Reconciling the world unto God
The Scripture used throughout this study is quoted from the King James Version. Any explanatory insertions by the author within a Scripture verse are enclosed in brackets [ ].
God gave Jesus Christ words to speak that were radical and revolutionary. His instructions on how to live were completely opposite to what most think and do. Yet, these truths are the very keys to unlock a life of godliness in the midst of an evil world. These spoken truths are written in God's Word for us to understand and apply. They are still radical and revolutionary in our time.
"Resist not evil" at first glance seems to be confusing, illogical, and contradictory to God's Word. However, as we study this subject, we will see this truth to be simple, logical, and life-changing.
God is love. Jesus Christ always did the will of the Father; therefore, he loved like no other had before. In him we see God's love manifested clearly. Jesus taught his disciples how to live love's way, and we too have the joy of following this instruction. We will see "resist not evil" is living on the higher plane of love. To live love is a superior way of living, far above the evil with which most are overcome.
A consideration of "anger" and "hate" will help eluci date an aspect of evil important to understand if we are to carry out "resist not evil." Two Greek words used in the Bible communicate two aspects of anger. Orge is anger as a state of mind and is passive in its effect towards others. Thumos is used to express an outburst of anger which attacks others. Neither is desirable in the life of a Christian.
Also two Greek words are used to communicate two aspects of "hate." Ekthra is hate or hostility as an inner disposition of the mind. Miseo is hate as active ill will towards others. Miseo is the manifestation towards others of ekthra, inner hostility. Again, as Christians we do not want any hate in our lives.
In like manner to anger and hate, all evil is either passive (within oneself) or active (attacking others with the intent of corrupting them). When the lord said "resist not evil," he was speaking about evil in others that attacks (with the intent of corrupting) us. Such evil is a paradox. Its aim seems to be to push us away, but in reality it works as a giant magnet designed to pull us in.
When we are assaulted physically our natural response is to protect ourselves, often done by attacking back. God made in man that which is called the autonomic nervous system which produces involuntary responses. This means when we are confronted with danger, we respond involun tarily. The heart automatically starts beating faster, eyes dilate, perspiration begins, and we immediately make ready to protect ourselves. If an arrow were shot at your head, without thought, automatically, you would move out of the way. These involuntary responses are a part of the nervous system connected on both sides of the spinal column. They are not voluntary responses because they are not a conscious function of the mind.
The adversary understands how our bodies work and tries to use this against us to involve us in evil. When someone verbally attacks us with his hate, anger, and such like, our autonomic nervous system may very well go into operation. With the momentum moving in the direction of defending and attacking back, we are tempted to respond to evil with evil. The involuntary responses we cannot control, but the mind's resistance to evil can and should be controlled. We are not to resist evil. If we respond to evil with evil, we will be drawn in and become a part of what we resist.
Matthew 5:38 and 39:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but who soever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
"Smite thee on thy right cheek" is not referring to being punched or smacked hard. God never wants His people to endure physical abuse. If this happens, you have no choice but to protect yourself. Many scriptures teach we are to defend ourselves if someone is trying physically to hurt us. The above expression was understood in the oriental culture as a very great insult. In their culture, to touch the cheek of another man was a humiliating insult. The essence of what is being said here is if someone insults you, do not respond in kind. Let him do it again.
The normal course of action is if someone insults us, we insult him. If someone curses at us, we curse at him. If someone yells at us, we yell at him. When this is our response, we have been baited, hooked, and pulled into the ship, the resist evil ship. Now we are participating in evil because we resisted it.
How very clever and calculated this whirlpool of evil is. When evil attacks we already have the momentum of involuntary responses working, and we also have to contend with our pride. "Who does that guy think he is, talking to me like that?" "Nobody insults me and gets away with it." "Where I come from we don't put up with that kind of behavior." "You talking to ME?" Pride is a driving emotion that will take us for a negative ride. Proverbs says that pride comes before a fall.1
The scenario we are seeing here is how the Devil proliferates evil in the world. When people resist evil it multiplies as a cancer does, rapidly, out-of-control.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
The example given is your coat and cloak, not your life, house, livelihood, or your spirituality. If you go to law to argue over your coat, you will become a part of the evil. What we deal with is the fact that the other indivi- dual has no right to that which is yours. "Where is the justice in someone's taking my coat?" We live in an evil world, and if our main concern is justice above fellowship with God, we will be drowned in evil. Our lord knew how to deal with evil resist not evil.
Should we persist in doing our own will in this situation and fight the thief in court, what would we win? When we follow the lord's instructions, the evil assault on our lives ends immediately. Going the legal route prolongs the evil indefinitely. We know how very long the law takes to settle matters. So rather than the evil having been dealt with quickly, it lives on. Every day until the case is settled, not only do we live without our coat, but we have to fight the anger, hate, and resentment that accompany the pursuit of "justice."
When we go to the law to get back that which is rightfully ours, we allow the law to become our suffi- ciency, not God. Would it not be wiser to give the guy your cloak also, and turn to God asking Him to provide a new and better coat and cloak?
"Resist not evil" begins to make sense when we take time to think it through. We cannot eliminate the evil that is in the world, but we can minimize its effect on our lives by obeying the Word of God.
I Peter 2:13 and 14:
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.
Are the ordinances of man the same as the ordinances of God? Absolutely not! Are the ordinances of man always right, just, equitable? Absolutely not! Some of the ordinances of man are wrong, unjust, and unreason able. Why then should we submit to them? "For the Lord's sake." As long as the ordinances of man are not causing us to break the commandments of God, we should just submit. We have one life to live. Each day has only 24 hours. How much of our lives do we want to spend in defiance of man's ordinances? One minute wasted on such matters of little importance is one minute lost in our very short lives. Do you want to fight City Hall or live love's way, God's way? Resist not evil!
The ordinances of man have nothing to do with our spiritual relationship with God. Our sonship rights are God-given and untarnished by any man or government.
I Peter 2:17:
Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.
Apparently, for man to be disrespectful to others, and especially to those in the government, is very easy. I say this because to speak disparagingly about others is very common. "Everybody" seems to have a joke about the President, Governor, etc. God says do not be like everybody else. Resist not evil, live above the normal. Be a radical honor all men, even the governmental leaders. He does not tell us we have to trust them or believe in their policies.
I Peter 2:18:
Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
This verse can be applied today to employees showing their employer respect. Give respect even if the boss is froward, and not good and gentle. Do not behave like most, talking evil, showing disrespect.
I Peter 2:21-23:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:
Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.
The example given us to follow is Christ's response to evil. None of us will ever be confronted with the evil with which he was assaulted. He did not resist evil, but rather committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously. Jesus Christ did not permit anger, hate, and revenge in his mind. What were his thoughts when he was hanging on the tree? "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." His concern was not justice but loving forgive ness. He indeed lived above the evil with which he was confronted. He is our example of how to resist not evil.
Jesus Christ maintained a single concern doing always the will of his Father. He never allowed the influences of others to divert him from pursuing God's will in his life. We, too, must maintain singleness of heart in doing God's will first. The approval of God was the lord's concern, and it should also be ours. That which someone else thinks about us should not influence us. We are to live exclusively for our Father. We, too, are to commit ourselves to him that judgeth righteously.
Why should the words of man, especially words of insult or criticism, ever affect our actions? Jesus knew he was God's son. He was completely confident of his relationship with his Father. Therefore, the evil others spoke at or did to him never caused him to doubt himself. Man's words and actions were never significant to him because he knew God's Word about himself. As we grow in our understanding of God's Word and what He says about us, resisting not evil will be easier for us. When we lack confidence with God, we may be subjected to evil influences.
Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men.
If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peace ably with all men.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
The holy life of the pure-hearted does not respond to evil with evil. We live love and give the responsibility for justice to the righteous judge, God.
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
"Heap coals of fire on his head" is an Eastern idiom. In the small Eastern villages one person would rise first and start the fire for the village. A boy then took the burning coals in a piece of pottery, balanced on top of his head, to the other households. This was a pleasant task for the boy because in the cold of the morning the coals warmed him. With our love we can warm our enemies. Our good can overcome their evil.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
The way to resist not evil is to overcome evil with good. The world may say we are extremists if we live like this. God says this should be normal for us who live in the supernatural realm. Love is a better way of living.
