Non-Resistance: The Abolition of Justice Part One

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“Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” – Proverbs 25:26

INTRO

Within abolitionist circles there has been some talk about the doctrine of non-resistance. To be clear, only a small handful of self-proclaimed abolitionists hold this view. However, it is important enough to give some time for a rebuttal. Jered Ragon, a brother and a friend, has been in the forefront in these conversations and has taken the time to explain his views here. I’ll note now that his views are most similar to the nineteenth century abolitionist and universalist pastor, Adin Ballou. I would not call Jered a carbon copy of Ballou, but their argumentation follows the same logic and leads to the same place. Adin Ballou’s work on non-resistance can be found here. Adin says what Jered says, but he also says much more and fleshes out the implications. I do not link to this book because I think it is biblical or particularly scholarly, but it may help the reader better understand the stripe of non-resistance that is being advocated by Jered and a handful of others. Being that I believe these views to be grievous error and potentially damaging to abolitionism and the Kingdom of God, it is important to answer his views thoroughly and without sugar-coating the meaning and implications of non-resistance. For the sake of justice, truth, and mercy, I must speak plainly on these matters. The doctrine of non-resistance is an abortion of abolition and an abolition of justice. It is patently incompatible with Holy Scripture, the Kingdom of God, and abolitionism. It’s prooftexts are convincing only in a historic vacuum and in isolation from the rest of God’s Word. It perverts the very nature of justice, love, and righteousness. It pietisticly relegates the duty of the Christian to his or her personal life. And lastly, like sand thrown on a fire, the doctrine of non-resistance is a hindrance to bringing about the abolition of human abortion and other national sins. It is much more than this, and it is difficult to adequately address all of problems with the outworkings of this duplicitous doctrine. I hope that I will be able to adequately explain at least the most grievous implications. Although I am specifically addressing the words of Jered Ragon and Adin Ballou, you’ll find many of their arguments similar, if not the same as, standard Christian pacifism and some forms of Christian anarchism. In this way I hope this is helpful to more than those familiar with Jered and his small band of friends.

First, I will define the idea, then I will address the key texts that Jered Ragon has used, some of the doctrine’s implications, and lastly a few of my personal thoughts. In this post I will be primarily dealing with the mistreatment Matthew 5 receives from non-resistants. The non-resistant uses many texts (exclusively new testament texts) to support his position. Jered posted a good-sized list of several of these texts. At a later time I may go through text by text showing why these texts do not support the non-resistance thesis, but to save some time, I will focus on where Jered focused. Suffice it to say, many of the quoted texts beg the question in that they only support non-resistance if you first presume special definitions for words (such as peace or love), while others only demonstrate an occasion for non-resistance as opposed to a prescription of the doctrine.

DEFINING NON-RESISTANCE

To understand why this doctrine of non-resistance is erroneous, we must first define it. Jered defines it as,

“specifically a prohibition of injurious or harmful resistance upon another image bearer.”

The doctrine does not prohibit non physical resistance, such as using persuasion or resisting temptation. It is specifically denouncing the use of physical force, though with a few exceptions. Exceptions that cause me to wonder if non-resistants understand them to be exceptions. More on that in the next article. Adin Ballou gave a definition similar to Jered Ragan, but instead of giving us a plain meaning, he gave his definition by explaining his qualifications to the plain dictionary definition of non-resistance. It is clear enough. This is Ballou’s summation of his qualifications.

“It is not non-resistance to animals and inanimate things, nor to Satan, but only to human beings. Nor is it moral non-resistance to human beings, but chiefly physical. Nor is it physical non-resistance to all human beings, under-all circumstances, but only so far as to abstain totally from the infliction of personal injury, as a means of resistance. It is simply non-resistance of injury with injury – evil with evil.”

Just so we understand what Mr. Ballou and Mr. Ragon are saying, both would say that non-resistance only applies to humans, it does not apply to moral suasion or resistance to sinful temptations, and there are exceptions for some kinds of non-injurious physical resistance. Like Jered, Adin also refers to the mentally ill or an unruly child as situations in which one may non-injuriously resist. Adin also adds the “intoxicated, and violently passionate”. In the latter part of this article I will show how these exceptions undermine the non-resistance principle at its very core.

