When We Are Provoked

by Sam Stinson

"But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (Matthew 5:39).

The following was posted online some time ago:

"An atheist group has unveiled a sign in the Washington state capital next to a Christian Nativity scene and 'holiday tree.' The sign, installed with permission, reads, 'At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail. There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.'" The name of the atheist group is "Freedom From Religion." One of its co-founders, Annie Gaylor, was designated to speak to the media. A few days after it was posted, the sign was stolen from its place and found in a ditch. Speaking of Gaylor, an article on CNN includes this follow-up, "Before reports of the placard's recovery, [Gaylor] said a temporary sign with the same message would be placed in the building's Rotunda. Gaylor said a note would be attached saying, 'Thou shalt not steal.'""

The message represents an atheist point of view, but some atheists have decried its bitterness. One might point out that religion is clearly provable to exist: there are many people practice with their bodies what they believe in their hearts. The implication is that the foundation of faith, revelation from God, is not real because they do not believe God is real. Ironically enough, the atheist group demanded equal time to promote their beliefs with the sign being placed where it is. Hence, that atheist group has a religion and a practice: mockery of others. Also, the "natural world" does not include a spiritual heart to be hardened. Thus, the sign's language is clearly contradictory.

Putting up the sign was a clear provocation. It was an invitation to obey the carnal desires welling up in someone who is angry and who wants to lash out. All it took was one person to steal the sign. If a Christian did steal the sign, then their plan worked. (But who knows? An atheist may have stolen the sign to create the impression that their message provoked a Christian into committing theft or destruction of property.) Brethren, as much as political partisans may not want to hear it, true victory in a "culture war" is not found in returning provocation or in offering eye-for-an-eye justice but in humbly practicing Christ's doctrine. We are not to carnally retaliate. When we are pushed, let us not push back. When we are struck, let us not punch back. Wasn't that Christ's teaching? If the arguments of atheism are of little strength so that their supporters must pridefully mock and belittle others who do not share their views in order to gain converts, how do we appear if we respond in kind? Let us love them.