Overcome Evil by Doing Good

Drawing on the Book of Proverbs, St. Paul offers a simple admonition to his readers:

“…if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)

He then adds:

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It is a very simple statement. However, when anyone begins to suggest what that might look like, critics quickly begin to offer egregious examples that would ask us to bear the unbearable, with the inevitable conclusion: “Kill your enemies.” What is suggested, in effect, is that Christians should respond in the same way as any tyrant would, only a little less so. “Kill your enemies, but not so much.” (I use the term “kill” in this example only as the most extreme form of violence). A question: What is it about the Kingdom of God that gave Christ and the Apostles such a confidence in its non-violence?

Consider these verses:

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” (Jn. 18:36)


“But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Lk. 22:38)


“And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Matt. 26:52)

There is something of a mystery in Christ’s instruction to buy a sword. Many consider it simply a metaphorical way of saying that troubles are coming. Indeed, one of those two swords is drawn and does terrible damage to a man when Christ is arrested, earning a rebuke. I have always wondered if Peter (the one who wielded the sword) thought to himself, “But I thought He said bring a sword!” As it is, Christ restored and healed the ear of the injured man.

The key, I think, is found in Christ’s statement to Pilate that His Kingdom is not “of” this world. That does not mean that the Kingdom is located somewhere else. Rather, it means that His Kingdom’s source is not found within the things of this world. It is a sovereign act of God. As such, its reality is independent of our actions and will. There is nothing in the Kingdom of God that requires our swords (or even our words). It is heaven-breaking-into-our-world. It is unassailable.

This is the faith of the martyrs. The long history of the Church’s faithful who have gone to their deaths include many stories of terrible persecutions and tortures. They also include an abiding witness to an abiding sense that everything being done to them somehow misses the point. When Christ stood before Pilate, He was threatened with the might and power of Rome. “Don’t you know I have the power to release you or to kill you?” Human beings have no power over God. The Kingdom of God willingly enters into the suffering of this world, willingly bears shame, willingly embraces the weakness of the Cross. The martyrs acted as they did because their lives were not of this world. Christians should not live in this world thinking about a world somewhere else (heaven). Rather, Christians themselves are heaven in this world. It is that reality to which we bear witness (martyr means “witness”).

Modern nation states came into existence slowly, as one of the consequences of the Reformation. Some, like England, had a head start, inasmuch as it was partially defined by its shoreline. But most, like France and Germany, evolved more slowly. We imagine today’s modern states as though they were defined by blood and language. However, that is a fantasy, little older then the 19th century. Nationalism, sadly, was one of a number of romantic movements that served to replace the common life of the Church with romantic notions of lesser, tribal belongings.

The patriotic mythologies that came into existence together with modernity’s nationalisms are siren songs that seek to create loyalties that are essentially religious in nature. World War I, in the early 20th century, was deeply revealing of the 19th century’s false ideologies. There, in the fields of France, European Christians killed one another by the millions in the name of entities that, in some cases, had existed for less than 50 years (Germany was born, more or less, in 1871). The end of that war did nothing, apparently, to awaken Christians to the madness that had been born in their midst.

I have noted, through the years, that the patriotism that inhabits the thoughts of many is a deeply protected notion, treated as a virtue in many circles. This often gives it an unexamined character, a set of feelings that do not come under scrutiny. Of course, there are other nation-based feelings and narratives, some of which are highly reactive to patriotism though they are driven as much by the passions and their own mythology. These are the sorts of passions that seem to have risen to a fever-pitch in the last decade or so, though they have been operative for a very long time.

These passions are worth careful examination, particularly as they have long been married to America’s many denominational Christianities. I think it is noteworthy that one of the most prominent 19th century American inventions was Mormonism. There, we have the case of a religious inventor (Joseph Smith) literally writing America into the Scriptures and creating an alternative, specifically American, account of Christ and salvation. It was not an accident. He was, in fact, drawing on the spirit of the Age, only more blatantly and heretically. But there are many Christians whose Christianity is no less suffused with the same sentiments.

Asking questions of these things quickly sends some heads spinning. They wonder, “Are we not supposed to love our country?” As an abstraction, no. We love people; we love the land. We owe honor to honorable things and persons. The Church prays for persons: the President, civil authorities, the armed forces. We are commanded to pray and to obey the laws as we are able in good conscience. Nothing more. St. Paul goes so far as to say that our “citizenship [politeia] is in heaven.” The assumption of many is that so long as the citizenship of earth does not conflict with the citizenship of heaven, all is fine. I would suggest that the two are always in conflict for the simple reason that one is “from above” while the other is “from below,” in the sense captured in Christ’s “my kingdom is not of this world.” There is a conflict. We should not expect that the kingdoms of this world will serve as the instrument of the Kingdom of God. Such confusions have yielded sinful actions throughout the course of the Church’s history.

St. Paul notes in Romans 13 that the state “does not bear the sword in vain.” It has an appointed role in the restraint of evil. Such a role, however, is not the instrument of righteousness. It can, at best, create a measure of tranquility (cf. the Anaphora of St. Basil). The work of the Kingdom of God cannot be coerced, nor can it be the work of coercion. It is freely embraced, even as it alone is the source of true freedom.

My purpose in offering these observations is, if possible, to “dial down” passions surrounding our thoughts of the nation and politics in order to love properly and deeply what should be loved. That this is difficult, and at times confusing, is to be expected. We live in a culture in which the passions are marketed to us in an endless stream, carefully designed for the greatest effect. If these thoughts of mine help quiet the passions to some degree, then I will have done well. If, on the other hand, they have stirred reaction, then, forgive me and let it go.

If the Kingdom of God were a ship (an image sometimes used of the Church), then we should not be surprised when the seas become boisterous and the winds become contrary. Nor should we panic if we find that Christ is asleep in the back of the boat. His sleeping, indeed, should be a clue as to what the true nature of our situation might be. There are some who imagine that the work of the Kingdom can only be fulfilled once we’ve learned to control the winds and the seas. We fail to understand that they already obey the One who sleeps.

And so we come to overcoming evil by doing good. It is a common teaching in the Fathers that evil has no substance – it only exists as a parasite. All created things are good by nature. It is the misuse of the good that we label “evil.” To do good thus has the character of eternity. It is not lost or diminished with time. Christ said, “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.” (Matthew 10:42)

When the final account is given, the nations will not be named. Their wars and empires will pass into what is forgotten. However, the many cups of cold water and other such acts of goodness will abide. I could imagine such actions on the part of a nation, and there are probably plenty. They likely go unnoticed, or even derided as wasteful.

I think that our politics and patriotism want to measure the seas, where God is measuring cups.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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46 responses to “Overcome Evil by Doing Good”

  1. Brandi Avatar

    You have done very well, indeed, Fr., to put this maddening passion into its own sea of calm. Thank you.

  2. Peter Avatar

    You have done well Father. Sending this to my son, who’s studying modern world history.
    The last paragraph is gold.

  3. Dean Avatar

    Thank you Fr. Stephen,
    A waft of gentle and fresh air in our highly polluted and ailing political maelstrom.

  4. Janine Avatar

    Good things to remember, Father. Our “cups” don’t seem to add up to much by a worldly standard, but they do, don’t they? They might be everything. Easy to forget in the storm of the world. Thank you.

  5. Matthew Avatar

    I am not a patriot; not a nationalist. I am also not a globalist. Where I live, there is a rising nationalist movement that is very concerned about the globalist agenda and its desire to erase lines and borders of ethnicity, indigenous culture, etc. While I can (even as a foreigner myself living here as a guest) understand their concerns, their speech often turns toward racism and xenophobic hatred as they attempt to hold off the impending tidal wave of globalism. This I cannot tolerate.

    That said, I do think the Church can provide a living example of what diversity is supposed to rightly look like while also holding onto ethnic traditions and cultural elements that help bind together a people — without ugly nationalism and without very progressive globalism. I attend a Greek Orthodox church. I am not Greek nor do I (yet) speak or understand much of the Greek language. I also do not really understand (yet) the Greek culture … but … I am part of their tribe as a brother in Christ who is desiring to more closely align himself with their traditions and their Church.

    At the end of the day, I am not against their desire to be Greek and to worship as Greek Orthodox believers do and they do not seem against me, a non-Greek, being part of their church family. It is an interesting mix of things really; an interesting balancing act so it seems.

  6. Margaret Avatar

    Thank you Fr Stephen! I almost always fail to understand that the wind and waves of my life already obey the “One Who sleeps “in my life.

