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How Matthew 5:39 Woke Me Up

“Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Proverbs 4:7

Understanding what Christ meant when he uttered these words,

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also”

was the key that unlocked the chain that bound my heart and mind. I had been programed from my earliest life to be reasonable and it became normal to consider that it was good and even righteous, to resist evil by whatever force necessary. An “eye for an eye” seemed fair and just, and to establish criminal courts, police forces, and armies to defend one’s self from enemies made sense; but the un-molested words of Christ say, do not use violence, do not take part in violence, do no harm to anyone, not even to those who you call “enemies.” What had I discovered? What could these words mean?

Christ is speaking of two things here. First, He takes the position of what is to be expected when a person obeys this command of not resisting an evil person. The direct result will be personal abuse. Secondly, He challenges the establishment under which mankind lived during His time, under the Mosaic Law, and under the Roman law. But, also, He is contradicting the various legal codes under which we all live today; he sets up the principle of non-resistance to the evil man, which principle, according to his teaching, should be the basis of the Christian man’s social and spiritual life, which was the basis before the fall of Adam. What He means is; men believe that their laws will cure evil in society — but, they don’t realize that they only increase evil. There is only one way to defeat evil — by returning “good” for evil to all men without prejudice. For thousands of years men have tried the “eye for an eye” principle and have proved that it doesn’t work; evil only increases in proportion to the population. An eye for an eye legal system is only the law for men who live in darkness by an establishment governed by darkness.

Typically there are two kinds of people who will never, even as a principle, agree with the simple understanding of this command, but habitually defend the justice of resisting an evil-person. First there are the Christian Patriots, who consider their Church and their flag to be the only true one, and then there are the promoters of revolution who may also be patriots. Neither of these will abandon their Constitutional Right to resist by force what they consider to be evil; and neither wants to recognize the obvious fact that evil is defined differently by different groups, and will therefore in their turn resist with violence what they consider evil. Both of these groups will demand violence against evil while both may likewise rely on the teaching of Christ and fly a Christian banner.

The majority of Christians understand Christ’s teaching in various ways, due to the common patriotic undercurrent that flows through the Church, but rarely are His words taken in the direct, simple meaning which they are given in the text. Because of our having accepted these un-Biblical interpretations we have arranged our whole life on the very foundation Christ denies in His Sermon. We carnal Christians really have no intention or desire to understand His teaching in its unpretentious sense, so we comfort ourselves either that we have understood His teaching correctly or that this teaching is incompatible to nature and our life, and impossible to adhere to.

With these presuppositions in our head we preach the Gospel that Christ is God, the Second Person of the Trinity, who descended to earth to show us how to live, and then  organize elaborate rituals necessary for the administration of the sacraments, for building and planting churches, for sending out missionaries, for ordaining pastors and priest, for the teaching of our flocks, for the writing of statements of faith; but one little thing we have overlooked — namely, to do what he told us to do. The world has arranged its life in all sorts of ways, having methodically forbidden any notion of turning the other cheek. No one, Christian or otherwise, even tries doing what Christ commands; they have all concluded beforehand that these words are impossible to obey in today’s modern society.

The bottom line is clear, the law of overcoming evil with evil, which we have made the foundation of our lives and Nation, is false and unnatural; and Christ gives the true basis, the basis of His Kingdom come to earth, —non-resistance— which, He says, the Christian is obliged to obey. We think our laws of violence will correct evil; they only increase it. Evil is the way of the world, it is natural to the world and to its Prince, the Devil. If evil could overcome evil then it would have done so thousands of years ago, but instead it only gets worse. Christ now commands Christians to do as He does; overcome evil with good. He not only said this but his whole life, and his death, exemplified to His followers the teaching of non-resistance to the evil man.

So, why all the disobedience to His commands?

Believers hear all these things, they read it in their Bibles, they say the words are inspired and divine, and that Jesus was God, but then they conclude that It is all very spiritual but impossible to keep in our advanced civilization, it would upset the organization of our existence which we have become accustomed to and which we like. Therefore, everything is reduced to an ideal, which Christians must seek for and pray for, but an ideal only attainable on the other side of the resurrection. Others, who watch the Church and read Church history, having adopted the visible Church’s model, that Christ’s teaching has little practical use regarding the true nature of the world, determine that Christ’s teaching was only meant to be preached to the inhabitants of ancient Galilee, but not to their advanced culture, to which it is just a sweet dream. Had Christ appeared today and stood on the same level with their learned scholars, they say, he would not have mentioned those things about the birds of the air, about turning the other cheek, or about not being troubled about tomorrow. These scholars have judged Christianity by the Christianity they see being modeled by the Church in our society. The Christianity of today regards the organizations, prisons, courts, businesses, armies, and police forces as conformable to Christ and then from the teaching of Christ it selectively obeys only that part that does not intrude on their particular life in any of these areas. But since Christ’s teaching is the denial of all that life, nothing is accepted of that teaching except mere words. The learned scholars see this, and, as they are under no compulsion to hide it as it is hidden by the Church, Christ’s teaching being gutted of all substance is subjected to profound criticism and very rightly rejected. Their conclusion is clear that there never was anything In Christianity except dreamy ideals.

It would seem as though before one criticizes Christianity one should understand what Christ’s teaching consists of, and to decide whether his teaching is reasonable or not one should first of all admit that he said what he said, without commentary; but that is just what is not done either by the Church or by the critics. And we know very well why they do not do it.

We know very well that Christ’s teaching includes the denial of all those human illusions, such as State, culture, science, art, and civilization, and those things that make them work, such as the military, police, courts of law, that we think we can separate from the ranks of delusions. But it is just against these things that Christ speaks against Christian involvement, without excluding any.

The least that a Christian can demand of another Christian, who judges any doctrine, is that they should judge it in the sense in which the teacher himself understood it. And he understood his teaching not as a distant ideal for humanity, obedience to which is impossible, nor as a mystical poetic fantasy wherewith he captivated the simple-minded inhabitants of Galilee. He understood his teaching as a real thing, and a thing which would save mankind. And he did not just imagine Himself on the cross but He actually died for his teaching, and many others died and will yet die. Of His teaching no one can say that it is a dream!

The truth is a dream to those in the Matrix of this lost world, and there are many people who say that this teaching is idealistic because it is not natural to man’s situation. It is not natural to turn the other cheek when the other is struck; it is not natural to be made to give what is one’s own to someone else; it is unnatural to be made to work for others instead of for oneself. It is natural to man, they say, to defend his safety and the safety of his family and his property, i.e. it is natural for man to struggle for his own existence and his own good. The man-on-the-street will say that man’s most sacred duty is to defend his rights and to kill if necessary to protect those “rights.”

Christians say that Christ’s teaching is not in harmony with man’s nature to protect his rights by force. But, will anyone deny that murder or torture is wrong, not to mention a man, but to torture a dog or kill a goat or calf is contrary and distressing to man’s nature? (I know men who cannot live with themselves because of having to kill during war; and people who would be vegetarians if they had to kill their own meat.) Yet we govern our entire lives in such a way that will guarantee our own personal advantage, which is obtained at the cost of inflicting suffering on others, which is contrary to our true human nature. Our life is organized to conform to, and be enforced by, the mechanisms of our institutions, which will inflict violence to satisfy our will, and stands as a witness to the extent to which violence is contrary to human nature. Not a single judge would decide to inject with poison the man he condemns to death. None of our generals or soldiers, were it not for forced discipline, mandatory oaths of allegiance, and declarations of war, would even decide on their own to hurt a single man. All this is apparently done thanks to a very complex state and social machinery, the purpose of which is to distribute the responsibility for the evil deeds that are done that no one would feel the unnaturalness of those deeds. Some men write the laws; others apply them; a third set drill men and acclimate them to discipline, i.e. to senseless and immediate obedience; a fourth set — the people who are disciplined — commit all sorts of deeds of violence, even killing people, without knowing why or what for. But a man need only, even for a moment, free himself mentally from this web of worldly organization in which he is involved to understand what is really unnatural to him.

As soon as we Christians stop accepting the customary evil that we employ as an immutable divine truth, it will become obvious which of the two is in accord with man’s true nature, violence, or the law of Christ. Do we Christians dare admit that our peacefulness and safety, and that of our families, and all our pleasures, are purchased by the destitution, imprisonment, corruption, and misery of others; soldiers and policemen, who, armed with guns, gas, and tasers, against hungry and homeless people, and those who are destitute of the ability to avoid evil, safeguard my amusements and capacity to purchase every scrap of food I put into my mouth or into the mouths of my children? Or, will we Christians even want to know that my food, safety, and enjoyment are only mine when no one else is in need of them and when no one has to suffer or be resisted on account of them?

One need only understand the law of Christ in its full meaning, with all its consequences, in order to appreciate that Christ’s teaching is not contrary to man’s true nature, but only to his environment, that His principles really consists in rejecting what is contrary to man’s nature, namely, the visionary human doctrine of resisting evil with evil, which really makes life unhappy and which are only vain imaginations.

Men need only to understand Christ’s teaching correctly to understand that the world is a dream, and a nightmare, a very wild and terrible dream, the delirium of a lunatic from which you need only awaken into Christ in order never to return to that terrible hallucination.

God came to earth; the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, became flesh, and redeemed Adam from sin and bondage; this God, we were taught to think, must have said something secret, mystical, difficult to understand, and only to be understood by an elect few; and suddenly it appears that the word of God is so simple, so clear, so reasonable. God says to Christians, do not do evil to each other, and there will be no evil, but if you should find yourself confronted with evil then overcome it with good, even if it cost you your life. Is it possible that God’s revelation is so simple? Can it be that God really said that? It seems to me that we all already knew that; it is so simple!

Elijah was a prophet, fleeing from men, and the woman Jezebel, who hid in a cave, and it was revealed to him that God would appear at the entrance of the cave. A tempest arose that destroyed the trees. Elijah thought this was God, and looked; but God was not there. Then came thunder; the thunder and lightning were terrible. Elijah went out to look for God there; but God was not there either. Then there came an earthquake; fire shot from the earth, the rocks were rent, and the mountains quaked. Elijah thought surely God would be there, but still God was nowhere to be found. Then a light, quiet breeze floated along the ground, bringing the refreshing fragrance of the fields. Elijah looked, and God was there! Such are these simple words of God, “Resist not an evil person,” and with them come peace and refreshing.

They are very simple words, but in them is expressed the Royal Law of God, “Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself.” This law is to such an extent eternal that if there is any movement towards salvation for lost souls, it is thanks only to those men who have so understood Christ’s teaching and have endured evil and not resisted it with violence, who have stood as a witness to the power of God and of love. Progress towards the welfare of mankind is made not by the persecutors but by the persecuted. As fire does not extinguish fire, so evil cannot extinguish evil. Only goodness, meeting evil and not infected by its disease, conquers evil. Every deliberate step forward will be made solely in accordance with the path of love and non-resistance to the evil person. If the advance of Christ is slow or hindered, this is thanks to the fact that the clearness, simplicity, reasonableness, inevitability, and necessity of Christ’s teaching is hidden by its ministers from the majority of men in the most cunning and dangerous way, hidden under a different doctrine falsely called His.

This verse along with a verse from Timothy was the key that opened my eyes and it can do the same for you.