In the New Testament teachings of Christ we see grace and love taught over and over. Matthew 5:43 and 44 say, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”. The same thoughts are echoed in Luke 6:27-36.

In these two passages Jesus is teaching His followers to love all people, not just their friends. It takes no great effort on our part to love those who love us. However, to show the love of Christ to others, we should love those who treat us unfairly (Matthew 5:46, 47; Luke 6:32-35). We are told by our Lord to show grace and mercy to those who treat us poorly.

Does this mean we should never stand up to those who do wrong? No. That is where the matter of justice comes in.

Justice

Another principle that is taught in the Bible is the idea of justice. God is a God of justice. He has promised judgment on evil. We love the verse that says “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” But we often ignore the context of that verse. We are taught in Romans 12:17-21 that we should live in peace. We should be honest. We should not avenge ourselves, but allow God to execute judgment.

Does that mean we are commanded to live under abuse even to the extent that physical or emotional harm is done to us?

Abuse

The Bible is not teaching that we should willingly subject ourselves to abuse. There is no command that says we have to stay under that situation. If it is possible, you need to get help and protect yourself and those around you from abuse.

Romans 12 says “as much as possible” you should live in peace. But it does not say you can’t leave the situation. Many times people remain in harmful situations because of social, emotional, or physical pressure to stay. They don’t get the help that they are legally and spiritually entitled to receive. This can often be because of threats coming from the one who is inflicting the abuse.

I know it is very difficult to have a “big picture” view of the situation when you are the one going through it. But you need to get help. You need to find someone who can give you counseling and a biblical perspective for the situation. Someone who is not going through this trial with you can often help you see your options more clearly. They can help you remove yourself from the situation or have someone help you out.

You are not commanded to live under abuse. In the vast majority of cases we have the right and ability to appeal to a higher legal authority for help. The one exception is when a government is the one inflicting the unjust practices. The Bible example, over and over, is that we must submit to the authority and trust that God will bring justice in His time.

Notice, I said that we are obligated to submit. That does not necessarily mean we are obligated to obey. However, we must be willing to accept the consequences of that disobedience. A few examples in the Bible of this are Daniel, his three friends, and the Apostles. Daniel was thrown to the lions for his disobedience. He did not fight that. He submitted to it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego submitted to a fiery furnace because of their disobedience. They had no promise that God would save them. They even told the king that they were willing to do what was right even if God didn’t save them (Daniel 3:16-18). The Apostles accepted the punishments inflicted upon them by wicked governments for preaching the Gospel. And, as a result, God was glorified and the Gospel was spread throughout the world.

Pray

Before looking at King David as an example of these principles, let’s look again at the passages in Matthew and Luke. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”. And Luke 6:28 tells us, “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.”

In both these passages we are told to pray for them. What should we pray? At times David prayed prayers for judgment on his enemies (Psalms 5, 17, 58, etc.). Is that how we should pray? Are those the types of prayers that Christ instructs His followers to pray? I believe the overarching desire of David’s prayers and Christ’s command to pray for our enemies is to see God glorified and justice enacted.

Practically, what does that mean for us today? If you will spend time with God in prayer for someone then your thoughts towards that person will change to a right relationship for how you should continue to pray. However, your prayers should be honest prayers for God’s glory and not just for your comfort.

Do you pray for your enemies so that you would be eased from your burden or do you pray for them so that God will be glorified? If your desire is that God would get the glory He deserves from your life and the situation you are in, then you will see the great grace God offers you through this time.

King David — Our Example

Without looking at the whole life of David, we can see a few examples of how he practiced these principles of grace and justice. Where necessary—and possible—David fled from unrighteous abuse.

When David was still a young lad tending sheep he went to face Goliath. David stood up for what was right in defending God. In this case it meant to go to war and engage in combat. David teaches us that there are times it is necessary to fight for what is right. However, David didn’t fight on his own behalf, he fought for the principle of rightness and justice.

Other times in David’s life he refused to fight. He would not kill King Saul even though he had two very easy opportunities to do so (1 Samuel 24 and 26). David showed love and grace.

Then there were times when David knew that the best thing to do was to walk away and allow God to have His justice in His time. Towards the end of David’s life he was on the run from his son Absolom. David had the power and authority to destroy Absalom’s attacks. However, he chose to remove himself from the situation instead of fight. He would allow God to remove his enemy.

