Three general responses to evil: (1) passivity, (2) violent opposition, and (3) non-violent opposition. Jesus abhors both passivity and violence. We must vigorously and non-violently oppose harm to the voiceless, and profit over people.

Walter Wink (1935–2012), with whom I taught at several conferences some years ago, wrote a brilliant book, Jesus and Nonviolence, on a third way between fight and flight. I can see why Jesus calls it “a narrow path,” as it’s not the ego’s default or preferred method. Read on. . . .

There are three general responses to evil: (1) passivity, (2) violent opposition, and (3) the third way of . . . nonviolence articulated by Jesus. Human evolution has conditioned us for only the first two of these responses. . . .

Jesus abhors both passivity and violence as responses to evil. His is a third alternative not even touched by these options. . . .

Jesus’ Third Way bears at its very heart the love of enemies. This is the hardest word to utter in a context of conflict because it can so easily be misunderstood as spinelessness. But it is precisely the message [Martin Luther King, Jr.] made central to his efforts in the polarized circumstances of the American South.

To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory. [1]

Walter Wink continues:

Love of enemies has, for our time, become the litmus test of authentic Christian faith. Commitment to justice, liberation, or the overthrow of oppression is not enough, for all too often the means used have brought in their wake new injustices and oppressions. Love of enemies is the recognition that the enemy, too, is a child of God. The enemy too believes [they are] in the right, and fears us because we represent a threat against [their] values, lifestyle, or affluence. When we demonize our enemies, calling them names and identifying them with absolute evil, we deny that they have that of God within them that makes transformation possible. Instead, we play God. We write them out of the Book of Life. We conclude that our enemy has drifted beyond the redemptive hand of God. . . .

It is our very inability to love our enemies that throws us into the arms of grace.

Or as I, Richard, like to say, it’s when we come to the end of our own resources that we must draw upon the Infinite Life and Love within us to do what we alone cannot do.

From Matthew Fox:

esterday we saw two visions from Hildegard of the Via Positiva.  We ended that meditation with her naming the struggle to keep the “golden tent” alive through the struggles life puts in our way.  She continues her lament, sounding a lot like Job: “I send forth huge lamentations and I say: ‘O God, you created me, did you not?  Behold the vile world oppresses me.’”  She can “rejoice neither in man nor in God.”  She is tasting deeply the via negativa, the dark night of the soul.  What to do?

“Fidelity in Temptation” Illumination by HIldegard of Bingen, in Scivias.

She calls on the Via Positiva for her healing.  It is remembering that heals her, remembering goodness, divine origin, original blessing.  “When I remember through a gift of God that I was created by God, then amid these trials I have a response to the temptations of the devil in this way: ‘I will not yield.’”

Remembering the goodness of God heals and makes her strong.  “When anger wished to burn my tent, I depend upon the goodness of God whom anger never touches….I will have spiritual joy and the virtues will begin to show their greenness in me.  And thus I know the goodness of God.”  The goodness of God is not an abstraction.  It heals.  It restores power and healing, delight and beauty.  But we need to remember it.

“Anointed with the Holy Spirit” Illumination by Hildegard of Bingen, from Scivias.

Hildegard cites Ezekiel: “Throw away from you all your collusions in which you have walked crookedly and make a new heart and a new spirit for yourself.”  (Ez 18:31)  What is this new heart and new spirit?  It is, in Hildegard’s words, to return to “original wisdom.”  We learn original blessing as we learn trust.  We begin to trust in creation and in its maker and in that particular creation which is ourselves.

She tells us that the goodness of God is our goodness too.  “I say to you: Since God is good, why do you despise to know his goodness?  For you have eyes for seeing, ears for hearing, a heart for reflecting, hands for working, feet for walking.  Though all these gifts you are capable of lifting yourself up or casting yourself down, of being asleep or awake, of eating or of fasting.  Thus God created you.”  Here Hildegard calls us to responsibility.  We can be strong, we can carry on the fight.  “For when you oppose the devil like a strong warrior against his enemies then God is delighted in your struggle.”

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