BE INGENUOUS, WIN OVER THE EVIL
Stories of violence and shooting reported in the media which were acts of revenge were meant to settle disputes. But does retribution settle matters? No. It creates a “hard to break” cycle of violence, one aggression leading into another. Hate and violence is not the way to settle matters; and surely it is not for those who trek their way to the Kingdom of Heaven. A story about Saint Teresa of Kolkata (Mother Teresa) shows the wisdom of a disciple of Christ. In her early years she went begging for money to support her work with the destitute. Once, she stretched her begging hands before a well to do man, he not only refused to help the mother, but did something horrible, spat into Teresa’s palm. Most people would be outraged if it happened to them; but not Mother Teresa. She clenched the sputum in one hand and stretched the other to the man and calmly said, “That is for me. Now please give something for my children.” That man was mortified. Ironically, acts of hate are the way of the weak, not of the strong. Mother Teresa’s act of goodness was much stronger than the repulsive act of hate by the rich man. The rich man felt like nobody before the Mother. It is things like this that made Teresa of Kolkata a perfect model of Christian discipleship.
Jesus asked his disciples to be perfect like the heavenly Father is perfect. How to become perfect? Matthew 5:38-48 is teaching us about how to become perfect. This was written at a time when the people of Israel were revolting against the oppressive imperial rule of Roman power. There were many armed revolts against Romans, with the hope of liberation from the oppressive reign of the emperor. In such a situation Jesus says, “You have learnt how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer the wicked man no resistance. If anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well; if a man takes you to court and demand your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone orders you to go one mile, go two miles with him.” Revenge and payback are not the ways for a disciple of Jesus. A good disciple is able to bring the opponents to their knees by being extra good to them. If a lender wants to deprive you of your outer garment, instead of fighting with the lender, take off all your clothes and give them to him. Then you standing naked will make people say ‘shame on you’, not to you but to the lender who made you undress! This might sound unreal. Then again, Mother Teresa clenching the spit of a man in her hand and calmly begging something for the orphans was also unimaginable.
The imperial power of the emperor permitted his soldiers to demand any bystander to carry their luggage for one mile, and one mile only. But instead of resisting his demands, if someone carried the luggage an extra mile for him, the soldier would be in trouble with his officers. That would teach him a lesson.
These teachings of Jesus are part of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ in the course of Jesus training his disciples to be effective missionaries. You and me, as disciples of Christ learn from this sermon, how to become effective missionaries. No evil can be stopped by returning evil. Only goodness in return for the evil can bear lasting fruits. It is not hate and revenge, but acts of goodness that keeps the families together. The world needs Christians who are strong enough not to go the path of revenge, but love their enemies and do good to establish peace and joy. Sometimes it requires a bit of ingenuity, but you and I can do it. Upcoming Lent is the time for practising such a spiritual discipline.