Non-resistance is one of the prime identification marks of a true Anabaptist. Many folks take this to mean that we believe it is wrong to put on a uniform and take up arms to defend our country. What it really means is that we believe in wearing figurative steel-toed slippers so that it never feels like someone is stepping on our toes. Some jobs require workers to wear steel-toed safety shoes because of dangers in the workplace, but we also need to prevent hurt feelings from arising when we are with family, friends and neighbours.
If we never notice that someone has stepped on our toes, we never feel a need for vengeance. That is the true essence of non-resistance. We should have no feelings of bitterness and resentment at the events and circumstances that life brings our way. The Apostle Paul writes: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice” (Ephesians 4:31).
Jesus said that the meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). If we think that meek rhymes with weak, consider the word used in French: débonnaire. Don’t be deceived by the English word debonair, the boat carrying it across the English Channel must have capsized, as it became quite a different word upon reaching the shores of England. The French word means: “having a goodness, or kindness, pushed to the extreme, somewhat weak.” That doesn’t sound very appealing at first, but consider the promise that is attached to it: such a person shall inherit the earth.
Those who try to stake out their little plot on this earth and defend it with all their might tend to have a miserable life, always on guard lest someone’s toe encroach upon their territory. There is great peace when we realize that we are heirs and leave the defending to God. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
“ Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:10). There is no escape clause here, such as: love worketh no premeditated ill to his neighbour; or love worketh no ill to his neighbour unless he is first inconvenienced by his neighbour. It is unconditional love that the New Testament teaches, even to the unlovable. This attitude of unconditional love is a characteristic of those who truly entrust everything they are and have into the hands of a loving and merciful God.
“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace” (James 2:13-18).
A peace witness in time of war does not mean much if we are not known as peaceable people at other times. If we claim to be born again and to have the peace of God in our heart, yet show a very touchy and defensive attitude to others, something is not quite right. Time to put on those steel-toed slippers.