do not resist…

(note: I’m skipping passages I’d like to come back to later, and trying to hit the ones that most affected me, and ones most people usually reference and want to talk about first).

38″You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[g] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. -Matthew 5:38-42

The idea of not resisting an evil person has got to be the most counter cultural concept I had heard in a long time. We’d certainly heard the “turn the other cheek” passage, but usually it’d been flaunted as a weak and cowardly thing to do to avoid further punishment. Growing up I can only think of one example of this being carried out in real life: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. I later learned about Gandhi, Mandela, and others, but initially I had heard of nothing but the occasional reference to the Civil Rights movement. It’s no wonder I and many others didn’t take this passage seriously at all.

But, upon reading it one summer I was struck by the fact that a literal interpretation of it seems incredibly inline with what Christ message is. Self-sacrificial love seems like the only compelling force to this type of action. I later was enlightened by Walter Wink’s insight into this passage and I think it coincides with what I said. Christ calls us not to resist the person, but rather to show them love, and at the sametime maintain our humanity in the person’s eyes. Evil has no power over that kind of love.

(please let’s not discuss other things that Wink says in that article here. I’d rather just focus on the passage mentioned.).

9 thoughts on “do not resist…”

  1. I don’t have much time now, but a couple initial thoughts…I don’t think we can take the passage absolutely literally. After all, when Jesus was hit, he didn’t literally turn his other cheek (Jn 18:22).

    Second, it’s interesting that you bring up MLK Jr. His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” was entirely about how to disobey authority. How is that “not resisting.” The reason he was in jail was for resisiting! He did it peacefully, but again – not a literal interpretation of that passage.

    More later…

  2. Martin Luther King, Jr and Gandhi are two of my biggest heroes – and it’s because they truly lived out this Bible passage. It’s so powerful to think of Jesus as a PEACEMAKER – a civil disobedier – one who does not shy away from confrontation, but one who instead confronts peacefully, intelligently, and lovingly. It’s really a shame that more people don’t focus on this passage in its truest meaning. To me, this passage sums up what it means to be a follower of Christ.

  3. Crystal – I’m not even sure you meant to, but you got me thinking. I think you’re (almost) absolutely right 🙂 Intelligent and loving confrontation is absolutely our call as Christians. I went to a Bible study this week and we were talking about what it means to be a Godly man. The point was made that being a Christian man has come to mean being “a nice guy.” Jesus was not always a nice guy, but he was always good. There’s a significant difference. We absolutely need to confront intelligently and lovingly. I don’t think that necessarily means peacefully. Since this is not a political discussion, whether or not our government is capable of doing that is irrelevant. When all other options are exhausted is the loving option not ultimately saving lives? Giving more Muslims the opportunity to hear the gospel? Preventing the genocide of countless Kurds, etc?

    Ariah – since I don’t think the passage can be taken literally (see my earlier comment) it seems to me like we need to find an alternate interpretation. Therefore I fall back on the Old Testament law. The “eye for an eye” was from the Old Testament and back then everyone would realize that’s what Jesus was referring to. But can you give me one example where Jesus completely reversed Old Testament law? Never – he did modify it, but the basic principles were always the same. “Don’t murder” became “don’t even think about murdering – be loving.” “Follow these 3 billion specific rules for sacrifice and living” became “Do everything for the glory of God.”

    Maybe one of your future posts can discuss why you focus on Jesus’ words as opposed to God’s? They’re the same person, right? So they can’t think two different things.

  4. Also, I propose that we focus on the Bible and not other “good” people. For example, Gandhi, was good but so are plenty of Mormons, Muslims and Hindus I know. That doesn’t make them Christian or relevant to our discussion. I came across a quote from Gandhi on God…

    “God is that indefinable something which we all feel but which we do not know. To me God is Truth and Love, God is ethics and morality. God is fearlessness, God is the source of light and life and yet. He is above and beyond all these. God is conscience. He is even the atheism of the atheist. He transcends speech and reason. He is a personal God to those who need His touch. He is purest essence. He simply Is to those who have faith. He is long suffering. He is patient but He is also terrible. He is the greatest democrat the world knows. He is the greatest tyrant ever known. We are not, He alone Is.”

    WHAT?!?!?! NO!!!!!!! Yes, we can know God. God is much more than “morality.” He is definitely not atheism, nor is the atheist an “equal” to Christians. He doesn’t transcend reason. And He is not at all a tyrant. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think we should be looking to Gandhi as our example on what it means to be a Christian.

  5. Brian,
    I’m with you on not holding “good” people as reasons for our argument. I do think there is no harm in mentioning someone if we think they are a clear example of what we see talked about in Scripture.

    Let’s be honest, there are a few Christians I can quote at this point to, with some messed up theology. I’m not saying Gandhi is an overall example of Christianity, by no means, but to some degree I think he gives us an example of “do not resist” and to that degree I think it is fair to look at him.

    I’m a visual person, and an examples person. I’m not trying to uphold Gandhi overall, just this example of his movement as being a good embodiment of the scripture we were talking about.

  6. First off, I want to point out that King James had quite an agenda and motive in the ultimate translation of that verse.

    The original Greek word that was later translated “resist” in this passage “resist not evil” is “antistenai”. It is made up of two parts: “anti” which literally means against; and “histemo” a verb that in it’s noun form means violent rebellion, armed revolt, sharp dissention. In the Greek Old Testament the word is used primarily for military encounters. It refers to the moment when two armies collide, steel on steel, until one side breaks and flees. So a proper translation of Jesus’ teaching would be “Don’t strike back at evil in kind.”

    Jesus was very comitted to opposing evil and fighting for justice, the difference was HOW one should fight evil. 🙂

    Great discussion!

    Ohav Shalom,

  7. Another thought…

    I used to think of Jesus as this loving, mellow, pacifist person, quite like myself. hehe After reading Walter Wink’s book, my paradigm has shifted. wSo now whenever people describe Jesus as a pacifist, my spirit cringes.

    I guess it’s because the term has such a negative connotation in many circles. Pacifists are so often thought of as someone who does absolutely nothing, avoiding onflict at all costs. Yet, Jesus did not live that way. He fought evil and injustice and with every fiber of His being. He used creative, loving confrontation to help bring the sinner to repentence and bring attention to the humanity of the victim.

    He help the oppressed gain back their dignity. He was not passive, and He didn’t sit around on His butt dreaming of a peaceful resolution. He was active in every sense of the word to bring that peace to reality. But yet, he did it in a loving anner, with true grace and respect for all parties involved. Just being like his Daddy, ya know? That’s the way I want to live.

    So, whenever prompted, I choose this phrase instead:

    Jesus was non-violent.


    Ohav Shalom,

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