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May 2005 

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Overcoming evil by good: Gospel of St. Mathew, 5, 38-48



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Overcoming evil by good: Gospel of St. Mathew, 5, 38-48

This teaching of Jesus is rather surprising. It seems to be disproportionate when we are used to living on the basis of a giving and expecting something-in-return society: "eye for eye, tooth for tooth". Jesus invites us to use another logic: it is not a question to be submissive but on the contrary to take risks to restore a happy relationship between the two: "I did say to you do not retaliate against evil". Give without expecting to receive in return and don't give up hope for the others. Overcome evil by good. You will be free from being a prisoner of fear.
"If somebody slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him your left"
This strange statement makes sense in a logic of going beyond the abuse; to break with the violence and with the revenge.
désarmer Don't respond to violence by violence. Break the logic of rivalry. Try to make your aggressor understand the violence within him. Show him the strength of he who is not afraid. If you look disarmed you may succeed to disarm the one who is facing you. 

Indeed this follows the mechanisms of inhibition, well known in human relationships as in animal species.
In a fight between wolves, the one who sees he is losing shows its throat to the domineering and then inhibits its aggressiveness. It is a method of regulation. Among humans, he or she who takes a non-violent attitude, disconcerts his or her aggressor, the one who gives more than he is asked, disconcerts and breaks the escalation of violence.
"If somebody requests you to walk one mile, go with him two. Give when you are asked to give…"
Jesus wants us to understand that he who gives does not lose. The one who gives transform the others and him.
In the famous novel of Victor Hugo, "Les Miserables", the police arrested the former convict suspected of robbing the Bishop's silver. They went together to see the Bishop. The Bishop did not accuse the man brought by the police, instead he stated that the silver was his own and gave to him also two silver candelabras!
His wish was that this man lived. Through this gift the former convict recovered the status of a free man.
"Love your enemies"

aimez vos ennemis This means that you don't love only those who love you like the common way of giving-giving. 
In ordinary life I invite to eat those who invite me, I offer gifts to those who offer some to me, I help those who help me…we have to imitate the generosity of the Father who makes rise his sun on good and bad alike. His love extends to the whole human family without exception. Nobody is excluded.
We may think that these words "Love your enemies" is not for us because we are "well" with every body. We have no enemies. But our enemies can also be inside ourselves; they can be as fearsome as outside enemies. The will to dominate, to be violent or just to be afraid are our enemies and also the desires that never had a right to live in ourselves because we repressed them in the past, and often since our childhood.

The logic of self-surpassing does not aim at an immediate return. We enter in the long term, in the dynamic of the friendship of giving and receiving. 

long terme

These human relationships that link us to the others are analogous to those that God wants to have with us.