  7. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    My local parish is literally the most diverse community to which I’ve ever belonged, apart from just living on this planet. But, if you will, the point of the article is positive – pay attention to each cup of cold water which you can give. Terrible things are afoot. They may swallow us – and we cannot control what the world might do. But, Christ reminds us, “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” Apparently, that’s enough.

  8. Laura Avatar

    “If the Kingdom of God were a ship…”
    Love this paragraph! Thank you, Fr. Stephen!

  9. Matthew Avatar

    Thanks so much Fr. Stephen. I would agree … it is enough.

  10. Drewster2000 Avatar

    I have always wondered about Jesus sleeping through the storm. He did nothing randomly. So what was He saying by this? Perhaps something about His true source and possessing the peace that passes understanding?

    It is a strange thing to live in this world but not be of it. At times you’re calm when people expect panic, and so on. It’s almost like you’re watching a different movie than everyone else, laughing at awkward times, crying when those around you are celebrating, etc. Everyone is viewing the same background, actors, sets and listening to the same lines and noises, but…you’re viewing it through 3D glasses…or something like that.

  11. Matthew Avatar

    Thanks so much Drewster2000! I think you are onto something …

  12. Andrew Avatar

    “ If these thoughts of mine help quiet the passions to some degree, then I will have done well.”

    For my part at least Father, you’ve done well. Thank you.

  13. Glennis Moriarty Avatar
    Glennis Moriarty

    Thank you for once again putting things in their right perspective for us all.

  14. Janine Avatar

    Re “cups” and the image of the Church as a ship: I keep getting this image in my mind of bailing water filling the boat with a cup! Haha, worthy of a comedy film. I’m bailing as fast as I can … Maybe that will be the next miraculous “sign” we look for 🙂

  15. Janine Avatar

    Also, Father, you wrote:
    Terrible things are afoot. They may swallow us – and we cannot control what the world might do.

    Well, I’m slightly concerned that I shouldn’t ask, but could you describe these terrible things? I mean, I guess there is a sense all around about this, but one can never be sure it’s not the wrong end of the stick. Sometimes it’s edifying to ask

  16. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    I have no way to predict things…so don’t get me wrong. But the people who are in charge of governments and companies, and those who want to be in charge of them, are either controlled by dark and mistaken philosophies, greed, or other worse passions and are not steering things with reasonable goals in mind. The result is the chaos that we presently see. There’s a lot of instability – so disasters can and will happen.

    It’s not as if Christ didn’t warn us about such stuff, while telling us to be at peace and to trust in Him.

    It is to be noted that Christ was asleep in the back of the boat during a storm. This is also said of Jonah. Of course, Jonah gets swallowed by a fish, but Christ simply stills the wind and the waves. But…He will be swallowed by a fish (death) and be spat back out (resurrected). His resurrection is the utter guarantee that all will be well. The danger lies in being anxious or worried about what the world might do. Christ said, “Be anxious for nothing.”

    So, that’s what I had in mind.

  17. A Reader Avatar
    A Reader

    There is an abbot of an orthodox monastery in America who advises we meet the bumps in our lives this way: BDG&P (bless, do good, and pray). It is a response, not a reaction. His advice was the first thing I thought when I saw the title of this blog entry.

    I also appreciate this abbott’s description of the altar as a stove, and prayer the wood that stokes the fire. The more prayer at that altar, the warmer and more powerful it is, and it becomes a “thin” place. Old monasteries, he says, are alive with prayer. I’m not suggesting my prayer corner compares to an old monastery, but I like to think of it in this way. For me, it is an incentive to attempt a prayerful life, and I thought someone else might find it inspiring.

    And something else that seems to fit in this conversation. Recently, standing out – like reaching out and grabbing me in the translation I have been reading of Ode 4 (Habakkuk 3), the last two versus that say: “The Lord my God is my strength; he will perfectly station my feet. And he puts me on high places; for me to conquer with his song.” High places being places of idol worship, and his song being love, ultimately. If you read from verse 17, he is talking about lack of food, lack of livestock, desolation and no means of living, yet, “I will glory in my Lord…he is my strength…”

  18. Janine Avatar

    Thank you Father Stephen, that makes sense to me. And thanks Reader also.

  19. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Drewster: After Jesus calms the storm (and questions the Disciples about their fear and lack of faith), they are no less afraid than before. They respond by becoming terrified of Him!

    I don’t think the Disciples ever receive the peace you describe until after the Resurrection (and perhaps not until the anointing).

  20. Matthew Avatar


    I think your ideas about seeing the same movie, but with 3D glasses, are a very good ones. I feel that way as a believer living in this world very often!

  21. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    In the play ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller about the Salem witch trials and the McCarthy hunt for communists, one character manages to triumph over the hunters, Giles Cory. They are pressing him (putting heavier and heavier weight on his chest to induce his confession to witchcraft). He refused to confess to a lie. His last words in the play and historically were “More weight!”.

    The witch trials fell a part after that, both in the play and in real time. It occurred to me Giles Cory overcame the evil by refusing to participate in it. A bit like Judge Joseph Welch did with McCarthy. Judge Welch had a happier outcome though.

    Witch trials are going on right now. Judge Welch ask, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” Interesting in that Judge Welch was a Boston attorney at the time.

    It seems a simple thing to stand for, decency, but it can be exceptionally difficult apparently.

  22. Matthew Avatar

    Fr. Stephen said:

    “His resurrection is the utter guarantee that all will be well. The danger lies in being anxious or worried about what the world might do. Christ said, “Be anxious for nothing.””

    Such truth. Such good advice. Very difficult to whittle down to the practical though … for me at least. I don´t want to lead an informationally ignorant life, so I continue to read about and observe what is happening in our world. Really though … it just makes me sad and angry and worried and anxious. I feel like I can do nothing about the issues. They are simply too complicated and above my pay grade. At the same time, tbough, can I really sit around and do nothing? It´s a complicated mix for me.

  23. Matthew Avatar

    I never read nor I have I seen The Crucible, Michael. It sounds very interesting.

  24. thomas Avatar

    Thank you for your great blog, Father. Not sure if I should address this in the comments or if you have a separate section just for website issues. I’ve been reading through your past articles slowly and I constantly get the sign-up pop-up. I’ve already signed up with my email. Is there anyway to get this to stop? I just really hate pop-ups.

  25. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Sorry for the annoyance. I’ll take it up with my web developer. I asked for something that would make the subscription box a bit more obvious for folks (many seem to have had difficult finding it). Perhaps it’s “too” obvious. I’ll see what we can do.

  26. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Matthew, it was written and produced in the early 1950’s. It won the Pulitzer Prize of Drama that year. Only 71 years ago.
    It is not a Christian play. In fact there is a question about what God expects of us and His Nature which is a ghost through out the play.
    Nevertheless, the play does highlight the danger of following those who condemn from the twisted, sinful human will and the cost of that hardness of heart and Satanic endeavors.
    It is truly a great play because it exposes the reality of the hardness of human hearts and how easy it is to mistake one’s own will for God’s.

    The Witch Hunt in colonial Salem was a Protestant outbreak. Although I’d like to think that we Orthodox are less susceptible to such things, in practice we tend to be more subtle about it.

    True Holiness is much deeper — always calling each of us to repentance and the giving of mercy.

    Our priest preach a magnificent homily today on
    how to properly discern the call of our Lord to follow Him as He called the disciples to follow Him having no compromise with evil while at the same time welcoming those who need Him the most.
    Both are called to repent and experience His Mercy….

  27. Mark Spurlock Avatar
    Mark Spurlock

    Regarding the pop-up, in my experience (and I tested on Chrome, Edge, and Firefox), it pops up only once per visit–and maybe only once per day. That is, even when I close the browser completely and come back to the site immediately, I do not get the pop-up again.

    So whoever programmed it has made some effort not to make it annoying 🙂

    It bugged me the first time I encountered it, since I’ve already subscribed as well, but it’s a very minor “nag” IMO.

  28. Kenneth Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, thank you so much for this beautiful reflection. I especially appreciate your interpretation of the calming of the storm, which is so relevant to the turbulent events of our modern world. You were very influential in my journey to Orthodoxy, and continue to be a source of encouragement and insight, for which I’m very grateful.

    I have often wondered about the “two swords” and “it is enough” passage. Some have said that the “enough” points out the ridiculousness of taking on the Roman empire with two swords, thus making Jesus’ point that his kingdom is not of this world. I’ve also read that “it is enough” could be translated “Enough!”, as if to say that the disciples still fail to understand, though I’m not quite sure if this is the best reading. In any case, the use of the sword at his arrest is then rebuked and/or healed by Jesus (in Matthew, Luke, and John).

    An unrelated question for anyone: I was expecting today to be Zacchaeus Sunday (the Sunday before the Publican and the Pharisee?), but at my parish the Zacchaeus passage was read a couple of weeks ago and today’s reading was the Canaanite woman from Matthew 15. Is this a special year when the Zacchaeus passage is read earlier, or does the timing vary among different Orthodox dioceses? I was trying to learn the cycle of readings and was a little confused by this.

  29. Bradley David Avatar
    Bradley David

    What jurisdiction is your parish?
    I think it is a difference between the Greek/Antiochian and Russian Traditions. I used to attend an Antiochian parish and the Triodion was always immediately preceded by the Sunday of the Canaanite woman, not Zacchaeus Sunday. The date of course moves because the triodian is linked to the date of Pascha. This is different at the OCA parish I belong to where Zacchaeus Sunday immediately precedes the Triodian. I also understand that the appointed readings are different between the two traditions, though I honestly don’t know the extent of the differences.

  30. Kenneth Avatar

    Thanks, Bradley, I think that would explain it. My parish is Antiochian. I previously attended an OCA parish in a different city and that’s where I had learned that Zacchaeus immediately preceded the Triodion. I had not realized the differences between those jurisdictions. Thanks!

  31. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Bradley nailed it.

  32. Eric Avatar

    “Christians should not live in this world thinking about a world somewhere else (heaven). Rather, Christians themselves are heaven in this world. It is that reality to which we bear witness”

    Thank you
    As always

  33. Matthew Avatar

    Thanks so much Michael.

  34. Bradley David Avatar
    Bradley David

    Glad to be of help, Kenneth. The good thing is that both Zacchaeus and the Canaanite woman are strong examples to draw from as we begin to prepare for the Great Fast. The Church provides what we need even when she differs locally.

  35. Kenneth Avatar

    That’s a great point, Bradley. Somehow learning of this small difference was itself a spiritual exercise of sorts for me, ie, learning in my meager way to be patient and thankful in all things.

  36. thomas Avatar

    Something I struggle with as a new believer, and being called to live in the world, but not be of the world.. but then we are also called to sanctify the world, correct? My mind struggles with this seeming paradox, but I suspect I am missing something. Is our death to the world a way to sanctify it also?

  37. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    To “sanctify” is to make holy. It is by living a holy life (the Church being the Church) that we “sanctify” the world. It should not be be interpreted as “making the world a better place.”

  38. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    Thomas, et al,
    FWIW, our minds circle back to the secular mandate (“make the world a better place,” etc.) over and over again. We imagine that the “real” action is in the use of power and money, and that if they are used wisely they will produce better circumstances, and better circumstances produce better people, a more moral world, etc. This is a powerful narrative, told and retold and sold to us relentlessly. It’s also a lie – demonstrably false.

    We “believe” in modernity (the secular project). It is a religion (originally a set of heretical notions derived from Christianity). Indeed, for many, “Jesus” is nothing more than a deity to invoke in order to further the aims of modernity – it’s not the Christ of the Scriptures nor of the Church.

    It’s actually quite insidious – in that it is the woof and weave of our culture.

  39. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father, as you say modernity is a lie. It seems to me that the cost to those who do not agree with the heresy is already present…Likely to get worse, IMO.

  40. Drewster2000 Avatar


    Sorry this took so long. I just now checked the comments.

    The idea of a double vision was not mine. I first heard it in The Great Divorce when Lewis (in the story) encounters his real-life hero George MacDonald:

    ” I had not yet looked one of the Solid People in the face. Now, when I did so, I discovered that one sees them with a kind of double vision. Here was an enthroned and shining god, whose ageless spirit weighed upon mine like a burden of solid gold: and yet, at the very same moment, here was an old weather-beaten man, one who might have been a shepherd such a man as tourists think simple because he is honest and neighbours think “deep” for the same reason. His eyes had the far-seeing look of one who has lived long in open, solitary places; and somehow I divined the network of wrinkles which must have surrounded them before re-birth had washed him in immortality.”

    But the idea is closely linked to other, more foundational concepts that I discovered in Orthodoxy. Fr. Stephen talked about how it is at the altar that we first see demonstrated this idea that something physical (the bread and wine) can also be the body and blood of Christ. Western Christians struggle with this concept, trying to figure out just when the change happens. They ask, well is it bread and wine? Or body and blood? To which the Orthodox enthusiastically answer YES! Both/And! You have to have this double vision in order to see this. They don’t stop being bread and wine. But God blesses them so that they also become for us Christ Himself.

    However, Fr. Stephen’s comment went on: this way of seeing starts at the altar but is meant to flow out and immerse all of our lives. In fact I believe his first book, Everywhere Present, was based on the premise that while most of us think of life as being divided up into categories like holy and secular (thus a 2-story universe), it is in truth all one universe. All is holy – if only we have the eyes to see it.

    I think the 2 things required to begin seeing this way are a) to realize we are blind, only able to see in an earthly way, and b) to earnestly ask God for this new sight. As this second vision takes hold, it is both beautiful and grotesque, exciting and terrifying. But it leads us in the right direction and causes us to draw closer to God.

    hope this is helpful, drewster

  41. Vera Avatar

    I know this is late but I appreciated this lost Father. I was recently explaining to my reading group that I no longer read the news and have no plans to do so. The amount of anxiety and stress it provided while not being able to do anything made it not worth it to me.
    An older mom on there chastised me, saying it was my “duty” to teach my children about current events and politics. At the time I didn’t have an answer, but now I understand. Her response was couched in patriotism and political standing. For me not living in fear means not reading the news. And frankly I don’t know that it really matters who my children vote for. Perhaps this is a bit terrifying to some but I’m not really worried about it. I care more for my children going to church and loving God and not growing up to me like me. So thank you Father for putting words to my feelings of disquiet. Our duty lies to God alone.

  42. Fr. Stephen Avatar

    I think the notions of patriotic duty regarding the news and politics are delusional. But the delusion is so deep and widespread that it has become a “moral” point for many people. It is interesting, I think, that once you allow yourself to ignore that delusion for just a little while, the fog begins to lift. The larger part of the world’s present insanity is manufactured. Why should people insist on being so loyal to what makes them crazy?

  43. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    “The larger part of the world’s present insanity is manufactured. Why should people insist on being so loyal to what makes them crazy?”

    2 thumbs up!

  44. Jamie Avatar

    There is so much goodness and food for thought in this post. I know I’m going to need to read it several times over the next few days to glean even more from it.

    I just became Orthodox this year (along with my husband and two sons), and one of the reasons I left the Protestant church (one of many) was the combativeness I kept running into in it. Even theological debates were heated, often bombastic and harsh! And don’t even get me started on the flag waving and the blurring of the line between church and state.

    I was about to give up on religion entirely, and then I came across “Christ Breaks the Rifle,” a woodcut by Otto Pankok. I can honestly say that it helped bring me back and started my search for something better—something that became the Orthodox church.

    Even in destroying the weapon across his knee, Christ remains at peace. He is not angry at the gun, the one who made it, or the one who wielded it. He doesn’t meet violence with violence. I think about that image often, especially when yet another mass shooting takes place. We cling to the things we think protect us, even after they harm us time and time again.

    It is as you so wisely said, “There is nothing in the Kingdom of God that requires our swords (or even our words). It is heaven-breaking-into-our-world. It is unassailable.”

  45. Anne peugh Avatar
    Anne peugh

    “Christians are heaven in this world”. Beatiful.
    Anne Peugh

  46. Dee of St Herman Avatar
    Dee of St Herman

    I particularly liked your use of 3D vision metaphor. However the double vision metaphor is difficult for me. Among Native American and Alaska Native people there is a similar metaphor of Two Eyed seeing. One of the western perspective/perception and one of the Indigenous. The metaphor is often applied to science on one side and Traditional knowledge on the other. I find such division adds to conflict and divisiveness internally and otherwise. It had a way of almost making a schizophrenic divide in my heart that eventually I felt the need to choose sides.

    The 3D metaphor is so different suggesting a depth and a beauty that only such vision might reveal.

    BTW I loved your quote from Lewis!

    This is just my take. Christ is in our midst!

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