But I Say Unto You That Ye Resist Not Evil
“You have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you not to resist evil: but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other:” (Matthew 5:38-39) The Sermon on the mount was such an unusually instructive message that people took notice, for He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
His first statement to the multitudes was a promise of blessing to the poor in spirit, then the beatitudes followed step by step to persecution for righteousness sake; for He knew very well that Satan, the old archenemy of souls would do all he could to put out the holy fire (Leviticus 16:13). Yes, the Lord's disciples were persecuted to death, but God chose one of the disciples to write this sermon in a Gospel, and has preserved it for our instruction. We shall resist evil as sanctioned by the Mosaic law, and as the law of our land still permits. Killing is tolerated in self defense, but as defenseless followers of Jesus Christ we cannot carry deadly weapons for the purpose of saving our lives, because we know that the hairs of our head are all numbered; and as Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.”; and all who have experienced the blessings of the nine beatitudes are called according to His purpose, are God's elect; heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, and the sooner they can lay down their lives for righteousness sake, the more fortunate they are; since death, to the redeemed children of God is but a gateway from the realm of grace to the greater realms of eternal glory, but it is also a gateway from the wickedness of this dark world to the realm of the eternally damned for those who have not made preparation for heaven in this time of grace. Heaven is a prepared place for prepared people and none other. It was by God's love that He sent His Son to prepare people for heaven. All vengeance and revenge are forbidden to Christ's followers, because they are degrading to the soul.
The highly enlightened Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19 “Avenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Revenge is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” Thanks be to God that He has reserved this right of vengeance for Himself. Paul then teaches how we should treat our enemies in order to win them: “Avenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved; but give place unto wrath, for it is written: Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:20). The fruit of love has changed many an enemy into a friend.
The Lord further teaches that we should not insist on our rights: “And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have your cloak as well." (Matthew 5:40). We often read of the coat and cloak. People then did not dress as we do. It appears to me that the cloak, People then did not dress as we do. It appears to me that the cloak was valued higher than the coat. He did not say, “Give him thy cloak,” but “Let him have thy cloak also.” It is more blessed to lose all that you have than to defend your legal right. I believe Paul referred to this sermon when he said: “Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, when he said: “Already indeed there is plainly a fault among you, that you have lawsuits one with another. Why do you not rather take wrong? Why do you not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded But you do wrong and defraud, and that to your brethren. Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God?" (I Corinthians 6:7-9).
There are many a professing Christian who refuse to bear arms but are not entirely defenseless. If they do not strike back with their fist, they will nevertheless do with their tongue.
Peter testifies of Christ: “Who, when he was reviled, did not revile: when he suffered, he threatened not: but delivered himself to him that judged him justly" (I Peter 2:23). Jesus not only preached nonresistance, He also practiced it, and we shall follow His footsteps. “For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently; this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps" (I Peter 2:20-21). He is our example, His life is an infallible pattern for all Christians.
“And whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him other two, Give to him that asketh of thee and from him that would borrow of thee turn not away” (Matthew 5:41-42). I have heard this explained that the first mile represents the commanding law, and the second mile is the law of liberty, but according to the various translations, it means: if he compels you to accompany him as a guide or burden bearer, or both. At the time when Jesus traveled on this sin-cursed earth they did not travel by railroad, automobile, or buggy, but by donkeys and camels, or they walked. Many of the roads they used would be impassable for us today.
“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 persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44)
It is easy to love our good neighbors but loving our enemies does not agree with our carnal nature; here that nature must be inverted by the love and spirit of Christ. Here the old natural man must be crucified; must be die, and be buried, so that we may arise to a new life in Christ. We can then love our enemies for His sake, once we realize that Christ first loved us and gave his life for us, while we were still his enemies.
“Bless them that curse you.” Yes, the true followers of Christ are asked to bless, and not curse. The spirit of Jesus Christ dwelling within enables them to love their bitterest enemies, and to bless those that curse them, etc.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). Our enemies are also God's enemies; they are unsaved, and God has called us through Jesus Christ to win them into His kingdom. This cannot be done with the fist, but with love and a spirit of meekness. If we love our enemies, bless them that curse us, pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us, then it is impossible that we engage in devastating warfare where we must slaughter our enemies, crippling many in body and mind with the most destructive devices man can design. In the World War there were undoubtedly Catholics, on both sides. These then were beloved brethren who should have greeted each other with a warm handshake and sought to encourage one another to live in harmony with the teaching of their Lord, exchanging words of comfort and consolation. But instead, they greeted each other with bullets, explosives, gases, and every means available to dispatch their fellow man unsaved into eternity. The very thought of it makes one shudder with horror.
Jesus continues His sermon by telling us why we should love our enemies and treat them kindly: “That ye may be children of your Father in heaven.” If the spirit of love tends to make us into children of God, then we cannot possibly claim these blessed promises as His children if we harbor a spirit of hatred and revenge.
We must love all men insofar that we are concerned for the salvation of their souls, but we must never love their evil deeds, or follow the worldly lusts in which they engage.
By the grace of God we can live above this worldly; love our enemies, and treating them kindly, instead of returning evil for evil; for our Father in heaven does even the same:
“That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise upon the good, and bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45). God extends His love to all men, even though the majority do not think of pausing to thank Him for His goodness and mercy.
“For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? do not also the heathens this? Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:46-48). The interpretation of this, is that since natural love and kindness toward our friends and brethren is unavailing in the sight of God, and pertains only to our own selfish interests, then as followers of Christ, we shall be perfect in that we also extend love and benevolence to our enemies and persecutors to win them into His kingdom.