The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The 16 commandments


We’re in southern Oregon. Fires all around us, in fact little bits of ash are covering Medford Oregon. Our home is not in danger, but friends further out in the valley have had to evacuate.

No doubt about that, in my mind.

My thinking on this has led me to believe that the import of those words is more to the effect of “do not seek retribution”, do not return evil for evil . The ‘eye for an eye’ commandment from the OT was clearly aimed at equality of punishment. I think that is clear. Jesus went a step further to say, imo, that those that follow Him should not try to exact retribution in any form in our human relationships and business-as-usual.
Defense against violence, or even a ‘just war’ (I know, that’s controversial) - I don’t think that is in mind here. I could be wrong.
Another consideration is that Jesus was, among other things, very aware of the precarious relationship between Jews and Rome. Rather than reacting to wrongs from, say, a Roman soldier, better to go the second mile, turn the other cheek, etc. Prudence, in other words, in a hot-button environment.
Does that make any sense to you?


The early Christians took the commands of our Lord literally and seriously. As a result, MANY of them were put to death by the authorities or their religious enemies.

2Co 1:6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.

1Pe 2:20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

In the middle ages, the anabaptists took the commands of our Lord literally and seriously. As a result, MANY of them were put to death by the authorities or their religious enemies.

In our day, the more conservative of the spiritual descendants of the anabaptists take the commands of our Lord literally and seriously. As a result, some of them may have put to death by the authorities or their religious enemies.

Examples of the last group are the Hutterites and the more conservative Mennonites.
These people are opposed to taking the life of any person for any reason, and therefore oppose capital punishment and participation in war. They oppose any form of violence including taking people to court for any reason. They also avoid participating in any aspect of government or court or the actions of any agent of force.

I taught in a Hutterite community for three years. They told me about an incident that occurred during World War II. A certain Hutterite man in United States was conscripted. He refused to fight in the war. They took him to the military authorities and tried to force him to don a military uniform. He refused. He was placed in a military prison. A short time later, his wife was informed that her husband had died in prison. She then went to the prison to get the body for burial. To her shock, her husband’s body was dressed in a military uniform! The military officer in charge noticed the shocked look on her face. The officer then said, “He would not wear the uniform in life; let him wear it in death!”

The Hutterite people from the man’s community suspected that the military authorities had killed him.



Of course. I think we try to do that, don’t we? And perhaps - who knows? - we may have to pay the martyr’s price as well.

Why did he refuse, I wonder? Isn’t that a form of resistance?

Don, I"m not trying to be argumentative at all, or picky. I"m trying to understand the limits, if there are any, to the injunction ‘do not resist evil’. I’ve stated what I think it means, but I may be wrong, and testing the limits of your understanding of the injunction would help me to see it better.


I think by “non-resistance” the Hutterites and Conservative Mennonites have in mind being non-resistant to aggression. I don’t think they understand non-resistance as complying with everything that others try to force upon you. If the man had complied with the army, donned the uniform, and went out to war, then he would have had to resist the army’s enemy and be required to kill people.

Jesus said, “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
He didn’t say, “If anyone forces you to kill a man, kill two men.”
Surely Jesus would have instructed non-compliance in the latter case.


Ok, thanks for the thoughts!


That is pretty interesting, I was watching some of those youtube videos about animals fighting and attacking other animals (interesting how many times the underdog comes out ahead) and it was just interesting on how some humans in and through time act like animals. This is what I think God’s relationship with Abraham was about, to change a people to serve God. There is I think an instinct there. But I do think Christ leveled the playing field when it comes to re aligning the way we ‘LOOK’ at our neighbor. Love really will conquer all.


Here is the definition of PC (politically correct) - tongue in cheek I think:

Violence Officially Redefined As ‘Literally Anything At All That Makes You Feel The Slightest Discomfort’


Yepper, but the point I was trying to make is that Christ (or the understanding of him) took the insistence of animal like behavior and changed that behavior. The instinctive tribal reactions were and are replaced by understanding, compassion and love. Now don’t get me wrong to say that I don’t believe there is a place to fight, which there is, but being blessed as we have been, the fight or fights have been political and theological in reference to our place in history. We should count ourselves truly blessed that many or most of us are not seeing people dragged and killed in the streets by the authorities in many of our nations. This is the power of the holy spirit. But there is still work to be done…

To be continued.


Well if someone is coming after me with a knife, I would feel more than “slight” discomfort.




SHOULD we really obey Jesus’ commands concerning non-resistance? If we see someone about to kill a child, are we to just stand there and let him do it? If ISIS is wreaking havoc in our community, should we refuse to join the army to stop them? These are the hard questions relating to complying with Jesus’ teaching that we are not to resist evil people.

I would like to post the thoughts of Leo Tolstoi on this very issue. I have omitted some parts and have indicated this with three dots …

How, then, is a man to act when he sees that obvious harm will result from following the law of love and the law of non-resistance? In the example that is always cited, how is a man to act when a robber in his sight kills or injures a child, and when the child cannot be saved otherwise than by killing the robber?

It is generally assumed that, when they cite such an example, there can be no other answer to the question than that the robber ought to be killed in order to save the child…

It is assumed that it is necessary to kill the robber in order to save the child, but we need only stop and think on what ground a man should act thus, be he a Christian or a non-Christian, to convince ourselves that such an act can have no rational foundations… Why should a non-Christian, who does not recognize God and the meaning of life in the fulfillment of His will, kill the robber in defending the child? Someone certainly dies if he kills the robber, but he does not know for certain until the very last moment whether the robber will kill the child or not. There is also this irregularity: who has decided that the life of the child is more valuable and better than the life of the robber?

