Matt. 5:43-48 (Part 3)

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Revenge is retribution for evil, imposed for the advantage of him who takes the revenge. He will not desire us to take revenge, who teaches us “to pray for those that despitefully use us.” The Instructor, 2.227.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: For it is not in war, but in peace, that we are trained. War needs great preparation, and luxury craves profusion; but peace and love, simple and quiet sisters, require no arms nor excessive preparation. The Instructor, 2.234.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: In their wars, therefore, the Etruscans use the trumpet, the Arcadians the pipe, the Sicilians the pectides, the Cretans the lyre, the Lacedaemonians the flute, the Thracians the horn, the Egyptians the drum, and the Arabians the cymbal. The one instrument of peace, the Word alone by which we honor God, is what we employ. We no longer employ the ancient psaltery, and trumpet, and timbrel, and flute, which those expert in war and scorners of the fear of God were accustomed to make use of also in the choruses at their festive assemblies; that by such strains they might raise their dejected minds. But let our genial feeling in drinking be twofold, in accordance with the law. For “if you love the Lord your God,” and then “your neighbor,” let its first manifestation be towards God in thanksgiving and psalmody, and the second toward our neighbor in proper fellowship. For the apostle says, “Let the Word of the Lord dwell in you richly.”  And this Word suits and conforms Himself to seasons, to persons, to places. The Instructor, 2.249.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: And let our seals be either a dove, or a fish, or a ship sailing before the wind, or a musical lyre, which Polycrates used, or a ship’s anchor, which Seleucus got engraved as a device; and if there be one fishing, he will remember the apostle, and the children drawn out of the water. For we are not to delineate the faces of idols, we who are prohibited to cleave to them; nor a sword, nor a bow, following as we do, peace; nor drinking-cups, being temperate. The Instructor, 2.285-286.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: The ingenuous among the philosophers will then with propriety be taken up in a friendly exposure both of their life and of the discovery of new dogmas, not in the way of our avenging ourselves on our detractors (for that is far from being the case with those who have learned to bless those who curse, even though they needlessly discharge on us words of blasphemy), but with a view to their conversion; if by any means these masters in wisdom may feel ashamed, being brought to their senses by barbarian demonstration; so as to be able, although late, to see clearly of what sort are the intellectual acquisitions for which they make pilgrimages over the seas. The Stromata, 2.347.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: And an enemy must be aided, that he may not continue an enemy. For by help good feeling is compacted, and enmity dissolved. The Stromata, 2.370.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: How great also is kindness! “Love your enemies,” it is said, “bless them who curse you, and pray for them who despitefully use you,” and the like; to which it is added, “that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven,” in allusion to resemblance to God. . . . The perfect man ought therefore to practice love, and as a consequence to be quick to the divine friendship, fulfilling the commandments from love. And loving one’s enemies does not mean loving wickedness, or impiety, or adultery, or theft; but the thief, the impious, the adulterer, not as far as he sins, and in respect of the actions by which he stains the name of man, but as he is a man, and the work of God. Assuredly sin is an activity, not an existence: and therefore it is not a work of God. Now sinners are called enemies of God—enemies, that is, of the commands which they do not obey, as those who obey become friends, the one named so from their fellowship, the others from their estrangement, which is the result of free choice; for there is neither enmity nor sin without the enemy and the sinner. The Stromata, 2.426.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Let these things, then, be so. And such being the attitude of the Christian towards the body and the soul—towards his neighbors, whether it be a domestic, or a lawful enemy, or whosoever—he is found equal and like. For he does not “despise his brother,” who, according to the divine law, is of the same father and mother. Certainly he relieves the afflicted, helping him with consolations, encouragements, and the necessaries of life; giving to all that need, though not similarly, but justly, according to a person's worthiness; furthermore, to him who persecutes and hates, even if he need it; caring little for those who say to him that he has given out of fear, if it is not out of fear that he does so, but to give help. For how much more are those, who towards their enemies are devoid of love of money, and are haters of evil, animated with love to those who belong to them? The Stromata, 2.542.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: For Paul does not merely cite the Christian as characterized by suffering wrong rather than do wrong; but he teaches that he is not mindful of injuries, and does not allow him even to pray against the man who has done him wrong. For he knows that the Lord expressly enjoined “to pray for enemies.” To say, then, that the man who has been injured goes to law before the unrighteous, is nothing else than to say that he shows a wish to retaliate, and a desire to injure the second in return, which is also to do wrong likewise himself. And his saying, that he wishes “some to go to law before the saints,”  points out those who ask by prayer that those who have done wrong should suffer retaliation for their injustice, and intimates that the second are better than the former; but they are not yet obedient, if they do not, having become entirely free of resentment, pray even for their enemies.

It is well, then, for them to receive right dispositions from repentance, which results in faith. For if the truth seems to get enemies who entertain bad feeling, yet it is not hostile to any one. “For God makes His sun to shine on the just and on the unjust,” and sent the Lord Himself to the just and the unjust. And he that earnestly strives to be assimilated to God, in the exercise of great absence of resentment, forgives seventy times seven times,  as it were all his life through, and in all his course in this world (that being indicated by the enumeration of sevens) shows clemency to each and any one; if any during the whole time of his life in the flesh do the Christian wrong. For he not only deems it right that the good man should resign his property alone to others, being of the number of those who have done him wrong; but also wishes that the righteous man should ask of those judges forgiveness for the offenses of those who have done him wrong. And with reason, if indeed it is only in that which is external and concerns the body, though it go to the extent of death even, that those who attempt to wrong him take advantage of him; none of which truly belong to the Christian.

And how shall one “judge” the apostate “angels,”  who has become himself an apostate from that forgetfulness of injuries, which is according to the Gospel? “Why do you not rather suffer wrong?” he says; “why are you not rather defrauded? Yes, you do wrong and defraud,”  manifestly by praying against those who transgress in ignorance, and deprive of the philanthropy and goodness of God, as far as in you lies, those against whom you pray, “and these your brethren,”—not meaning those in the faith only, but also the proselytes. For whether he who now is hostile shall afterwards believe, we do not know yet. From which the conclusion follows clearly, if all are not yet brethren to us, they ought to be regarded in that light. And now it is only the man of knowledge who recognizes all men to be the work of one God, and invested with one image in one nature, although some may be more turbid than others; and in the creatures he recognizes the operation, by which again he adores the will of God.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?”  He acts unrighteously who retaliates, whether by deed or word, or by the conception of a wish, which, after the training of the law, the Gospel rejects. “And such were some of you”—such manifestly as those still are whom you do not forgive; “but you are washed,” not simply as the rest, but with knowledge; you have cast off the passions of the soul, in order to become assimilated, as far as possible, to the goodness of God’s providence by long-suffering, and by forgiveness “towards the just and the unjust,” casting on them the gleam of kindness in word and deeds, as the sun.

The Christian will achieve this either by greatness of mind, or by imitation of what is better. And that is a third cause. “Forgive, and it shall be forgiven you,”  the commandment, as it were, compelling to salvation through superabundance of goodness. The Stromata, 2.548.

HIPPOLYTUS: [Concerning persons coming to baptism:] A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath; if he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected. A military commander or civic magistrate that wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, they must be rejected, for they have despised God. Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus. 

TERTULLIAN: Do you, then, who think that we care nothing for the welfare of Caesar, look into God’s revelations, examine our sacred books, which we do not keep in hiding, and which many accidents put into the hands of those who are not of us. Learn from them that a large benevolence is enjoined upon us, even so far as to supplicate God for our enemies, and to beseech blessings on our persecutors. Who, then, are greater enemies and persecutors of Christians, than the very parties with treason against whom we are charged? Nay, even in terms, and most clearly, the Scripture says, “Pray for kings, and rulers, and powers, that all may be at peace with you.”  The Apology, 3.42.

TERTULLIAN: If we are enjoined, then, to love our enemies, as I have remarked above, whom have we to hate? If injured, we are forbidden to retaliate, lest we become as bad ourselves: who can suffer injury at our hands? In regard to this, recall your own experiences. How often you inflict gross cruelties on Christians, partly because it is your own inclination, and partly in obedience to the laws! How often, too, the hostile mob, paying no regard to you, takes the law into its own hand, and assails us with stones and flames! With the very frenzy of the Bacchanals, they do not even spare the Christian dead, but tear them, now sadly changed, no longer entire, from the rest of the tomb, from the asylum we might say of death, cutting them in pieces, rending them asunder. Yet, banded together as we are, ever so ready to sacrifice our lives, what single case of revenge for injury are you able to point to, though, if it were held right among us to repay evil by evil, a single night with a torch or two could achieve an ample vengeance?

But away with the idea of a sect divine avenging itself by human fires, or shrinking from the sufferings in which it is tried. If we desired, indeed, to act the part of open enemies, not merely of secret avengers, would there be any lacking in strength, whether of numbers or resources? The Moors, the Marcomanni, the Parthians themselves, or any single people, however great, inhabiting a distinct territory, and confined within its own boundaries, surpasses, indeed, in numbers, one spread over all the world! We are but of yesterday, and we have filled every place among you—cities, islands, fortresses, towns, marketplaces, the very camp, tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum,—we have left nothing to you but the temples of your gods.

For what wars should we not be fit, not eager, even with unequal forces, we who so willingly yield ourselves to the sword, if in our religion it were not counted better to be slain than to slay? Without arms even, and raising no insurrectionary banner, but simply in enmity to you, we could carry on the contest with you by an ill-willed severance alone. For if such multitudes of men were to break away from you, and go to some remote corner of the world, why, the very loss of so many citizens, whatever sort they were, would cover the empire with shame; no, in the very forsaking, vengeance would be inflicted. Why, you would be horror-struck at the solitude in which you would find yourselves, at such an all-prevailing silence, and that stupor as of a dead world. You would have to seek subjects to govern. You would have more enemies than citizens remaining. For now it is the immense number of Christians which makes your enemies so few,—almost all the inhabitants of your various cities being followers of Christ. Yet you choose to call us enemies of the human race, rather than of human error. Rather, who would deliver you from those secret foes, ever busy both destroying your souls and ruining your health? Who would save you, I mean, from the attacks of those spirits of evil, which without reward or hire we exorcise? This alone would be revenge enough for us, that you were henceforth left free to the possession of unclean spirits. But instead of taking into account what is due to us for the important protection we afford you, and though we are not merely no trouble to you, but in fact necessary to your well- being, you prefer to hold us enemies, as indeed we are, yet not of man, but rather of his error. The Apology, 3.45.

TERTULLIAN: The Christian does no harm even to his foe. The Apology, 3.51.

TERTULLIAN: Inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself to military service, and whether the military may be admitted to the faith, even the rank and file, or each inferior grade, to whom there is no necessity for taking part in sacrifices or capital punishments. There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament [a military oath], the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters—God and Caesar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John the Baptist is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, rather, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come to John, and had received the formula of their rule;  albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed;  still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, disarmed every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action. On Idolatry, 3.73

© OTR 2023