“But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” – Matthew 5:3
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa, once was confronted by a man while walking in town. The passer-by and the archbishop were on the same sidewalk heading toward one another with only room for one to pass at a time. They stood face to face with the man not willing to allow the archbishop to pass. The man’s comment was, “I don’t move for gorillas.” With that, Archbishop Tutu, stepped aside and replied, “I do;” as he made way for the man to pass.
Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta, India entered a local bakery with one of her starving children in her care. She approached the counter, tended by the owner, and asked if he could spare bread for the child. The owner, not enamored with Mother, promptly spit in her face. Mother Teresa’s responded with, “Thank you for your gift to me. Now, perhaps, some bread for the child.”
There was a man who was very good at his trade. That trade was training men to hate. At the end of the training program he felt he had accomplished his goal with ten recruits. For the final test he lined up the ten men shoulder to shoulder. He then viciously struck the first man in line across his face. Then commanded him to do the same to the man next to him. One after the other, with the same force received, each delivered an equal blow to the man next to him. When it was the sixth man’s turn he refused to carry out the command. That is when hate stops. (Archbishop Fulton K. Sheen)
“Love is rock; hatred is sand. Love is strong; hatred is weak. You can never build a relationship on hatred. Nothing is everlasting unless it is built on love.” – Fr. Leo Clifford
Did we witness here a strong response or a weak response? The answer is in what may have been gained. What appears as acquiescing is instead a courageous act. Each suffered a degrading attack, yet, by their response, opened themselves to possibly further abuse. But for what purpose? To make a point.
Anyone near enough to each event was witness to a moment of truth. All eyes turn from the attacker to the target to see how each would respond. If an argument ensued or a knock down drag out fight, all would have walked away with nothing but a bit of – par for the course – entertainment as they continued about their daily business. Yet in each case they would have witnessed the unusual, the unexpected. And that is cause for pause and pondering.
In the non-aggressive responses the eyes of those watching were opened. Opened to another means of handling hatred beyond an eye for an eye mentality. Giving the racist, the bakery owner and the trainer food for thought. For in attacking someone a second time when they did nothing to earn the first cannot be justified. With a firmness in their conviction to not inflict the abuse that they had received shows a strength that is all too often neglected. It is the strength that impels aggressors to look into their souls. And with what little remnant of conscience which is still possessed, that the world has not yet destroyed, one can then take an account of oneself with hope of seeing the truth. And having done so realizes that in every heart no matter how dark or hard there is always room enough for God’s grace to enter. Through that grace a heart can be healed and a soul saved by nurturing each through good thoughts, words and deeds.
Not all will see value in the turn the other cheek response. Nor will all who witness take with them a changed heart. But some will. And for that some, which may include the antagonist, an opportunity to change their attitudes for the better and renew their lives will not be if those who like Archbishop Tutu, Saint Mother Teresa and the trainee have not the courage and faith to stand their ground on a sound foundation of love against the evils of hatred.
Each case cited is an example of pride verses humility; vice verses virtue. Whenever selfishness and humility are found in the same company confrontation is inevitable. They are the incompatible oil and water of conflict.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” – Matthew 10:34
The only justifiable hatred is that which God has for evil.