Matthew 5:43 and 44:
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and perse cute you;
Can we love our enemies based on their behavior towards us? Do we bless them who curse us because of their words? Is the good we give to those who hate us going to be drawn out of us by them? No!
The love we live really has nothing to do with people, but has everything to do with God. We walk the love way because our Father loves us, and we love Him. If we give love only to those who deserve it, we are no different than anybody else in the world.
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Father wants us to love as He does.
Ephesians 5:1 and 2:
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;
And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.
The way to resist not evil is to walk in love.
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
We do not do to others what they do to us. We do to others what we would like for them to do to us. Our dealing with others is based upon our fellowship with God and obedience to His Word, not people.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
To live this life of love indeed takes courage, but as verse 35 says, "your reward shall be great." What we are viewing is a much, much better way of living, far superior to resisting evil.
There is an additional benefit for us if we live this way.
Luke 6:37 and 38:
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be mea sured to you again.
The principle of truth is with the same measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again. In Galatians 6 this truth is stated, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Herein is another great reason to resist not evil. If we respond to evil with evil, we are sowing evil seeds which will be eventually, if not immediately, reaped in our lives. In like manner, if we sow good, we will receive good.
Does "resist not evil" mean we let people run all over us? Do we let people push us around with their evil words? What we have seen thus far in the scriptures is not being pushed around, rather taking a very bold, coura geous stand. Living love is not being passive, letting others run over you. Love is very aggressive. Love is attacking in God's way and not becoming a part of evil. Evil is the adversary's weaponry; love is God's way. Evil's aim is destruction; love's aim is deliverance.
The great example we have of someone who always lived lovingly is Jesus Christ. No one pushed him around. No one ran all over him with words.
For man to be redeemed, a price had to be paid. The price was the life of Jesus Christ. Make no mistake in thinking, but know the only way his enemies could have taken him captive was by his voluntary surrendering. They could have never laid a hand on him otherwise. Yes, he was relentlessly mocked, humiliated, savagely tortured, and crucified, but all of these were allowed by him. He knew it was all necessary to redeem us.
He took our place so that we could live abundantly today and not have to endure what he did. He suffered so we would not have to suffer in like manner. The suffer ing and crucifixion of Christ show us the most extreme evil situation any man has ever endured. No other man could endure what he did, and because he did it for us, no other man ever has to do so.
The example we are to follow, spoken of in I Peter is how he resisted not evil (not his suffering). The way he controlled his mind to think godly and act lovingly is the most graphic, brilliant example of overcoming evil with good.
In our lord's ministry are many examples in which he was confronted with evil and overcame it with good that are more similar to that with which we may be con fronted. You could study John 8 and see how he handled the vicious, evil attacks of the Pharisees. He was the master of not being baited into evil, yet not allowing himself to be a doormat for the adversary's puppets.
Their evil accusations were cutting and hostile, aimed at provoking him to sin. They wanted him to resist evil so he would be brought to their low level of living. Jesus Christ responded in a very controlled, deliberate manner. The truths he spoke in response to their lies pierced right through evil to their hearts. He did not curse at them, nor did he stoop to use meaningless, spiteful insults aimed at belittling. He was not sarcastic, nor caustic in any way. His words were not spoken out of uncontrolled anger. Without resisting evil he took a stand for truth which shut the mouths of the accusers and glorified God. We, too, can live this way.
We can obey the will of God rather than allowing ourselves to be pulled into evil. We can walk in love and overcome evil with good, confident of our relationship with God, and leaving judgment and justice to Him. As Jesus Christ did, we can rise above anger, hate, revenge, and pride. We can stand for truth and glorify our Father.
Yes, "resist not evil" is radical and revolutionary, but it is the only way to live a godly life in an evil world. If we dare to live this way, we will be propelled to a level of living that is supernatural and abundant.
1 Proverbs 16:18: Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.