Lately I’ve been impressed with the idea of passive resistance. In thinking about how I choose to react to others, especially in times when it seems my character or purpose is in question, I’ve been studying Jesus’ response to various situations–ones in which He was insulted and ones in which others were insulted. Almost every time, Jesus did not defend Himself, but drew away from His accusers. Yet when it came to defending others, He rose to the occasion. I am still mulling over this, but it seems that Jesus chose the path of passive resistance.
One example of this comes from John 8:59, when after delivering a power-packed sermon of truth, the Jews, “picked up stones to stone Him, but Jesus hid Himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.” Of course, in all fairness, Jesus reveals to the people He is also God in the previous verse calling Himself “I am”. But still, being fully God and fully man, Jesus was telling the truth. In the words of Jack Nicholson, the crowd just couldn’t handle the truth.
Now Jesus could have stood there and let the crowd stone him. This would be passivity.
Jesus could have called a curse down from Heaven and killed them all. This is active resistance.
But Jesus chose to walk away–resisting passively their attempts to thwart what God had called Him to do. There are other examples in the Gospels of Jesus passively resisting, or not fighting back the way we think He should, like when He tells the disciples to “wipe the dust off the feet” of the towns that rejected their teachings (Luke 9:5). He teaches us to “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5:39), which doesn’t mean that He was telling His disciples to allow themselves to get beat to a pulp. Rather, the type of hit in question is also a cultural insult–it’s a backhanded slap in the face literally and figuratively. I’ve also heard that “turning the other cheek” refers to moving one’s head so that a backhanded slap with the right hand would be more difficult to accomplish, brushing along an individual’s cheek bones instead of striking it directly. It’s also like letting the insult of offense “roll off your back”.
It is so much harder to stay silent, to not defend your name and your honor, and to listen while others say this and that about you. Yet it is also joyous to draw close to God and ask Him, “Who am I, Abba? Who am I?” Like a loving Father, God will tell His child who he or she is in Him. The offenses may continue to mount, but there is a quiet knowing in the peace of God. Not that the anger or hurt immediately dissolves, but passive resistance eventually allows the raging fire to burn out. Just like it’s hard for a fire to burn without fuel, it is hard to pick a fight with a person who won’t fight. That’s the beauty of passive resistance–knowing that the battle is truly the Lord’s.