“Do Not Resist Evil”, Part II

battered-woman-520x345In “Do Not Resist Evil, Part I”, I showed that Kiko commands his followers not to resist in any way whatsoever any evil or harm done to them.  Women with drunken, violent and abusive husbands are told to allow themselves to be “crucified” by their husbands,  and people who have had all of their possessions stolen are expected to do nothing to seek their return.

Where did Kiko get his idea that Jesus requires our response to evil to be total passivity?  Let’s see how Kiko arrived at this deformed teaching and show exactly why he is wrong.  

Kiko purports to draw from two sources for this teaching:  The “Servant of YHWH” (Suffering Servant) narratives in Isaiah 53, and the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7).  

The Servant of YHWH

Kiko bases his teaching, in great part, on The Suffering Servant (the Servant of YHWH) in Isaiah 53:

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,   yet he opened not his mouth;  like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,   and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7

The Church has long considered the rich, prophetic symbolism of the Suffering Servant narratives to be a prefiguring, or prophesy, of the Passion of Christ.  It is wrong, however, to apply this text thoughtlessly to the entirety of Christ’s public ministry, or even uncritically to Christ’s passion.  For example, our Lord was not exactly silent when on trial in front of the High Priest, and especially when he was struck by one of the high priest’s officers:

“Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.  Why do you question Me?  Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; they know what I said.” When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”  John 18:20-23

The Sermon on the Mount

Kiko arrives at his “Do not resist evil” from some words spoken by our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount.  Let’s consider these words:

“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  one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also;  and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well;  and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you.”  Mt. 5:38-42

Consider the first part of verse 39:  “But I say to you, Do not resist  one who is evil.”  

Here is the verse in the original Koine Greek:

mt5-39a

 We can get to the heart of the matter by considering the word St. Matthew uses for “resist”, which is the Greek word, “antistenai”.

"antistenai"
“antistenai”

New Testament scholar Walter Wink, in his book, “Jesus and Nonviolence, A Third Way” [p.11], says:

“The Greek word is made up of two parts: anti, a word still used in English for “against,” and histēmi, a verb that in its noun form (stasis) means violent rebellion, armed revolt, sharp dissention. In the Greek Old Testament, antistēnai is used primarily for military encounters—44 out of 71 times. It refers specifically to the moment two armies collide, steel on steel, until one side breaks and flees.”

St. Paul also uses the same word, “antistenai”, in the sixth chapter of his letter to the Ephesians.  There he uses a dramatic military metaphor to urge the Ephesians to resist evil, but with the armor and weapons of God:

“Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist [antistenai] on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground [stenai].” Ephesians 6:13 [1]

An accurate translation of Matthew 5:39a, would then be, “Do not respond in kind to those who do evil to you.”  That vastly differs from the phrase, “Do not resist evil”, in that it allows and even invites us to vigorously and creatively respond to evil in our personal encounters with it, albeit nonviolently.

On a side note, we also see see that the direct object of verse 39a is not the generic, unspecific “evil” in Kiko’s mantra, “Do not resist evil,” but rather, “do not resist the evil person.”

Peter and Paul Weigh In

Saints Peter and Paul confirm this interpretation.  For example, read St. Paul’s summary of the Sermon on the Mount in the 12th chapter of his letter to the Romans:

“…Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.Romans 12:19-20

and from the First Letter of Peter:

Do not return evil for evil or reviling for reviling; but on the contrary bless, for to this you have been called, that you may obtain a blessing.”  1 Peter 3:9

In other words, in response to evil, we are not to do evil, we are not to retaliate, we are not to seek revenge, we are not to revile, and we are to have mercy on the enemy.  Our Lord places no restriction on us whatsoever, however, from pursuing justice and defending our lives.

“Turn the other cheek…”

In his public ministry, Jesus often pushed people from their comfort zones into places from which the only means of escape was some serious soul-searching.  It is not surprising, then, that he taught that form of non-violent response to the lowly and oppressed who followed him.  Do not forget his advice to his disciples,  “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves [Mt. 10:16].”

Our Lord give three specific examples to the poor people listening to him on the mountain: “Turn the other cheek,” “let him have your cloak as well,” and “go with him two miles.”  Each example gave those who were listening a way to resist evil without resorting to violence.  Let’s consider each in turn.[2]

“if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also…”

Did you ever wonder why Jesus explicitly mentioned the right cheek?  How does one, in the right-handed world of first century Palestine, where the use of one’s left hand was often taboo, strike another on the right cheek?  With a right-handed back slap, of course.  Jesus was speaking directly to a poor, downtrodden and colonized people, and a back slap was a humiliating action of a master toward a slave, of a Roman to a Jew, of a landowner to a tenant farmer.  It was meant to degrade.  Now, after having been slapped on the right cheek by a superior’s right hand, presenting the left cheek would effectively force the master to backslap again using his left hand, which was taboo, or to strike with his right fist, which would be the act of a peer, not a master.  So, while risky, presenting the left cheek after a back slap would help the oppressed person recover a bit of his God-given dignity without having to resort to violence.

“If any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well…”

In the debtor society of first century Palestine, the lowly and landless did not sue each other, but rather, could be sued by the powerful.  To take off the second and last piece of clothing in the public court of that time would make one naked, but the greater shame and embarrassment would not be born by the person being sued, but rather, the wealthy person suing him.  Remember the great length to which Noah’s sons, Shem and Japheth went to in order to avoid the shame of seeing their father naked. [Gen. 9:23].

“If any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles…”

It would not have been uncommon for those listening to Jesus on the mountain – the men at least – to have been forced to carry the gear of a Roman legionary or an auxiliary for up to a mile.  It was generally frowned upon, if not forbidden, for a legionary to require a colonized person to carry such a pack for more than that distance, and in fact, this was eventually codified into law.  So, by cheerfully “going the extra mile”, one would place the legionary or auxiliary in the uncomfortable position of possibly facing disciplinary action by his superiors.   The soldier would probably prefer to get his pack back, but how on earth would he ask for it back without losing his pride?

 Examples from the Scriptures

The words of Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount do not repudiate His own examples of resisting evil, or the examples set by heroes of the Old Testament.

Jesus resisted the evil of Satan in the desert [ Mt. 4:1-11];  he resisted the evil of the men who would stone the woman caught in adultery [John 8:1-11];  he drove the merchants and their animals from the temple [Mt. 21:12];  and he resisted the evil of the Pharisee’s disciples who would trap him with the question, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” [ Mt. 22:15-22].  

 St. Paul Resisted Evil
St. Paul escapes Damascus in a basket, 12th/13th century (mosaic)
St. Paul escapes Damascus in a basket, 12th/13th century (mosaic)

St. Paul used his Roman citizenship to escape an evil beating and to appeal the case against him to the governors Felix and Festus, and ultimately to Caesar [Acts 22-24].  He defended himself in front of King Agrippa [Acts 26], and he even plotted a clever escape from the evil plans of his adversaries in Damascus [Acts 9:25] by having himself lowered from the city walls in a basket.

The Heroes of the Old Testament Resisted Evil

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew midwives Shifrah and Puah resisted the evil command of Pharaoh to murder Hebrew baby boys [Exodus 1:15-20].  The people of Israel boldly asked the Egyptians for reparations before leaving Egypt. [Exodus 12:35-36].  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed′nego refused to worship the image that King ebuchadnez′zar had set up and so were thrown into the fiery furnace [Daniel 3].  Daniel resisted the evil order of King Darius to pray to him alone, and was consequently thrown into the lion’s den [Daniel 6:10-28].  Queen Esther risked her life and broke the law to approach the King Ahasuerus  on behalf of her people, whose annihilation had been ordered [Esther 4-5].  And the priests of Nob lost their lives for resisting the evil of Saul by giving the consecrated bread to David and his men to eat [1 Samuel 21-22].

The Teaching of the Church

We read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. “The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor. . . . The one is intended, the other is not. [CCC 2263]

and

Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.  Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow…Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”   [CCC 2264]

and

Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm.” [CCC 2264]

Conclusion

It is clear that in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches that we are not to resort to violence, retaliation, or revenge in our personal encounters of the evil of others.  In short, we are to resist evil in a way that prevents us from becoming evil ourselves.

Kiko Arguello, then, is quite wrong in his demand for total passivity in the face of evil.  Such absolute passivity may work well for controlling the members of his sect, but is counter to the actual demands of the Gospel.

Return to Part I


Endnotes

[1]  Wink elaborates more on this in his book,”Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination“,(Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1984) p. 185:

“What the translators have not noted, however, is how frequently anthistemi is used as a military term. Resistance implies “counteractive aggression,” a response to hostilities initiated by someone else. Liddell-Scott defines anthistemi as to “set against esp. in battle, withstand.” Ephesians 6:13 is exemplary of its military usage: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand [antistenai, lit., to draw up battle ranks against the enemy] on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm [stenai, lit., to close ranks and continue to fight].” The term is used in the LXX primarily for armed resistance in military encounters (44 out of 71 times). Josephus uses anthistemi for violent struggle 15 out of 17 times, Philo 4 out of 10. As James W. Douglass notes, Jesus’ answer is set against the backdrop of the burning question of forcible resistance to Rome. In that context, “resistance” could have only one meaning: lethal violence.-16 In short, antistenai means more in Matt. 5:39a than simply to “stand against” or “resist.”” It means to resist violently, to revolt or rebel, to engage in an insurrection.”

[2]  See “Jesus and Nonviolence, a Third Way“, by Walter Wink, Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 2003, pp 14-27.

10 thoughts on ““Do Not Resist Evil”, Part II”

  1. Dear Chuck,

    I would like to comment on your side note about Kiko’s mantra “Do not resist evil” and the English rendering of the Greek phrase τῷ πονηρῷ. This word is actually a dative singular adjective of the second declension and, as such, may reference either a grammatically masculine noun (i.e., “evil person” or “evil one”) or a grammatically neuter noun (i.e., “[the] evil”). In other words, from a linguistic point of view, the passage in Matthew is ambiguous between “evil person/one” and “evil.” The translation you present tries to reflect this ambiguity by using brackets: “…the evil [person].”

  2. Even though you have not been posting my comments, but kindly allow people to read the story below and discern the reason why Kiko preached total submission. God bless you sirs.