If a non-Christian does not recognize God, and does not consider the meaning of life to consist in the fulfillment of God’s will, then the consideration as to what is more profitable for him and for all men – the continuation of the robber’s life or that of the child – is only a calculation that guides the choice of his acts. But to decide this, he must know what will become of the child who he saves, and what would become of the robber if he did not kill him. But he cannot know that. And so, if he is a non-Christian, he has no rational foundation for saving the child through the death of the robber.

But if a man is a Christian, and so recognizes God and sees the meaning of life in the fulfillment of His will, he has still less cause to depart from the law given him by God, no matter what terrible robber may attack any innocent and beautiful child. He may implore the robber, may place his body between the robber and his victim, but there is one thing he cannot do: he cannot consciously depart from the law of God, the fulfillment of which gives meaning to his life.

Fais ce que doit, advienne que pourra (Do what is right and let come what may) is an expression of profound wisdom. Each of us knows unquestionably what he ought to do, but none of us knows or can know what will happen. Thus we are brought to the same conclusion, not only because we must do what is right, but also because we know what is right, and do not know at all what will come and result from our acts. The Christian teaching is a teaching as to what we must do for the fulfillment of the will of Him who sent us into the world. But the reflections as to what consequences we assume to result
from certain acts of men not only have nothing in common with Christianity, but are that very delusion which destroys Christianity. No one has yet seen the imaginary robber with the imaginary child, and all the horrors, which fill history and contemporary events, have been produced only because men imagine that they can know the consequences of the possible acts…

It was this false justification of violence that Christ arraigned. He showed that, since every act of violence could be justified (as actually happens when two enemies do violence to one another and both consider their violence justifiable), and there is no chance of verifying the justice of either cause, it is
necessary to disbelieve any justifications of violence, and it is never necessary to make use of such justifications.

It would seem that men who profess Christianity would have to unveil this deception carefully, because one of the chief manifestations of Christianity consists in the unveiling of this deception. But the very opposite has happened. Men to whom violence was advantageous, and who did not want to give up these advantages, took upon themselves the exclusive propaganda of Christianity. These men asserted that, since there are cases in which the non-application of violence produces more evil than its application (the imaginary robber who kills the child), we must not fully accept Christ’s teaching about non-resistance to evil. They advanced the notion that that we may depart from His teaching in the defense of our lives and of those of other men, in the defense of our country, in the protection of society from madmen and malefactors, and in many other cases. But the decision of the question as to when Christ’s teaching ought to be set aside was left to those very men who made use of violence. Thus, Christ’s teaching about nonresistance to evil turned out to be set aside completely. What is worse than all that, those very men whom Christ arraigned began to consider themselves the exclusive preachers and expounders of His teaching. But “the light shines in the dark,” and the false preachers of Christianity are again arraigned by His teaching.

The question is not whether it will be good or bad for human society to follow the law of love and the resulting law of non-resistance, but whether you – a being who lives today and is dying by degrees every moment – will now, this very minute, fully do the will of Him who sent you and clearly expressed it in tradition and in your reason and heart, or whether you want to act contrary to this will. As soon as the question is put in this form, there will be but one answer: I want at once, this very minute, without any delay, without waiting for anyone, and withoutconsidering the seeming consequences, to fulfill with all my strength what I alone am indubitably commanded to do by Him who sent me into the world. In no case, and under no condition, will I or can I do what is contrary to it, because in this lies the only possibility of my living a rational life that lifts me above my otherwise wretched condition.

By Leo Tolstoi from His Letter to Ernest Howard Crosby on Non-Resistance, January 12, 1896


Don - thanks for the snippet from Tolstoy.
I think however that he presents a weak argument; his artistic rhetoric makes it sound more plausible than it is. That being said, he may in the end be correct - but the argument would have to be much more detailed, subtler (in the good sense), and be willing to show just how far and into what circumstances it reaches.


@DaveB you said “Not many of us are aware of resisting the devil directly, Don. For one thing, we do not believe (or do we) that he is omnipresent, so at most he can directly tempt one person at a time.”

It’s funny you mention that. I don’t believe in Satan as a conscious being, yet literally every day when I am tempted by sinful thoughts, I say in my head, “Get behind me Satan”. It really helps me nip sins in the bud.


That is interesting. I totally believe there is no Satan. But thank you qaz in sharing that. But the understanding of how we have been coerced into thinking that these things are real, is quite extraordinary.


By whom, then, was Jesus tempted, as recorded by Matthew in Chapter 4? Jesus even talked to him and called him “Satan.” Or was He talking to Himself?

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
4 But he answered, "It is written, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple
6 and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, "’He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “’On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.
9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “’You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”
11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.


Your Idea that these things are literal is in my opinion okay for you, but I see these things as metaphors, and so you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe.



That’s one of the big Biblical questions. When do we take something as metaphorical and when do we take things as literal? The same goes for the tribulation and the Zombie Apocalypse. :wink:


Probably the most troubling commandment for me is not being able to look at a woman with desire/lust. Why would anyone ever get married if they didn’t first desire their spouse?


The same Greek word is used for “woman” as for “wife.” So Jesus may have referred to looking at someone’s wife with lust. Otherwise, how could it be “adultery” (unless you yourself were already married).


Did any married person here not first desire their then-future spouse before getting married??