The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Do We Know Better Than Jesus?

As recorded in Matthew 5:38-41, Jesus taught His disciples non-resistance:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your 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.And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.

So many of us scoff at the idea of not resisting an evil person. “What are you going to do?” it is argued. “Just let him rape your wife or kill your little daughter? If we don’t stop evil people from committing their atrocities, evil will become increasingly prevalent. The only way to reduce the spread of evil, is to prevent evil people from carrying out their evil works. If, in doing so, it is necessary to maim or kill the evil person, then to do so is the morally right thing to do. Only in that way can we defeat evil and promote harmony among people.”

In His teaching, Jesus went on to say (as recorded in verses 43-45):

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.

I think we could agree that if everyone always did good to all others and always refrained from violence, then we would live in a wonderful world in which existed only peace, well-being, and good will. Ahhhh. but there’s the rub! Not everyone will do that. So good people have to resist evil people and even maim or kill them if necessary. It is the only way in which we can protect ourselves. We are not bold enough to say that Jesus was wrong. But to be honest, we would have to admit that He was.

Is this form of reasoning rational?

Consider this. A raging fire breaks out within a building in which there are hundreds of people. They rush toward a door that opens inwardly. But everyone nearby thinking chiefly of himself tries to get out but to no avail, for many people who want the same are crowding against the door, preventing it from being opened.
You are right up there at the door, trying to open it and get out, but both you as well as the others who are trying to do the same, prevent anyone from opening the door. A voice cries out, “Get away from the door so that it can be opened, and some people will have the opportunity to get out!” What are you going to do?
If you and the others pull back from the door, others will open it and rush out while you will be burned to death! Yet this is the only way that anyone will be saved from certain death by fire. And also, it is the only possibility for saving yourself!

So it is true that if you do not resist an evil person, he may kill you and your loved ones. But do you know that to be the case? What if he sees your good will toward him and changes his mind about the evil that he had intended to so? As long as you resist him, try to stop him, or maim him, or kill him, he will be more determined that even to carry out his evil intentions.

Jesus wasn’t wrong in His teachings to His disciples. He knew the hearts of people!

Jesus wasn’t giving universal maxims in the so-called Sermon on the Mount… he was instructing Israel as to the best road ahead for them given their own historical context. Now sure we can choose to make personal use of these sensible sayings BUT HOW we might apply such in our own personal situation is simply that… personal. Clearly as Paul stated…

Rom 12:18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Sometimes just by the nature of the case such is less than possible, and where this unfortunately doesn’t occur it is NOT a reflection that anyone thinks… Jesus was wrong.

Yes, in the context of an oppressive Roman regime, and not wanting believers to precariously buck it, Paul does seem to ascribe to gov’t a proper role in resisting evil (and thus encouraging a similar response to Rome as Jesus did with Israel).

But it doesn’t necessarily follow that Jesus would give the same calling to his apprentices to do individually what gov’t can do. Indeed, one gets the impression that Jesus expected them to be quite different than ‘pagans’ and what the ‘authorities’ of his day found proper, and thus by that contrast become light and salt to the nations.

Davo rightly raises the context of Jesus’ words, which might not apply in every setting. But while I personally also don’t take Jesus’ portraits of disciples’ calling and attitude as legal commands to be universally applied in all circumstances, I am sympathetic to Paidion’s impression that Jesus’ unique reversal concerning Israel’s approach to enemies, evil, and outsiders, should be assumed to have relevant applications to the values we later followers will reflect in our own setting as we ponder his teaching and example. For Jesus appears to ground these teachings in the very character of Abba God.

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Bob, you seem to say that the verbiage of that century was in fact of that time/century was absolute… :open_mouth:

I don’t know, God does. So you may need to try it to find out :wink:

Seriously, it might depend on who it was, but I imagine I’d try to block the punches, and maybe like Jesus did, ask why someone was striking me. Of course I might well hit back in order to escape being pummeled.

Your question brings back an Urban Plunge encounter retreat of 50 years ago when our leaders started striking individuals, to try to elicit the angry response that this raises. I was (not a pacifist, but) such a stubborn contrarian, and so knew that this was manipulative violence, that unlike most others, I refused to take the bait and just kept my cool, and pronounced the leaders as uncool (but of course knew my life was really under no lasting threat).

But need one’s actual instincts or reactions here reveal what Jesus would have us do? What is, and what ought to be, are often two different things in my experience.

I just want to thank you all for expressing your thoughts on this very important matter.

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No, I would think paragraph 3’s elaboration on the importance of “context” explicitly makes clear that they are “not legal commands to be universally applied in all circumstances.”

No, do not ever try to deal with them in a physical manner if you are not in a position to deal with the consequences, and think of that… Think of that…

Yep, my take is that the context is totally, first century, though I know you will boo hoo me, but that is okay, we now will have to move ahead as to what is and not relevant. :slightly_smiling_face: