Summary: Evil is never overcome by more evil nor by playing into the power and victim games that others would use to entrap us. Evil is only overcome by goodness that lets our abusers know we will remain in control of how we choose to respond


Matthew 5:38-48

1. What has been your gut reaction to the recent spate of school shootings we have suffered in Wisconsin, Colorado, and now most recently in the small Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania where 5 little girls where brutally shot to death?

• How different might be your reaction if those shootings took place here in Morton at the Elementary School across the road or at the Elementary School in Mossyrock?

2. On Thursday I received this email from a very dear friend of mine - a deacon in his church back in South Africa:

• Latest news? Well, I got shot last night driving back from Vryheid after a Biblestudy. A bakkie(small light truck) pulled up next to me - as if it wanted to overtake me - I looked at the lights of the bakkie and the next moment my window exploded and I was hit in my upper arm. A second shot followed which would have killed me - but the bullet ricocheted off the door frame.

I jumped on my brakes - causing them to overtake me - I turned around and headed back for Vryheid (at that moment 8km from Vryheid) - tried to phone our minister and a friend of mine with cell phone but I kept on pressing the wrong buttons.

About 4km from Vryheid I heard shots again - looked back and saw them chasing me without their headlights on. I knew then they were following my lights and I turned my lights off - could still see the road because of the moon. They tried to get in next to me and I knew if they moved in they would kill me - so I bumped them with the back of my bakkie - that scared them off.

I filled up with diesel after Biblestudy - the garage where I filled up has closed-circuit TV - the police can see them following me out of the garage on the video. Three black men in a white Isuzu bakkie.

Went to hospital and learned that I’ve been "lucky" - only flesh wound in upper arm - but we know who guided me through the whole thing - praise the Lord!

Did not sleep much last night - I’m OK and many people phoned and visited us today - baie moeg op die oomblik (very tired at the moment).

• In the light of this and the other incidents I mentioned – how are we to respond to Jesus words to “not resist one who is evil”…and to “turn the other cheek”.? Are we Christians simply to be the mild, gentle, and passive victims of other people’s crazed and deranged brutality? Are we to simply let them treat us as worthless dirt?

• While I don’t posses a gun, my immediate gut reaction on reading that email was that if I had been there with him and had a weapon, I would have willingly emptied it on those human animals.

• And that is a natural, protective human instinct we all have.

• So what exactly is Jesus saying to us and of what relevance is His word to us in a world of increasingly brutal acts of violence, of spousal and child abuse, of unjust law suits, and vagrancy?

3. In this passage Jesus deals with four examples of evil and gives the appropriate disciple’s response:

• an evil person who gives us the insulting, backhanded slap on the right cheek – turn to him the other as well

• the person who sues the shirt off your back – give him your coat as well

• the Roman soldier who had the right to compel you to carry his burden for one mile – carry it an additional mile

• the beggar’s request for a handout – which we generally consider a nuisance - do not refuse him

4. In each of these situations – where we feel our personhood violated, demeaned, or insulted our natural human response is to do what we can to pay the person back in kind – give them some of their own back and often just a bit more “to teach them a lesson” – or to tell them to “go take a hike”.

• In those situations where there is a significant power imbalance – the enemy having the advantage in terms of physical strength, rank, wealth, verbal, intellectual or emotional resources, or social standing – the weaker person suffers humiliation, loss of self-respect, and physical, emotional, and psychological abuse.

• To help prevent the downward spiral of destructive retaliatory behavior, the law in Leviticus stipulated that there could only be retribution equal to the damage that had been done – so “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. You were forbidden to knock out 2 teeth or put out both eyes just to teach the other person a lesson.

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Norma Hough

commented on Mar 27, 2008

Living in South Africa I am so aware of the dangers we face every day. Thank you for this beautiful word. I think a lot of us battle with our true identity in Christ. We forget we are a son or daughter of the King of King and Lord of Lords. Bless you. Love Norms

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