Non-Resistance (Byington)

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Steven T. Byington

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NON-RESISTANCE; AND DID JESUS MEAN TO SAY THAT WE SHOULD NOT PROTECT OURSELVES AS A PEOPLE AND AS A NATION?

A. J. Root:—Properly speaking, Jesus did not say, "Resist not evil." The Greek word which is translated "resist" in Matt. 5:39 is translated elsewhere in our English Bible either "resist" or "withstand." It is used in fourteen places in the Bible— Matt. 5:39; Luke 21:15; Acts 6:10, 13:8; Rom. 9:19, 13:2 twice; Gal. 2:11; Eph. 6:13; 2 Tim. 3:8 twice; 4:15; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5.9. An inspection of these places will show that the word cannot be supposed to carry in itself any particular reference to the xisc of physical force. A fuller study of this Greek word (which is just as open-faced a compound as the English "overthrow" or "ontrun") shows that-it does not express the idea of any activity at all, but simply of taking an attitude or staying in an attitude, while "resist" necessarily expresses the idea of an activity directed against the antagonistic person or thing. Tn this respect "oppose" would be a more exact translation, though "oppose" would not be very perfect either.

Since the word does not express anything so particular as the use of physical force, we have to judge of its force in this passage from the connection. The connection is along such lines as these: Do not make a point of seeing to it that every misdeed is paid off. but bear petty outrages without setting yourself in opposition. It is very important to note that all Jesus' instances are of petty outrages. Now, a man chooses his instances so as to be appropriate to his meaning. It would be perfectly ridiculous if a man meaning to say that we should not resist an attempt at murder or the robbery of a lifetime's savings were to express this by saying, "Do not resist a slap on the cheek or an extortion of half an hour's work." Now, even among those who are (as Anacharsis Clootz 'said of himself) "personal enemies of Jesus Christ," nobody denies that Jesus knew how to express himself tellingly. If Jesus knew

how to express himself as intelligibly as ordinary men, then by those words about a blow on the cheek, etc., he did not mean the most serious outrages.

My understanding of the meaning is like this. A Christian is concerned in this world with things ho is to recognize as much more important than standing up for his rights; properly, standing up for his rights is no object at nil to him; and if he is to stand up for his rights whenever they are violated he will have no time left for his Christian duties; besides, the fact that standing up for his rights will sometimes work against the objects that he as a Christian is pursuing. So he should not make it a rule to stand up for his rights. But if the things that are being dorm to him are such as to interfere with his doing the things that it is his Christian business to do, then it is a part of his Christian business to put out of the way whoever and whatever interferes, provided that it does not cost more in time, nerve-force, and arousing of hostility, than it is worth.

At present a mighty attempt is being made in the world to give war the right of way; to insist that, when war is started, interests of peace must give way to interests of war. If this attempt should be successful, it would set back the cause of peace at least a century. Anything that we can honestly and lawfully do to defeat this attempt, whether by selling arms or otherwise, is well done. A great deal of the talk about the exportation of arms leaves out of account the fact that the actual exportation of arms is simply helping honest and peace-loving people to defeat violent crime. It is as if I saw John Doe jump up and begin shooting at Richard Roe because Doe had heard Crazy Joe say that Roe meant to steal Doc's chickens, and I should hand Roe a gun, since the circumstances were such that Roe must fight or go under, and the people should tell me I was doing—well, very unchristianly by helping to arm a fight.

Steven T. Byington.

Ballard Vale, Mass., June 25.


  • Steven T. Byington, “Non-Resistance; and Did Jesus Mean to Say that We Should Not Protect Ourselves as a People and as a Nation?,” Gleanings in Bee Culture 44, no. 5 (March 1, 1916): 213.