This doctrine necessarily leads to the abolition of any and all temporal justice, the condemnation of self-defence, and the condemnation of the physical defence of others. This includes the defence of your family. This is clear.

MATTHEW 5 INTRO

As many would suspect, the primary prooftext for the non-resistant is Matthew 5:38-48 (and the parallel passage in the book of Luke). While reading this text, keep in mind Jered’s exhortation that this text “must be taken quite literally if they are to be taken at all.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Jered follows this text with another exhortation to take this passage literally, saying

“that we cannot convince ourselves that Jesus meant to teach anything other than what He literally said…”

Then something extraordinary happens. The non-resistant interpretation of this text, following multiple spurrings to take the passage literally, is as follows.

“we hold that Christ at this time and not before prohibited the application of injurious force against an aggressor (evil doer) in cases of carrying out the penalty of the law that condemns the aggressor as well as incidences of plain self defense.”

And,

“Likewise we maintain that anyone who wishes to be obedient to Christ must abandon any and all legal defense of their own property from an aggressor. The application of Christs non-resistant principles toward the issue of private property is not to be misunderstood as having only applied to articles of clothing.”

Extraordinarily, after being reminded to take this text literally, the non-resistant then stretches the plain words of this text to apply to any and all aggression and any and all property. Instead of this text having to do with the interpersonal ethics of not retaliating to insulting slaps and the asking for clothing, those literal meanings are substituted for absolute principles that extend artificially to any and all contexts. Absolute principles that our Lord did not prescribe to us. I thought we were to take this passage literally? The non-resistant in fact urges us to do quite the opposite.

Now, to be sure, we should not read every text in a woodenly and exclusively literal manner. Many texts, especially the words of Jesus, are packed with principles that we can and should apply to the specific examples given in the text. But to understand the principle, we must first understand the literal meaning found in the specific examples. To do this, we must understand the context.

CONTEXT

Matthew 5:38-48 is not a portion of scripture all on its own. It is not, if you will, a text on an island. As the old principle states, we must interpret Scripture by Scripture. There is the immediate context of the Sermon on the Mount, as well as several other relevant texts throughout Scripture.

Verses 38-48 are a part of the Sermon on the Mount that followed a particular formula. It belongs in a list of ideas and principles that begin with “you have heard that it was said” and then Jesus followed with a correction or clarification. These handful of clarifications from Christ had to do with murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, retaliation, and loving your enemies. Jesus was clearly correcting some bad practices. Assuredly, some of these texts are a bit odd and difficult to the modern reader, but God be glorified, for the good of the saints and to be a much-needed buffer against confusion and misunderstanding, Christ thought it wise to place our “you have heard that is was said” texts directly following Matthew 5:17-20. The importance of Matthew 5:17-20 in understanding the whole of Matthew 5 cannot be understated. Note that Jered did not cite or quote Matthew 5:17-20. Matthew 5:17-20 is as follows.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

The immediate context of Matthew 5:21-48 is clearly Matthew 5:17-20. It is no coincidence.  Verses 17-20 are not haphazardly thrown in there disconnected from the rest of the sermon. The placement of Christ’s words are not confusing and it is clear that they are there specifically because Christ Jesus was preparing to clarify and correct common corruptions of the Law. As we look closer at verses 38-48, we mustn’t interpret these verses in such a way that causes Jesus to be guilty of exactly what he just commanded us not to do. We must never read verses 38-48 in such a way that has Jesus condemning Jesus as “least in the Kingdom of Heaven”. That would be ludicrous. But that is precisely how non-resistants read Matthew 5.

Just so that it’s clear, the non-resistance interpretation of Matthew 5:38-48 does necessarily abolish the Law of God. Merely relaxing the Law of God will judge you to be “the least in the Kingdom of Heaven”, but to say that non-resistance only relaxes the Law is an understatement. Non-resistance abolishes the Law. Although the non-resistant may avoid the words “abolish” or “relax”, Jered (and other non-resistants) are self-consciously aware of the implications of their peculiar interpretation. Jered Ragon is plain when he states

“In the fifth chapter of Matthew Christ contrasts the penal code of the law given under Moses, namely an ‘eye for an eye and tooth for tooth,’ with a new commandment to ‘resist not an evil person.’”