Final Thoughts

The Bible says that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood (Ephesians 6:12) in the spiritual warfare in which we are involved. That is certainly a true statement. However, often the enemy does attack us in the form of people (flesh and blood). We should not hate or despise those who treat us improperly (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:28), but also we need to be aware that our adversary, the devil, will attack us using real flesh and blood people. We need to respond properly to those attacks. Our first response ought to be to pray for those who are seemingly against us.

Every situation will need to be evaluated on its own needs. Respond with grace, mercy and love where possible. Remember that justice is important and that God can do a much better job at doling out judgment than we can. Do not feel obligated to stay in an abusive and unhealthy situation. Get help when available. Find someone who can give you objective biblical counseling to see your way through the situation. And never forget to pray. Pray that God would give you the grace needed in this time and that He would be glorified in the trail you are experiencing.

May God help you have wisdom in knowing the right response for each situation.

Something else that might interest you: Praying for Those That Persecute Us

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mick G January 18, 2016 at 9:18 pm

David,
Very good article. My Dad worked the oilfields while I was growing up, so we moved a lot. Not being very big and almost always the new-kid in school, I learned a lot about surviving bullies and want-a-be bullies. I also learned to make friends quickly and overall, I didn’t have it any worse than the other kids, maybe better.
As an adult (a lot of people would argue I’m still not able to claim that title yet) I have done a little bit of everything in life, or so it seems. A few years ago I retired from 20+ years in education, the last 10 as an administrator. There was, and I would say still is, a strong intolerance of bullies in the school system, at least the one where I worked in here in Texas. But the saddest bullying situations were those where parents abused and bullied their own children. Too many times I watched as or was informed later that Child Protective Services, usually assisted by law enforcement, had to take a crying, screaming child from his crying, screaming parent; and I would think how everyone involved, whether they accepted the responsibility or not, except the child, knew why it was happening. The very person that the child saw as his only true security on earth was also a threat to his very life. Sometimes grandparents or other relatives were able to step in, and I met many good foster parents who were able to help. (My personal observation was there was usually a common thread of a strong belief in Christ in those people.)
Sometimes something will cause me to reflect back on a child involved in one of those incidents and I’ll pray to God that He’s intervened and all is well with that child, who is probably now at least a young adult and maybe has kids of his own. Maybe the chain will be broken. Original sin? Substance abuse? Mental illness? Demonic powers on Earth? Sometimes it all seems hopeless, but then I remind myself: Life is a team sport, and all we can do is play our position like God tells us to.
Again, a very good, though provoking article.
Thanks,
Mick G

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Jim Schmechel January 19, 2016 at 3:17 pm

Thank you, this was timely for me 🙂

Love, Grace, Peace and Mercy to you.

Your brother in Christ Jesus,

Jim

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Patricia June 6, 2016 at 12:25 pm

Jesus stood up for Himself with the Pharisees. He called them hypocrites, white-washed sepulcres, and sons of the devil. He basically told them off. He also overturned the money changers in the temple. He told the jews in there that they had turned His Father’s house, a house of prayer, into a den of theives. He also cursed a fig tree. But, He also died for us, kissed Judas for betraying him, and prayed for his enemies from the cross He was hanging from. You have to know when it is God’s will for you to defend yourself and when not. You can’t be a pushover and be mocked for loving God or being a Christian in your workplace, or your neighborhood because then it turns the whole thing into harrassment and you lose your peace and strength to be a witness for God. You can’t cast pearls to swine or give God’s goodness in the form of the Gospel to people who will not appreciate it. i was guilty of this sin as well because I thought that I was doing the right thing by tolerating the hatred of the world because I loved the Lord. He warned us that we would be hated because He was, but He never said that we had to tolerate all manner of injustice without putting a stop to it, especially when it was unwarranted. You don’t have to curse, become violent or sin in your anger, but you can stand up for yourself even if it means raising your voice and shocking someone into listening to you when they are unfairly abusing you even if it is because you are a man/woman of God. I learned this late, but i learned it! I will NEVER again let ANYONE, Christian or Secular, abuse me EVER AGAIN! 🙂 And I can say this with a resounding HALLELUJAH!!!!

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