“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 an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:38-42
Of all Jesus’ teachings, I imagine this one offers the greatest challenge to people who choose to follow his Way of Living. In the wake of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, this scripture is at the top of my mind. This is the scripture Dr. King referred to when he described his pilgrimage to non-violence. Like most people, King initially saw this teaching as impractical under certain conditions. But, as he contemplated the deeper meaning of it, he came to see that embodying this philosophy was the superior method for creating a Community of Peace. Still, we know that Martin Luther King was killed by violence incited by what many would call evil.
I imagine that the greatest challenge to living this Way of Jesus is the idea that it gives a free pass to some and makes doormats of others. To this notion some of us think, “We can’t let ‘them’ get away with this. We must resist!” This is observable no matter what side of an issue one stands on. Given this, how do we reconcile our ideas of what we think justice should look like with this instruction of Jesus to not resist?
I think we find our answer in the nature of light. Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Does light resist the darkness? No. In truth, darkness has no substance and so is powerless to “resist” the light. Therefore, light has no cause to exert counter-resistance to the darkness. In other words, if what we feel called to express is of the Light of Truth, it needs only to shine and nature will do the rest. This expression of light may be clothed in the language and outward appearance of resistance i.e. passive resistance or non-violent resistance, but the degree to which our goals include the well-being of our seeming opposition, is the degree to which active resistance is unnecessary. In the heart of Jesus, there is room for all Creation. His love does not resist because as he said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” As we become more intimate with The Way of Light, we come to see that shadows only endure in the places where we resist shining.
Enlightened One, teach us to take on your easy and light burden of love. For where love is justice is present also and where the light shines there is no darkness. So may we shine to the fullest. Amen.