It is clear then that the non-resistance doctrine pits the Law of God against their “new commandment”. However, while the non-resistant decidedly does contrast God’s Law with their interpretation, Jesus Christ does no such thing.

One may ask why the doctrine of non-resistance cannot be a doctrine of discontinuity between the New and Old Covenant. This is a worthy question, however, Jesus indicated when His law would pass away. It is to pass away after “all is accomplished”. Though there could be some debate as to when “all is accomplished”, and I’m even more sure there could be debate on what laws passed away, surely we can all agree that all did not get accomplished in the space of time between verses 20 and 21. Notwithstanding differing eschatological views and views on Covenantal continuity, we all know with certainty that the Law would not pass away before “all is accomplished”. As stated above, the doctrine of non-resistance necessitates an abolishing of the Law. Not after “all is accomplished”, but rather in the gap between verses 20 and 21. This may be even worse than the original “Gap Theory”.

YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID

The non-resistant reads “you have heard that it was said… but I say to you” in such a way that they dare not apply to the surrounding similar passages. When the non-resistant reads these words in verses 38-48, there is a presumption made that we are to absolutely and without compromise nullify the “you have heard that it was said” portion of the exhortation. If we flippantly read every principle following “you have heard that it was said” as an absolute nullification of that principle, then not only are we nullifying “eye for an eye”, but we are also nullifying ” you shall not murder”, and “you shall not commit adultery”. All of those principles being in the exact same placement in the “you have heard it said” formula, we should be mindful of setting up a special hermeneutic for only the latter portions of this chapter. This is a blatant example of an inconsistent hermeneutic. This severe inconsistency in how non-resistants choose to read the text must regrettably be the case, otherwise non-resistants must also introduce new commandments allowing for murder and adultery. Consider Matthew 5:21-22.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”

Are we to see this as an nullification of “You shall not murder”? Is the new commandment, following the non-resistance hermeneutic,

“murder is allowed, but make sure you don’t become angry with your brother and call him a fool”?

Assuredly, we must look at each text within it’s own context to determine whether or not we are dealing with a nullification or a correction on focus. I believe the teaching of Matthew 5:21-22 is clearly that the root of murder is hatred in the heart, not that the law against murder has been lifted. Likewise, Matthew 5:38-48 is not a nullification of the Law, but rather a refocusing on the original intent of the Law.

Furthermore, there is nothing in the language of “you have heard that is was said… but I say to you” that necessitates a nullification of what was “said”. Clearly “but” is a contrasting word and to some that would imply a negation of what the target of the “but” was. The greek word for “but” in this text is ἀλλά. It is a contrasting word, and it can be translated as yea, yet, nevertheless, howbeit, nay, and therefore. Nothing in the language would force the negation of what was being “said”. The word can be used in a negative or a positive way. It is ambiguous. The point of Matthew 5, as Jesus makes clear, is NOT a nullifying of the Law, but rather a correcting of a corruption of the Law. This brings me to my next point.

Whenever you base the absolute abolition of God’s Law on a few texts that begin with “you have heard it said”, it would be for the good for all if we discussed who was doing the saying. Although some of the “you have heard it said” texts certainly demonstrate God’s Law (e.g. you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery), others do not. For example, to hate your enemy is not a commandment given anywhere in Holy Scripture. It is the pattern throughout the Gospels that when Christ or others were quoting the Law or the Prophets, the quote would be prefaced with “as it was written”. Not “you have heard it said”. The difference is an important one. “As it was written” refers to the written Law of God, while “you have heard it said” refers to the oral traditions of rabbinic and pharisaical Judaism, or simply commonly held ideas. The very same traditions that our Lord found so despicable throughout the Gospels.  New Testament examples for this hermeneutical guide are bountiful. “As it was written” prefacing quotes or paraphrases of written scripture can be found in Romans 3:10, Acts 15:15, 1 Corinthians 1:31, John 12:14, 2 Corinthians 9:9, John 6:31, Romans 9:13, Mark 9:13, Romans 15:3, and nearly twenty additional examples can be found with a simple study. However, besides Matthew 5, there is not one other example of a citation or reference to Mosaic Law being prefaced with “you have heard it said”. And why would there be? The Law of God was written law while rabbinic traditions were oral. Therefore, in accordance with Matthew 5:17-20, these texts do not in any way fulfil, abolish, or relax the written Law of God. And as I will show, the corrections given by Jesus will not be corrections to the Law itself, but rather how others were using the Law. A further convincing indication that Christ was correcting extra-Torah traditions as opposed to His own Law is that Matthew 5:20 refers specifically to the scribes and Pharisees. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” It would be remarkably odd for Jesus to refer specifically to the religious leaders of the day, to then switch gears in the following text.

THE TEXT

I have spent some time explaining from the text itself and its immediate context why Matthew 5 is in no way justification for a nullification of God’s Law or grounds for a new and novel doctrine. As opposed to the non-resistance thesis, Matthew 5:38-48 is not contrasting Mosaic Law with a new doctrine, but rather it is contrasting a twisting of Mosaic Law with Mosaic Law, and particularly the deeper spiritual meanings of Mosaic Law (e.g. hate being the spiritual seed of murder). Perhaps at a later time I can show how this is the case throughout all of the latter portion of Matthew 5 dealing with the “you have heard it said” principles, but for now I will focus on the relevant non-resistance chief prooftext of verses 38-48.  I’ll quote it once again for convenience.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

INSULT vs HARM

All too often ignorance of the Old Testament leads to a misunderstanding of the New Testament. In order to not misunderstand this text we should first establish what “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” meant. The text that the Pharisees were citing was Exodus 21:24. This text should be a familiar one to abolitionists, being that it is one within an often cited and often misunderstand text having to do with a pregnant woman being struck, her child being delivered early, and any consequences pertaining to that situation. The text within it’s context is found in Exodus 21:22-25. The text is as follows.

“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”

The context is one of physical injurious violence being done. When there is harm, there must be restitution. What sort of harm? Loss of life, loss of eye, loss of tooth, loss of limb, burns, wounds (cuts and piercings) , and stripes (bruises). That is the principle. It is a principle commonly referred to as Lex Talionis. Essentially it’s a principle that teaches that a punishment should be similar in kind and degree to the harm done.

I will come back to “do not resist the one who is evil” shortly. I have not forgotten that bit. Now that we understand a bit of the meaning of Lex Talionis, it is important to understand how that principle was being twisted and corrupted by the religious leaders of Jesus’s day. The corrective Jesus offered was

“But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

The question then is; is this corrective a corrective of the Mosaic principle of Lex Talionis? In order to determine this we must understand what a slap on the cheek meant. The greek word used for slap in this text,  ῥαπίζω, means to strike with an open hand. This is also our common meaning of slap. Open handed slaps to the face were a common insult in that day. Slaps were an insult to the person’s character and honor. What they were not seen as was an injurious physical assault.

The non-resistant claims with much of their rhetoric that this slap was a violent and injurious assault. They would claim that it was intended to do physical harm, as opposed to harm to one’s pride. They may claim that in the parallel text of Luke 6:29 the greek word used was τύπτω, which does not necessarily mean an open-handed slap. This is a fair point. Τύπτω is an catch-all word meaning strike. It could be a strike with a fist, a rock, a staff, or an open hand. It’s far more ambiguous than the word used for slap, ῥαπίζω. With that said, by following basic hermeneutical rules and common logic, we can see that in both the Matthew text and the Luke text, Jesus was referring to a open-handed slap. An insulting slap. Here is the logic. Clear texts define unclear texts. In cases where one is dealing with a particular idea or a particular event (as is our case) and you have two different terms used, you let the clear text define the unclear text. In other words, if the unclear Greek of Luke 6 was referring to a violent strike of a rod, then it would directly contradict the clear definition of the Greek in Matthew 5. However, if we take the unclear Greek of Luke 6 to be referring to a non-injurious yet insulting slap, there is no contradiction with the clarity of Matthew 5. Therefore we know that in both the Books of Matthew and Luke the strike that Jesus was referring to was an non-injurious open handed slap.

So, how does the previously discussed Lex Talionis principle relate to an insulting slap? What do we not see in Exodus 21? We do not find a commandment to repay an open-handed slap with an open handed slap. What we do not see is a commandment to repay personal insult with personal insult. That commandment is nowhere in Exodus 21. In fact, it is nowhere in all of scripture.

