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>Living Faith: Life in the Kingdom

Uprooting Evil

Jesus said that “they that take the sword, shall perish with the sword.”

Those few words must comprise one of Jesus’ most historically obvious teachings. Violence begets violence. The sword murders, then returns to kill the murderer. Our global legacy, the thing we call history, is essentially a record of violence, and the whole story is bathed in blood.

From Syrians to Americans, our societies function on the illogical premise that violence is the only way to end violence—that the only answer for the sword is the sword. Or to put it in 21st century terms, the only legitimate answer to bombs is cruise missiles and air strikes.

All of this reminds me of Leo Tolstoy’s story, as he tells in in Three Parables, about the peasants who insisted the only way to beat the weeds was to mow them. One man, seeing the field taken over by weeds, argued for uprooting the weeds rather than mowing them. The peasants disgraced him as a malicious man. Tolstoy goes on to say:

The same thing happened to me, when I pointed out the injunction of the Gospel teaching concerning non-resistance to evil. . . . What I said was that, according to Christ’s teaching, evil cannot be rooted out with evil, that every resistance to evil with violence only increases the evil, and that evil is only rooted out with good. “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and love your enemies”—and you will have no enemies. I said that, according to Christ’s teaching, man’s whole life is a struggle with evil, a resistance to evil by means of reason and love, and that Christ excludes the one senseless means of resisting evil from all of the other means. Christ forbids fighting evil with evil.

When I witness the mad cycle of violence and retribution that defines our world, from terror to the war on terror, from Damascus to Washington, I see—courtesy of Tolstoy—peasants mowing down the weeds. And I’m gripped by the madness of our hopeless cycles of thriving weeds and vicious mowing.

One thing gives me hope—and it’s the injunction to “overcome evil with good.” In the very essence of that idea is the embedded certainty that good will ultimately win. In fact, the promise of the cross and the resurrection is that good wins, even when it dies to win.

To be honest, I’m uncertain how to personally address the problem of violence in Syria or the West, except to pray for peace and for healing. But this I know full well: around me, there is pain enough and violence enough (often psychological violence) that needs an answer.

There, I know what I must do, and it is not mowing the weeds still another time. The weeds must be uprooted—overcome with good!

You do that in your world this week, I beg of you, and see what happens. Even in our small, everyday ways, our commitment to uprooting evil will bring the kingdom of God into our circumstances. And one of these days, the evil chapter of our long human story will be finished, and God will stun us with the ultimate victory of good.

But while we wait, we can bring that promised triumph into living, prophetic reality in our world.

—Arlin Weaver

2 comment(s)

"Even in our small, everyday ways, our commitment to uprooting evil will bring the kingdom of God into our circumstances." Thank you. I needed that personal challenge.

Posted by Mark on Sun 27 Oct 2013, 18:44pm

Amen brother!

Posted by Charlton on Sun 1 Dec 2013, 12:23pm

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