The formula for eradicating evil

You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. … You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:38, 43-44

Follow the example of your Father in heaven by loving your enemies; speak well of them, help them, and pray for their needs. Never retaliate; instead, offer to go above and beyond for those oppressing you.

This teaching of Yeshua is one of the most widely known yet least practiced of all of his precepts. This is because it is non-intuitive and frankly, difficult. It involves two aspects, both an inward motivation and an outward practicality.

If someone is forcing you to do something against your will, double your response. By expending twice the effort in a positive manner than they demanded of you from a negative motivation, you will in essence be overcoming their evil intent with a double measure of good. Additionally, if you are inwardly motivated for their good by praying for them and their needs, you are removed from your reflexive, emotional response of like for like. You are now placing yourself in a frame of mind that becomes concerned for their welfare where you can truly learn of their needs and act with genuine intention.

The typical human response in relationships is to respond in kind to how we are treated by others. A nobler aspiration would be to treat all people with an equal measure of kindness. However, Yeshua calls us to the highest level of interaction: not just to be kind to all, but to expend twice the effort and concern over those who are least deserving of it. This is true love, and the formula for eradicating evil in the world.

It’s simple math: a negative number plus a positive number of equal value only amounts to zero. It takes a positive number of higher value to end with a positive result.

Forgiveness is a bridge to positive, loving responses. When we intentionally overlook a personal injustice, we are freed to be obedient to God’s command to double our loving actions. If we do not exercise forgiveness, we may attempt to be obedient, but our actions can become only hollow shadows with no real substance.

The motivation Yeshua provides us for practicing this kind of forgiveness and love is because when we do so, we are mimicking our heavenly Father. God doesn’t ask us to do anything he himself is unwilling to do. If he blesses the wicked with life and rain and abundance, it is not because they are deserving, but perhaps in their abundance they will recognize his blessing, turn from their ways, and honor him for it.

The apostle Paul calls this God’s “testimony of goodness.” When interacting with crowds in Iconium and Athens, he speaks about the nature of the true God, and he relates how God blesses them.

Yet He has not left Himself without testimony to His goodness: He gives you rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness.

Acts 14:17

From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands. God intended that they would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.

Acts 17:26-27

If we are to represent God as his children, we should be doing what he does. Unfortunately, in our human quest for justice and fairness, we stumble over what we personally think is fair and right based on our limited perspective, but that is not our place. Yeshua encourages us to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Our intentional actions based on forgiveness and love, then, become our personal testimony of goodness. As a result, God is honored, and all evil intentions can be overcome with love.

The maturity of forgiveness

Do not judge, or you will be judged. For with the same judgment you pronounce, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

Matthew 7:1-2

Don’t criticize others.

This teaching of Yeshua highlights that there is a balance, or a universal equity that God maintains. If an individual is overly critical of others, the same level of critical judgment will be applied to them. This is not always recognized by others because the timing of this judgment does not always immediately follow an infraction. However, the Bible promises that justice will be realized in the balance of God’s Creation, in his time.

This is expressed more fully in the parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Luke 6:36-37

Forgiveness is a quality that sits outside of judgment. When judgment is the primary objective, the possibility of forgiveness becomes diminished. Both are necessary, but both serve different purposes.

Judgment provides a needed distinction between right and wrong. We rely on our judgment to ensure that fairness is being practiced or demonstrated. This is not a complex function. For example, even toddlers can recognize when playmates are being fair or unfair when it comes to sharing toys.

Forgiveness is a more complex quality that requires an increased level of maturity. There has to not only be a recognition of a wrong that has been committed, but another “something” beyond the understanding of that wrong that still reaches out to the other individual to maintain a positive relationship.

Through recognition of the reality of this universal balance that God maintains, on even the most basic of levels we should be challenged to grow in maturity in our relationships and our dealings with others. As we encourage the seeds of this nascent maturity to thrive, they are enabled to grow into acts of mercy, and ultimately to blossom into genuine love.

Choosing life over anger

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

Do not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone. According to Yeshua, the damage caused by emotional outbursts is equivalent to taking the life of an individual. Anger breeds an environment of death.

Anger is also a demonstration of unfiltered, and typically unjustified, opinion because the words we speak always come from the overflow of the heart.

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45

Additionally, when we lash out at others, we reveal the weakness of our own character. Raw emotion can cause division because it is typically not based on the truth, but only on a perception of what one believes to be true. The reality of a situation may be significantly different.

If anger fosters death, then forgiveness fosters life. What anger kills, forgiveness resuscitates. Angry words designed to hurt are rendered powerless through the life generated by forgiveness.

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

Matthew 18:21-22

This demonstrates that the stores of forgiveness available to us are bountiful enough to outlast and overcome any personal infraction. Life can always overcome death. Choose life.

The Requirement of Forgiveness

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Matthew 6:14-15

Forgive, and you shall be forgiven.

Forgiveness can be easy to receive but difficult to measure out to others. However, if you desire forgiveness for your offenses to God and others, you must be forgiving of those who have offended you. This is a requirement, not an option.

We learn the true value of forgiveness only through demonstrating forgiveness with others. It comes at a steep price to our own pride and our own internal righteousness. Yet without that price being paid, we are not eligible for the forgiveness that God provides.

God does not tolerate hypocrisy; we must exemplify the character of God with others in order to maintain a thriving relationship with him.

The way of God demands true humility and real sacrifice. Forgiveness embodies both of these qualities.

The Humility of Reconciliation

“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”

Matthew 5:23-26

Reconciliation with all others must take place prior to worshiping God or seeking his forgiveness. This includes adversaries and anyone you know to be holding something against you.

God desires that we approach him without hypocrisy. The relationships we have are mirrors of our heart actions towards others. God is always looking for our hearts to be pure and consistent in all ways with everyone; this includes those who would maintain an adversarial position towards us.

God values reconciliation over proving our personal “rightness” in any situation. Forgiveness requires humility.

Do Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Matthew 5:9

Make peace; do peace, and you will be blessed, being recognized as a child of God. It is our obligation as believers to be the vanguard of peace among the lives of those around us. Forgiveness is the basis of all peace.

When wrongs are committed between individuals, the faithful believer must look beyond the immediate injury to the larger objective of peace and unity. There is no denial a wrong has been committed, just a positive affirmation that is intentionally offered to overcome the sting of the injustice.

However, if we become caught up among the stirrers of dissent and factionism by pressing our righteous indignation at every offense, we are denying our heritage as makers of peace in the character and likeness of Messiah and his kingdom.

“…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this [way] serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

Romans 14:17-19