It’s undeniable that we live in a paradoxical situation. «While the sensitivity of rights trampled on and violent injustices grows more each day, also is growing more each day the feeling of having to traverse a brutal and ruthless violence in order to bring to fulfillment the profound changes we yearn for». Thus said the General Assembly of the Jesuit Provincials a few years ago in their final document.
There doesn’t seem to be any other road to resolve problems than resorting to violence. It’s not strange that Jesus’ words resound in our society as a naïve cry, in addition to being discordant: «Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you». And yet, maybe it is the word we most need to hear in these moments when we are plunged into confusion, and don’t know what to do concretely to go about snatching violence out of the world.
Someone once said that «the problems that you can only resolve with violence ought to be formulated anew» (F. Hacker). And it’s precisely here that Jesus’ Gospel has much to offer even today, not to give technical solutions to conflicts, but to discover with what attitude we should tackle them.
Jesus has a deep conviction. You can’t conquer evil by starting with hatred and violence. You only conquer evil with good. As Martin Luther King said, «the ultimate defect of violence is that it generates a down-turning spiral that destroys all that it gives birth to. Instead of lessening evil, it augments it».
Jesus doesn’t stop to examine precisely if in some concrete circumstance violence could be legitimate. What he does do is invite us to work and struggle so that it never exists. That’s why it’s important to always seek paths that bring us toward fraternity and not toward fratricide.
To love our enemies doesn’t mean tolerating injustices and comfortably retiring from the fight against evil. What Jesus has seen clearly is that we can’t fight against evil when we destroy people. We need to combat evil, but without seeking the destruction of the adversary.
But let’s not forget something important. This call to renounce violence shouldn’t be directed so much toward the weak, who hardly have power or any access to destructive violence, but above all to those who wield power, money or arms, and can thus violently oppress the weaker and more defenseless.
Jose Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf