The phrase, “deliver us from evil” may, perhaps, conjure up images of an active God plucking a passive self from circumstances of evil. Is it possible, however, that this “delivery” might at times require our active involvement to deliver ourselves from the evil?
This question brings to mind the famous quote, “God helps those who helps themselves.” This quote, however, is not a Biblical quote at all. Though it appeared in Benjamin Franklin’s text Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1757, it has been traced further back than that, to Algernon Sydney, writing in 1698. In contrast to this, Jesus in Matthew 5:39-40 seems to imply that we should not resist evil, when he says, “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
Is there any way, then, for a Christian to take an active stand against evil? If so, by what means?
The way of nonviolence can give an answer. In his book, Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King charts a courageous, middle course that requires our active engagement, as follows:
"First, it must be emphasized that nonviolent resistance is not a method for cowards; it does resist. . . . [W]hile the nonviolent resister is passive in the sense that he is not physically aggressive toward his opponent, his mind and emotions are always active, constantly seeking to persuade his opponent that he is wrong. The method is passive physically, but strongly active spiritually. It is not passive nonresistance to evil, it is active nonviolent resistance to evil [emphasis supplied].
(photo by Flip Schulke courtesy Time magazine)