Forgiveness Is Our First Weapon
Having established the means by which we can be truly free, and understanding that we must eliminate distraction from our lives, Archbishop Averky directs is towards that to which we must pay attention: evil in our world.
For a Christian, if he is truly a Christian and not a charlatan, can never indifferently and calmly observe the triumph of evil and cannot accept evil in whatever form it may appear.
It is important to keep in mind that Christians are called to love, yet speak the truth in love. We are called not to judge so that we will not be judged in that way. We are called to a rather radical life of forgiveness, but that is not tantamount to becoming pacifists. Christians have no mandate to be doormats in our efforts to be humble.
It is necessary only that the battle with evil be free from a personal component. This battle with evil should always be based purely on principle and not on considerations of personal profit or gain. Furthermore, our battle, a principled battle with evil, should be free from vindictiveness, from the desire to revenge ourselves upon someone disagreeable to us, or one who is our enemy.
This, I fear, is a major problem with a lot of the "online Orthodox" world. Nearly everything is taken personally in this day and age, and all sorts of grievances are aired publicly on YouTube livestreams (with plenty of Super Chats, of course! Fighting "heresy" behind every bush requires a lot of money after all) to audiences who are equally personally offended and---ironically---seeking distraction.
But His Excellency is quite clear here: there should be no personal component in our battle against evil. If there is, then it's probably not a battle worth waging.
A Christian is obligated to forgive personal offenses, for, as we know from the Lord’s Prayer—Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us—the Lord forgives our sins only under the condition that we forgive those around us.
This is hard for the modern world. And this is exactly why we cannot wage war against evil when we have a personal stake in it. To do so makes it all the harder for us to forgive and this all the harder to be forgiven. It's not just foolish, it's dangerous.
If we learn how to forgive one another our personal offenses, then evil will disappear from the face of the earth.
How transformative this would be! It's also a way that we can genuinely transform the world by taking action that only we can do. This point should not be understated or passed by! If we forgive those who personally wrong is, evil disappears. All the more reason to turn to forgiveness when there is a personal component to our battle against evil.
It seems there are two ways to battle evil. One is directly when it's not personal, and the other is forgiveness when it is.
every person should work individually upon themselves for the eradication of evil in their own soul.
This is a very common theme in Orthodox Spirituality. Our primary battle is within ourselves. Focusing so much on the outside can have deleterious effects.
From this mutual enmity, which often snowballs to unbelievable proportions, the soul of man becomes more and more possessed and darkened by demonic spite and hate, and life becomes an unbearable hell.
These are the said deleterious effects. If we wage personal vendettas under the guise of fighting evil, it can eat away at us.
How can we avoid this increase of evil? There is one measure that is offered in the Gospel: the forgiveness of personal offenses, the battle in one’s soul against the feeling of vindictiveness.
Here is the point concisely put.
a Christian cannot and should not take refuge in this teaching of the forgiveness of all, sit indifferently with his arms crossed, and apathetically watch as evil abuses good, as it increases and destroys people, his close ones.
So we now turn to when evil is battled by means other than forgiveness.
What do we do when there is no other means for the suppression of great evil other than the taking up of arms? We will have to allow that which is a lesser evil in order to avert a greater evil. But to sit indifferently, passively and watch as masses of people perish is contrary to the spirit of Christian love for one’s neighbor.
Determining the lesser of two evils. This is always the difficult part. Lord have mercy as we do so.
In other words, Christian love should be like God’s love. The Lord loves all people but He punishes and suppresses evil, sometimes with very harsh and strict measures. So should Christian love suffer evil only to such a degree that it concerns us personally and remains more or less harmless to the glory of God and for other people.
This is a really, really difficult teaching to put into practice, but having seen it explained, out makes perfect sense to me. May God us our personal offense and the forgiveness of them for His glory!
Thus, the words of the Lord, “resist not evil,” are directed exclusively against vindictiveness and the desire to avenge yourself for offenses and in no way forbids the struggle against evil in general.
An important distinction, but not entirely obvious.
it is necessary to remember that, in this battle, our hearts should be free from personal bias and hostile feelings towards the bearer of evil.