Recently, I received a difficult and probing question on IASP.

The question came in response to my suggestion that part of Jesus’ vision for the Christian life is that we will

never resist a person who does evil.

https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2017/02/04/be-perfect/

Here is the question as it appeared in the comment section of my blog on 7 February (https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/luke-3-21-22/) :

Hi Chris – your posts are appreciated for their thought inducing prompters —

I have a query though …. In your “Be Perfect” post on Feb 4 — I was confused with We will…….. NEVER [?] resist a person who does evil.

I always thought it was to “resist” whoever does evil. ????

Which is correct ???

J Napier [ Australia]

In my defense, the idea of non-resistance to evil is not an idea I dreamed up on my own. It is rooted in the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon On The Mount where he is reported to have said:

39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. (Matthew 5:39-41)

This is difficult and challenging. These are among the most contentious and unpopular words Jesus is ever said to have uttered.

Here is my initial response to my questioner, with a little bit of further reflection. In my initial response I wrote:

It is a great and difficult question.

The idea does come directly from words attributed to Jesus in “The Sermon On The Mount”.

I think what we are supposed to see here is that non-resistance is a quality of the heart. Non-resistance does not mean non-action.

I believe that Jesus’ contention here is that healthy, life-giving action emerges from a place within ourselves where we start from an acceptance of the realities of our situation as they are, even the actions the may be characterized as “evil,” and then respond from that place of acceptance of the reality of what is.

Jesus is not teaching social policy here. Clearly, societies are responsible for placing parameters around violent behaviour and doing what they can to keep citizens safe. But, even for social policy, a community is more likely to make creative and life-giving choices if those choices emerge from a place of deep acceptance of what is, rather than resistance to our circumstances.

Hope this helps a little, I may try to say more about this in a future post. Thanks again for the question.

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Since offering that comment, I have been thinking about our community’s response to the tragedy in our midst of drug addiction and particularly the controversy around proposals for safe injection sites.

The general attitude to drug abuse in our community has been characterized by “The War On Drugs”, an attitude of complete resistance to “the evil” of illicit drugs.

The proposal for safe injection sites comes from a different mindset. Safe injections sites accept the reality that a certain portion of our population is deeply entrenched in the use of life-threatening substances. Safe injection sites are a small sign that we seek to accept such people where they are and treat them with respect and compassion. We do not want merely to criminalize their behaviour and push them even further to the margins of society. Safe injection sites make it possible to maintain some tenuous connection between the person who is addicted and the mainstream of society. This can only be a good thing.

Safe injection sites also make it possible to offer counseling, to the person who may be ready to access support in their personal life. These sights have the potential to lower the mortality rate among people who are addicted. They keep syringes and drug paraphernalia off the streets. They create an environment in which there is a greater likelihood that a person will eventually seek  treatment than in an environment where a person is further ostracized by being labelled a criminal.

But, safe injection sites are only possible when we are willing to lay down our arms, give up our “War On Drugs” and accept the reality of peoples’ lives as they are. This healthy response to a real social disease can only flow from “non-resistance” to the pain and brokenness that cause people to become addicted to the use of drugs.

 

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