Therefore, we can see from the immediate textual context, the broad textual context, the historical context, and the plain meaning of the words, that our Lord’s prohibition on returning insult for insult is not a nullification of Lex Talionis. Lex Talionis has nothing to do with personal insults. This was the needed correction that our Lord taught us.

CLOAKS AND ROADS

The next section of the text I will take a bit quicker, being that is less relevant to non-resistance. It is less relevant because the non-resistance interpretation of these verses relies on the previously refuted eisegesis of verses 38-39. Without a nullification of Lex Talionis, these texts mean something quite different. I will quote Matthew 5:40-42 once again.

“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”

The non-resistance interpretation of this text, once again, is not the literal interpretation. We are to understand from this text that all rights to any and all private property is null and void. We are not to resist the taking of any of our property. We are to understand from this text that we are to be subject to any and all demands or requests from others. We are not to resist any demand that is not clearly asking us to sin. Jered expounds on this text in this way.

“The application of Christs non-resistant principles toward the issue of private property is not to be misunderstood as having only applied to articles of clothing. It must be understood that as sojourners here we should willingly part with any material possession as a means of bearing witness to those who would rob us or extract from us at law.”

As opposed to taking the literal interpretation, the non-resistance position expands the giving of a cloak to an absolute nullification of private property and capitalism. As opposed to taking the literal interpretation, the non-resistance position extends the walking of an extra mile to the glad and willful acceptance of human slavery.

To be sure, I also do not believe that the text solely applies to walking on a road and cloaks, however there is scant evidence for such a monumental shift in God’s view of property and man stealing. Take note that if we are to take the non-resistance view, not only are we not to resist, we are to gladly and willfully hand over our property, time, and services. Considering that the willful giving over of property is not within the bounds of the definition of theft, is it even possible to steal from a Christian? Is it even unjust to take all from a Christian, leaving him and his with nothing to eat and nothing to clothe himself? The idea seems farcical, and I can only agree. The application of the non-resistance doctrine upon private property IS farcical.  We know that the Eighth Commandment protects private property and the rights we have to the fruits of our labor. We also know that all comes from God. These ideas are not contrary to one another.

There are a few sensible and more literal ways to interpret Matthew 5:40-42 that do not nullify the Eighth Commandment.

SURVIVING TYRANNY

The historical context is that Israel was under harsh political tyranny. It was not uncommon for the occupying Romans to extract property from the Jews, as well as force labor upon them. The IVP Commentary describes the historical context.

“Here Matthew probably means submission to a Roman soldier’s demands. Because tax revenues did not cover all the Roman army’s needs, soldiers could requisition what they required (N. Lewis 1983:172-73; Rapske 1994:14). Romans could legally demand local inhabitants to provide forced labor if they wanted (as in Mt 27:32) and were known to abuse this privilege (for example, Apul. Metam.9.39). Yet ‘going the extra mile’ represents not only submitting to unjust demands but actually exceeding them—showing our oppressors that we love them and take no offense, although our associates may wrongly view this love as collaboration with an enemy occupation. The truth of this passage is a life-and-death matter for many believers.”

And RJ Rushdoony also makes excellent observations.

“Injustice was the law of the land, where compulsion by a foreign power was upon you, you followed the way of realism. When they could compel you to go one mile, you did it agreeably. There’s no point in bucking the inevitable. When they could smite you on one cheek, there was no point in resisting. They had all the power, so turn the other cheek. When they could take one coat, be ready to give the other. Be cooperative and realistic and pray for them!”

This interpretation makes the case that Jesus was giving practical advice for the purposes of surviving through a harsh military occupation. This insightful interpretation is far more realistic and far closer to the plain reading of the text than the nullIfication of private property and the glad acceptance of man stealing that the non-resistance view demands. This view also reiterates and reinforces other important Biblical principles.

CHARITY AND SERVICE

Although I believe the immediate application of this text is the practical advice Jesus gave in light of overwhelming political force, this text also causes us to think of the importance of Christian charity and service towards one another.  In Luke 3:10-14, John the Baptist not only directs others to give willfully to those in need, he also exhorts soldiers that have been, perhaps, demanding extra cloaks and forcing Jews to carry equipment and supplies to respect property rights and the Eighth Commandment.

