against evil

Jesus taught his followers to “turn the other cheek” and “do not resist one who is evil.” Yet he did not teach them to ignore evil, and he did not ignore it himself.

Jesus responded to evil first by rejecting it himself, and living in a very different way than those around him. But he also directly addressed the evil he saw in those around him. His challenging words to the religious leaders of his time, “Woe to you, hypocrites!,” are very familiar and he had similar words for many others who rejected God’s way:

“Woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. …Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Lk 6.24,26)

Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it shall be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.” (Mt 11.20-22)
Jesus even told his brothers that it was his habit of speaking out against evil that turned many against him: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” (Jn 7.7)

Jesus resisted the evil that was in people, yet did not resist “one who is evil,” did not try to forcibly stop those who had chosen to act on their evil intentions. He knew all that happened was under God’s control, and he trusted God to restrain the actions of people. And he knew that evil is not an event or action but an intent in the heart of people. When Jesus challenged the evil of people’s hearts, what he wanted was for those hearts to be free of their evil intent and no longer separated from God.

Jesus wasn’t trying to prevent himself from being hurt by the evil of others, or trying to eliminate evil from society by locking up people or killing them. He was trying to free the people he loved from the evil in their own hearts.