Resist or overcome?

in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus told us not to resist an evil man. There are no qualifications listed, no exceptions to the rule. Simply “do not resist”…it is a law of His kingdom.

Paul expands on this teaching in Romans 12 when he tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” There is a big difference between resisting evil (fighting back), and overcoming evil with good.

To “not resist” evil is more than mere passivity. Jesus makes this point in Matthew 5, “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” These acts are more than mere passive victimhood, as many have assumed. By turning the cheek, we cause the other to strike us twice, exposing his cruelty. By the giving of our cloak, our nakedness exposes his lack of mercy and general decency.

Jesus instructions allow us to expose the evil in our enemy for what it is. In this way, the very act of non-resistance becomes a powerful weapon.

Love always overcomes evil. It cannot be struck down, though the evil man may try. In fact, that very act of violence only further reinforces what love truly is.

Love is the contrast, exposing evil for what it really is. Peace is more than simply the absence of war. Non-resistance is an active response to violence. It is showing love in the face of hate, mercy in the face of violence, kindness in the face of cruelty.

As followers of Christ it is not ours to fight back against evil. The world has told us it is the only way to overcome evil. But this is not so. Violence only and always perpetuates more violence. Jesus has shown us the more excellent way, and that is to overcome evil with good.

  1. #1 by Jeff Brock on July 5, 2010 - 3:51 AM

    It is good to read again of the power of love and non-violence. God bless you; keep up your good work. He will use your example and your words to bless and not to curse, to build and not to tear down! However, as you have said before, some things need to be torn down. But not by us; He is the One who knows fully and who can act fully responsibly.

  2. #2 by Jeff Brock on July 5, 2010 - 7:08 AM

    What do you mean by the word “disengagement”? Disengagement from what or who?

    • #3 by theremonstrance on July 5, 2010 - 7:12 PM

      Disengagement from the selfishness and worldliness we see around us in the church. What if we just decided we were not going to take part in it any longer? What if we decided there was a better way and the status quo just wouldn’t do any longer? What if there were a group of Christians who chose Christ over the crowd?

      By disengagement I mean we just won’t do it any longer. We won’t look the other way and pretend everything is ok when we know it is not.

      But disengagement by itself is incomplete. There must be a “re-engagement” with what is authentic. There must be a re-engagement to the simple yet dangerous teachings of Christ in the sermon on the mount.

      Probably more of an answer than you were looking for, but that’s the short version. 🙂

  3. #4 by Jeff Brock on August 4, 2010 - 1:37 PM

    That is nearer to what I was hoping for. Disengagement leaves us stranded and alone. Re-engagement, carefully chosen, can enliven and wed us to things/people/issues that are of eternal value. Hermits are disengaged but on a dead-end path. They neither benefit from the input of others nor do they enrich others. They are devoid of accountability and liable to veer off into distortion and paranoia.

    I can buy engagement in “the red letters.” What Jesus said and did are of huge value to me, although I find it hard to emulate all He did and follow all He said. Some of it, I suspect, was for particular people, and those who fit a certain pattern, not the general population of disciples.


  4. #5 by Mark Hollingsworth on February 4, 2011 - 1:32 PM

    Good thoughts, Dave. We have forgotten so much of early church tradition that taught for nearly 300 years that non-violence and seeking peace were paramount in emulating and serving the Lord.

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