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Beloved, Let us Not Contend with Evil Men

john-chrysostomJohn vi. 1, 4.-“After these things Jesus went over the sea of Galilee, into the parts of Tiberias. And a great multitude followed Him, because they saw the miracles which He did on them that were diseased. And Jesus departed into a mountain, and there sat with His disciples. And the Passover of the Jews was nigh.”

[1.] Beloved, let us not contend with violent men, but learn when the doing so brings no hurt to our virtue to give place to their evil counsels; for so all their hardihood is checked. As darts when they fall upon a firm, hard, and resisting substance, rebound with great violence on those who throw them, but when the violence of the cast hath nothing to oppose it, it soon becometh weaker and ceaseth, so is it with insolent men; when we contend with them they become the fiercer, but when we yield and give ground, we easily abate all their madness. Wherefore the Lord when He knew that the Pharisees had heard “that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John,” went into Galilee, to quench their envy, and to soften by His retirement the wrath which was likely to be engendered by these reports.


A Sermon of St John Chrysostom

(Homily XLII in Vol XIV, NPNF (1st))

  1. March 27, 2014 at 7:51 pm

    Let me politely disagree. Contend we must, even with violent and evil men, but contend gracefully, honestly, directly, and rely on God’s protection for the result. Christianity was spread through brave believers, not by cowards.

    • March 27, 2014 at 8:49 pm

      I agree with you. Note that Chrysostom said that we should allow them to have their way “when it does not do harm to our virtue.” When we are responsible to contend for the sake of the truth or the love of our neighbor we have to contend, which is why Jesus was able to drive the money changers out of the temple with the whip and pronounce damnation on some of his adversaries. But it is also important to know when to show kindness to enemies. Evil men are often convinced that they are not evil, but that their enemies are.

      It also depends on what your job is. If you are a police officer, or a soldier, or a ruler, your job is to fight and punish evil. If you’re a father or a husband, you are obligated to fight to defend your family.

      If you’re a pastor, you’re obligated to denounce sin, false religion and false doctrine.

      But you’re also obligated to love your enemies. In your calling you may have to fight or punish; as a private individual you pray for their salvation and blessing and are willing to sacrifice for their blessing.

      The difficult part is to know when you should turn the other cheek and when you are obligated to speak out or even use force. Lots of times Jesus did not fight and allowed Himself to be abused, and He was certainly not a coward.

      But it’s not appropriate for a king or a judge to turn the other cheek when his calling is to prevent wrongdoing and punish it.

      So I don’t think we disagree. It’s just that we are usually quick to fight for our own interests, but often lax in using force or speaking unpleasant truths when God calls us to do it for the good of our neighbor and when the result is likely to be shame, dishonor, and suffering for us personally.

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