The Value of Non Retaliation

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I am reading Darrin Belousek’s Atonement, Justice, and Peace, and have been struck by his argument that Jesus didn’t proclaim the principle of non-violence but of non-retaliation. A commitment to non-violence leaves open the possibility of retaliating in non-violent ways. Jesus however, asks us to live lives in which love, even for those who mistreat us, is the guiding principle.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5

I find Belousek’s argument convincing… and challenging. There are times I want not only an eye-for-an-eye but to poke out both the bastard’s eyes! But how Jesus’s principle of non retaliation could change me and my world.

To live by the principle of non-retaliation is to seek the good of the other even when they treat me unfairly or unkindly. Sounds grand, but it is in the minutae of life – how I live it in my home, my workplace, my church, and my community – that it grows legs. May we all grow those legs!

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