So, here’s another passage from Vincent J Donavan’s book “Christianity Rediscovered” that really made me think:
‘In the final analysis, the message of the New Testament, the message that passes from Jesus to us, is that the only way to overcome evil is to give into it. Overcome it he did, beginning with death which he turned into resurrection. In his case, he could not have overcome death by violently struggling against it, or by disputing with Pilate or Caiphas over the injustice of it all, and thus avoiding it altogether. It can be argued that his was a singular case, and a singular solution, and that it is no applicable to others, and to us. Singular it was, but it stands nonetheless as the only solution to evil offered in the New Testament.‘
I’m not sure I agree with this, or certainly not all of this. I don’t think the established churches do either: one of the five CofE marks of mission is “To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation”; one of the five Baptist core values is to be “A Prophetic Community – Following Jesus in confronting evil, injustice and hypocrisy. Challenging worldly concepts of wealth, power, status and security.” How is that compatible with “the only way to overcome evil is to give into it”?
Perhaps Donavan is just wrong on this? And yet, there is a ring of truth to some of it. Jesus could have called on legions of angels to forcibly resist his arrest and execution but he didn’t, and he said as much. Jesus could have encouraged violent resistance to the forces occupying his nation’s homeland, but he didn’t, and he rebuked Peter when he resorted to violence in Gethsemane. Jesus did give in to the evil forces that plotted against him, and in so doing has won for us the ultimate victory over death itself. There was to be no resurrection from the dead without death first.
But can it ever be the right thing simply to give into evil? Are we simply not far-sighted enough to see how giving in will lead to overcoming?
What do you think?