    “There are no Christians nowadays. None! We just have crooks, thieves, prostitutes, womanizers…no Christians,” John was saying to his 3 friends while enjoying a beer. “You are very right. Christianity went with the apostles of old,” Andrew chipped in. John,
    Andrew, Daniel discussed the subject at length but it was only Richard who had not commented on the issue the three colleagues were discussing and this prompted John to ask him why he was silent.
    “I agree guys that today’s Christians are rotten,”
    he said and sipped his beer, “But I know of one
    Christian and she is my wife. Oh this woman is the real Christian.”
    His 3 friends went into gaffes of laughter
    “You r a joke man. Which Christian woman would allow his husband to go boozing?” Andrew asked amid laughs.
    “I know it doesn’t make sense,” Richard said,
    “But my wife is a Christian. She lets me live my
    life. She doesn’t talk to me about anything
    biblical. She doesn’t curse me. She respects me
    as her husband and always asks for permission
    when going to church, to use the car and lot
    things. She keeps washing my clothes. She has
    never thrown away any beer in the fridge because
    she is a Christian. She has never refused me sex
    because I am drunk. That woman is a Christian.”
    His friends stopped laughing.
    “You really mean this?” Daniel asked, “I think she
    claims she is Christian because you haven’t really
    tested her faith. She is pretending.”
    “No. No. No. She doesn’t pretend. She just lives
    the life of a Christian,” Richard defended.
    “What if we really test her faith? To see if she is
    the real deal?” Andrew dead-panned.
    “I would not to treat my wife that way. She is a
    good woman. She respects me and I wouldn’t go
    that extra mile,” Rich said adding: “Right now I
    am ashamed to even bring beer into the fridge
    again.”
    “I knew u was lying to us,” John said laughing
    mockingly.
    “Okay guys we can test her,” Richard agreed in
    resignation. “But I can assure you we will not
    break her.”
    The tests began. From entering the house with
    his friends with soiled shoes, to eating all relish
    meant for the whole day, to drinking beer at the living room and living it very messy, Richard wife never complained. She never showed a sad face.She was always glad. In her heart she always sang the song “MUST JESUS BEAR THE CROSS ALONE AND ALL THE WORLD GO FREE”This Saturday Richard came with his friends at 11:30 PM. Though his wife was asleep, he woke her up and demanded that she cook nsima for his 3 friends too. His wife never complained. She did that and when she was done she told her husband and his friends to go and eat.
    But Richard took the plates and threw them down shouting the food was undercooked and she had to cook again. His wife came to him graciously and knelt down and said: “I am sorry honey. I never meant to embarrass you in the presence of your friends. I am sorry the food was under-cooked. I will prepare you another meal.”It was Andrew who started crying. Then Daniel and John joined him. They threw themselves to the floor crying, their hands raised in the air in surrender. Richard her husband also came apart uncontrollably.
    “I want to serve the God you serve. Take me to Him,” John said tears flowing freely down his cheeks. Andrew said the same thing and did the rest. They accepted CHRIST that day. They became born again.
    This story teaches us that sometimes God places us in situations deliberately so that we can win souls to HIM. Are you experiencing a bad situation? There is a reason why God has allowed you to go through that.

  3. Dear Chuck,
    According to the catechism, quoted above [CCC2264], self-defense is legitimate “since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.” I think this must be read as “another, i.e., an attacker.” In fact, feeling not bound to take care of one’s own life, one may offer one’s life for another: St. Maximillian Kolbe.

      1. Dear Chuck,

        I think I have been misunderstood. Both CCC2264 and the citation you provide from St. Thomas discuss the taking of a life in the context of self-defense only. My point was that the clause “since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s” must be read in the context of self-defense, and that the “another’s” referred to must be the attacker. If it is not read in this way, it says categorically that one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than the life of any other, which would preclude someone offering his/her own life for another. As a modern example I offered Maximilian Kolbe who gave his life as a substitute for another condemned person in the Auschwitz death camp. He is now, of course, Saint Maximilian Kolbe.

        1. No, Timothy, I think the misunderstanding is yours. While St. Thomas is speaking of self defense in Article 7, you say that unless we understand St. Thomas to be referring to the attacker in that specific phrase, then “it says categorically that one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than the life of any other.” Unfortunately for your argument, St. Thomas did not write his Summa in English, but rather in Latin, and this holds true for the Catechism too. The Latin phrase St. Thomas that used and which was quoted in the Catechism was:

          “Nec est necessarium ad salutem ut homo actum moderatae tutelae praetermittat ad evitandum occisionem alterius, quia plus tenetur homo vitae suae providere quam vitae alienae.”

          A more precise translation of the Latin “quia plus tenetur” would probably be, “because one is more bound [or obligated]“. So, a more accurate translation of the phrase would be, “because one is more bound [or obligated] to provide for one’s own life than that of the life of another“. It’s a subtle, but real difference. St. Thomas’s meaning, then, does not categorically preclude an action such as St. Maximilian Kolbe’s.

          More importantly, I would remind you that an abused mother of one or more children is hardly in the same position as St. Maximilian.

  4. Hi Chuck,
    your input on the NCW is quite impressive but I would just like to ask you why do you hate it so much? There must be some reason since you have so many articles hinting it to be a cult and Kiko to be person who makes things up . I am neutral in these discussions but i did my research too and many people claim it to help them in their lives. So can you please give me your answer. Email me your reply if you do not want to answer in the comments. Thanks

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