“And the crowds asked him, ‘What then shall we do?’ And he answered them, ‘Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.’ Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’”

And we also have the words of the Apostle Paul on charity in 2 Corinthians 9:7.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver”

Do not be mistaken, the non-resistance doctrine is a repudiation of the Biblical idea of private property. Non-resistance, in its desire to be more giving, destroys true charity and service. Because no property or service is now considered rightfully the individuals, there can be no such thing as charity. What is not yours cannot be freely given. And if we suppose that your goods are rightfully yours, what is coerced from you is not freely given. Unlike the direction from the Apostle Paul, to hand over a cloak against your will is not charity. It is under compulsion. Depending on how you look at it, either your property is not yours at all, or your property is being coerced from you. Neither are examples of Christian charity. And the same applies to service. Either your time and labor do not belong to you, or your time and labor is being coerced. Either way, it is not an example of Christian service. In order for charity and service to have any meaning and tangible value, the property that is given and the time and labor that is given must first be rightfully yours, and second, the property, time, and labor must not be coerced.

The non-resistance view of verses 40-42 destroys property rights, and thus destroys even the possibility of charity and service. We also know, from the plain reading of the text, that verses 40-42 are not about charity and service. It is clear that the text is referring to goods and services being extracted by compulsion. The non-resistant would like for this text to be a blueprint for all future charity and service, but the text was never about either.

RESISTING THE EVIL MAN

In order to understand the meaning of “resist”, it was important to establish the meaning of “turning the other cheek.” Now that we have done that, we can briefly look at

“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.”

What we do not see here is any qualifying words clearly defining what sort of resistance we should offer. It could be referring to physical resistance in an absolute manner, as the non-resistant would have us believe. But it could also mean verbal resistance. It does not say. Though the words of this particular line of scripture do not make clear its exact meaning, the texts following this line make clear how we are not to resist. From our examination of Matthew 5:38-42, we can see that we are not to resist a foolish man full of insults. Let him do his insulting. We can also see that we are not to resist when tyrants demand things such as cloaks and physical labor. What have we not seen from these texts? We have not seen, in the text or from good and necessary consequence, that we are not to resist physical assaults upon ourselves or others that we may be able to help. We have also not seen a blanket acceptance of all theft.

LOVING ENEMIES

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:43-48, much like other prooftexts that I mentioned above, has nothing to do with non-resistance if you do not artificially import special definitions of words. The non-resistant presumes that all injurious force in unloving. The non-resistant presumes that all injurious forces is necessarily evil. To the non-resistant, even the injurious defense of weaker innocent parties is unjust. I posit that the defense, even the injurious defense, of the innocent is in fact just. It is not only just, it is loving to the innocent AND the guilty. It is not love to the violent man to allow him to transform from guilty of assault to guilty of murder. We can physically resist a violent man and love him. The non-resistant sets up a false dichotomy claiming that it is impossible to physically harm a man and still love him. That is patently false.

Speaking on non-resistance and the non-physical methods of resistance that are left to him, Jered says,

“It is not a passive and apathetic way of life but rather the most noble sort of conflict. It’s aggression is aimed at the evil that seduces a wicked man rather than the wicked man himself.”

This is dualism. One cannot separate the soul and the body in this manner. When a man wickedly and aggressively assaults a young girl, we must not separate the strong fist and the wicked heart that guides it. The act itself, the act of assaulting the young girl, is as wicked as the heart of the man. It is good to plead with the man, but do not think that you are resisting the evil in the man if you stand by and watch the fruit of that heart.

Simply put, non-resistants do not know what love is. They have disregarded Biblical love for love is the fulfillment of the Law of God. Instead of looking to the Law of God to determine how we are to love our neighbors, the Law of God is seen as obsolete and unnecessary.  Whenever non-resistants abandon the Law of God, their ideas of love become hatred to their neighbors. The used and abused receive no justice. The victim receives no interposition. Lawlessness is allowed to flourish free from fear of justice, and ultimately free from fear of God. There is much more to say, and I hope to have Part 2 published soon.

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