Summary: God will deal with the evil people of this world who do not repent and turn from their evil ways. We as members of the church are not to judge but are to be shepherds of the sheep, seekers of the lost, friends of sinners, the poor and broken-hearted.
“You have heard it said of old, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you; do not resist the evil person. If he strikes you on the left, turn to him on the right”. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5 verses 38-39 not to contribute to further violence by retribution, but rather to tolerate the insult and abuse, and to indicate to the abuser that he is not your enemy. He knew that mortal violence, retaliation, retribution or vengeance did not resolve any issue. War has often been used to resolve issues, but are there other ways to solve problems?
The answer is “yes”, but they are not always successful. The use of economic sanctions is one method, but in many cases it is a failure. When applied against Saddam Hussein after the first Gulf War or against Rhodesia during the era of white minority rule, or against South Africa during apartheid, the result was hardship and poverty for the common people, not a change in attitude or government. The United States has had economic sanctions against Cuba and the Castro regime since the early 1960s, but the regime is still in power, perhaps because the Soviet Union was a major ally of Cuba during the Cold War and gave economic support to Fidel Castro.
A better way to deal with evil is through passive, peaceful resistance. This is what Jesus meant when he said that we are to resist evil in all its forms. Jesus encourages us to wage spiritual warfare against the dark forces of Satan and his followers. Woodrow Wilson, who was the President of the United States during World War I and its aftermath, saw this spiritual warfare as extending into all aspects of life. In his mind, there was no such thing as neutrality. One must choose to serve either Christ or Satan (Magee, 2008) . Unfortunately, as his presidency progressed he became persuaded of his own divinely-appointed role in implementing God’s will as he saw it. The subsequent rigidity in his dealings, particularly in leading the Covenant of the League of Nations through the ratification process in the United States Senate, left him unable to compromise. It was his belief that comprise was an act of unfaithfulness. Partly as a result of his rigidity, the United States did not join the League and pursued an isolationist foreign policy until shortly before it entered World War II.
Peace can and does overcome evil, especially through peaceful, passive, active resistance. The church can and does have a role to play by spreading the word of Christ’s love through its own actions. Even by doing simple things such as relieving poverty, Christian-based organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund combat the evil forces of poverty and hunger. Unfortunately, sometimes the lack of peaceful resistance by the church and theologians contributes to the forces of evil.
A good example is German Theologian Martin Niemoller. He was a U-boat captain in the German Navy during World War I and became a theologian and ordained minister in 1929. He argued that the Nazi Party’s program was “a renewal movement based on Christian moral foundation”.He also supported Hitler’s views on race and nationality. His views did not change until Adolf Hitler refused to revoke the appointment of Ludwig Muller as Germany’s Reich Bishop of the Protestant Church. Along with Karl Barth, professor of theology at Bonn University, and other supporters, Niemoller formed the Confessional Church.
Niemoller and fellow German theologian Dietrich Bonheoffer also formed the Pastors’ Emergency League and published a document opposing Hitler’s religious policies, especially the policy that Jews who converted to Christianity should be expelled from the church. Niemoller did, however, remain a member of the Nazi Party. He later admitted that the Pastors’ Emergency League “acted as if we only had to sustain the church” and did not take “responsibility for the whole nation”. When members of the Protestant Church were arrested, Niemoller finally spoke up. For this he was arrested and held in various concentration camps.
Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels urged Hitler in 1938 to have Niemoller executed; however, Hitler, fearing that Niemoller’s execution would provide an opportunity for foreign theologians such as George Bell, the Bishop of Chichester in England, to attack the German government, allowed him to live. Eventually Niemoller and other political prisoners were to be executed; however, they were rescued by the Allies just before the end of the war.
Niemoller went on to become an opponent of both the Cold War and nuclear weapons. He argued, “The church has to serve the communists as well as all human beings…communism must and can only be fought and defeated with spiritual weapons. All other powers will fail”. He also upset the American government in two ways: