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What Does Jesus Mean By "Resist Not Evil?"

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Society spends a great deal of time ignoring the moral values it supposedly reveres. I've been thinking a lot recently about forgiveness, which is at the very heart of Christian morality. Has this country forgiven anyone recently? Or have we turned into a society of perpetual blame and punishment? It's undoubtedly true that Jesus's message about "resist not evil" is extremely radical, and no society has come close to living up to it. Revenge is so much easier, but unfortunately it is not only immoral but extremely un-Christian.

People seem to assume that the moment you brand someone else as evil (terrorists, Nazis, mass murderers, pedophiles, etc.), you have every right to seek revenge against them. The War on Terror is based on this notion. The first person to disagree, however, happens to be Jesus, which our right-wing religious hawks seem to ignore. If you look at the passage in the New Testament where Jesus says to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-42), the whole speech illustrates how radical Jesus's morality actually was.

He says, in modern words:
You've been taught an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say don't resist evil.
If someone hits you, let him hit you twice.
If someone sues you in court to get your coat, give it to him and your cloak, too.
If someone forces you to go one mile, go two.
If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If he wants to borrow money, don't turn your back.
Now, it's clear that no one, Christian or otherwise, lives up to these injunctions. "Resist not evil," if carried out in real life, would lead to a society of forgiveness. Horrendous notion! If we went around forgiving everybody, either they'd completely take over and dominate us or they might forgive us in return. This second option, which Jesus perhaps had in mind, is so unthinkable that the first option is the only one society considers viable. To forgive, as we now view it, is to show weakness, and those who show weakness deserve what they get: Evil will overrun them.

The only fly in the ointment is that Jesus gave in to evil and is worshipped for it. This moral dilemma has vexed the world for centuries. Now that morality has reversed itself and punishing all evil-doers to the absolute maximum is the most Christian thing to do, we can all rest easy. Jesus's most radical ideas have been washed clean from our memories and our conscience.

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