It’s tempting to conclude from Christ’s teaching that we ought not resist evil or defend ourselves (Mt 5:38-39), but there are clear indications otherwise: He encourages us to arm ourselves (Lk 22:36) and He Himself resisted injustice and malice (Jn 18:23), as did the Apostle Paul. (Ac 23:3) However, James characterizes the just as those who don’t resist when they’re wronged. (Ja 5:6) How do we reconcile this with the rest of Christ’s message?
If we look carefully, the context is describing those who are brought to civil court by the wealthy and tried for wrongdoings (Ja 2:6b); the rich can be oppressive, powerfully abusing legal systems to achieve their own destructive ends. (Ac 16:21-21) They often succeed in imposing severe punishment on the innocent (22-24), perhaps to acquire their wealth, eliminate them as obstacles or otherwise control them.
One clear boundary which is applicable here is we’re not to resist government by fighting against civil authority (Ro 13:1-2), so even if we’re being persecuted unjustly (1Pe 3:14-16), as is evidently the case in James’ example, we ought not to forcefully resist. (17-18)
There are certainly exceptions when we should suffer patiently when wronged, especially when defending ourselves or seeking justice would harm the cause of Christ. (1Co 6:7) However, generally, defending ourselves and loved ones with minimal necessary force is appropriate when we have the means, when it would not be offensive to the world and it’s supported by civil authority. (Es 9:2, 16) Further, once we have been wronged, seeking justice for ourselves and others through due process (Ac 16:37-39) is also appropriate and good (De 19:16), especially within spiritual community. (Mt 18:15-17)
As further guidance, we’re forbidden to pursue vengeance, to seek to enforce justice by taking matters into our own hands, or to be malicious toward others in any way, unmercifully seeking their harm in hatred (Ep 4:31-32), or to be proud, thinking of ourselves better than others. (Php 2:3)
It is unloving to promote injustice, or to fail to appropriately resist if we have the means to do so within the above guidelines. While it is not our primary purpose in life to be justice warriors, looking to right every wrong, since Christ Himself did not do this, it is certainly consistent with loving our neighbor as ourselves to do what we can within reason.
If someone were taking advantage of us and we were powerless to help ourselves, if we would want someone else to stand up in our own defense, even so we should seek to minimize harm towards ourselves and others in a spirit of humility and meekness. Doing justly while loving mercy (Mi 6:8) is within the law of Love. (Ro 13:10)