THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE WAY FORWARD IN CHRIST
NO RESISTANCE TO ONE WHO IS EVIL
Today’s gospel: Matthew 5:38-42
Last November 24, 2013, in the city of San Juan, Argentina,
an extraordinary event happened. A violent mob of feminists
and lesbians, a number of them topless, assaulted rosary-praying
Catholic men who surrounded the cathedral to protect it from
vandalism. The men stood there, arm in arm, just praying,
while the feminists spray-painted their crotches and faces,
cursed them and spat at them, performed obscene sexual acts
in front of them, pushed their bare breasts into their faces,
and generally just verbally and physically abused them. The
women chanted a song that said “we want to be whores,
travesties and lesbians.” The men prayed, some of them
wept, none of them retaliated. The women also burned an effigy
of Pope Francis.
April 24, 2013, topless women of the feminist group Femen,
protesting against homophobia, disrupted a conference at the
Brussels’ Free University campus, throwing water on
and drenching Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, archbishop
of Mechelen-Brussels, who was seated at the conference table
on the stage. The archbishop just sat there quietly composed
with hands clasped in prayer. At the end, before leaving the
room, he kissed a picture of the Virgin Mary.
are graphic and striking instances of offering no resistance
to one who is evil.
Jesus taught, “But I say to you, offer no resistance
to one who is evil.” (Mt 5:39a). That was a very radical
teaching. From of old, even up to now, it was but natural
for one to hate his enemy, and certainly to retaliate against
someone who sought to do him harm, or at the very least, to
protect himself. Thus, in many societies, one who severely
hurt or even killed a person who assaulted him with deadly
force would not be charged with a crime.
the people of God, the Israelites, exclaimed in one of the
psalms: “Do I not hate, Lord, those who hate you? Those
who rise against you, do I not loathe? With fierce hatred
I hate them, enemies I count as my own.” (Ps 139:21-22).
They were standing up for God. They were rising in righteous
anger at God’s enemies. They were sure of the rightness
of their posture, even in a way challenging God. “Probe
me, God, know my heart; try me, know my thoughts. See if there
is a wicked path in me” (Ps 139:23-24a).
through Moses had told the Israelites: “You shall love
your neighbor as yourself.” (Lv 19:18b). There was no
Old Testament commandment allowing hatred of one’s enemy.
But still, the people of God accepted this posture. Thus Jesus
said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall
love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” (Mt
5:43). The people just assumed that was right. So Jesus overturns
this. “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray
for those who persecute you” (Mt 5:44). The command
to love was extended to include the enemy.
Well, God is love. God sent His very own Son into the world
to suffer and die for sinners. Jesus, while hanging on the
cross, asked the Father to forgive those who assaulted, demeaned
and crucified him. As Paul averred, “But God proves
his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ
died for us.” (Rom 5:8). This is the God who “makes
his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall
on the just and the unjust.” (Mt 5:45b).
that is God. But why should we love our enemy? Jesus
gives the answer: “that you may be children of your
heavenly Father” (Mt 5:45a). We are children of God,
made in His image and likeness. He is a holy God, and His
true offspring are also holy. We are brothers of Jesus who
follow in his footsteps. What would distinguish us if not
love, the very love of God? “For if you love those who
love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors
do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is
unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?”
So we are not only to not offer any personal resistance to
one who is evil, but we are actually to love our enemy. When
we do so, then we are acting in the way of God. Then we are
able to witness to an antagonistic pagan world. Then we are
enabled to grow in the very holiness of God.
offering any resistance to one who is evil does not mean doing
nothing and just letting evil run rampant. The Argentinian
men did not just do nothing. They protected the cathedral
and they prayed. The archbishop did not just sit there. He
prayed and gave living witness to love and to forbearance
under duress. Jesus did not just do nothing even if he could
have called upon a legion of angels. He willingly went to
the cross and won for us our salvation. They all did offer
resistance to evil, but in a very radical way, not resorting
to violence, to retaliation, to hatred.
offer no resistance to one who is evil is going to be extremely
difficult. This is especially as evil is intensifying in the
world today. But we precisely do not stand up for or tolerate
evil. However, we fight evil by overcoming it with good. As
Paul said, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned
for what is noble in the sight of all.” (Rom 12:17).
What is noble is what is of God. Besides, it is only love
that can turn the hearts of people, people who are themselves
children of God, but who somehow have gone astray. God loved
us even when we were His enemies, even when we were the ones
who sent Jesus to the cross because of our sins. What if God
did not love us unconditionally? Rather then, “if your
enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something
to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon
his head.” (Rom 12:20).
want to get back at your enemy and put him in his proper place?
Then love him. Offer no resistance to one who is evil. “Do
not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good.”
For reflection and/or discussion: Were you ever
the object of assault (verbal or physical) by one acting in
an evil way?
For prayer and action: Ask God for the grace not
to retaliate in kind or to hate those who mistreat you.
The above is taken from my forthcoming new book, “Forty
Days of Challenge in the Christian Life.” The book will
tackle 40 difficult teachings in the Bible and explain what