The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville

One of my favorite authors, Edward Hays, writes that "the devil gleefully dances when someone sins against you, then dances again even more merrily when you react with vengeance against your attacker." This is often the way we deal with conflict. If you hit me I'm going to hit you back. Nations do the same thing. If you threaten to destroy my country with nuclear armaments we will inflict twice the damage to your country. The thought is that a return threat will prevent the first threat from happening. Sometimes this works. Sometimes it leads to a bloodbath. The devil gets to dance twice.

On everyday conflicts, it is wise to postpone retaliation. Frequently the person who has offended you will later return with an apology. In fact, you may not have been the primary one for whom the anger was directed. Sad as it may be, some people take their anger out on those who are close to them who will forgive their misbehavior. It's lovely when the conflict can be resolved with a hug rather than a black eye.

Jesus taught about not offering resistance to the evildoer. "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile." (Matthew 5:38-41)

By refusing to offer resistance the chain of evil is broken rather than doubled. Using passive resistance to stop the conflict is not a copout. In fact, much good has been accomplished with this method. India gained its freedom from Britain primarily using this method of passive resistance rather than attempting to overcome Britain with armaments. In our own country, much was accomplished for the civil rights movement with this method of passive resistance under the leadership of Martin Luther King. Instead of using the methods of the oppressor to beat you down, leading people to a higher standard can win freedom. One appeals to the goodness in others that may be covered up.

While this method of dealing with conflict is difficult, it nevertheless breaks the chain of hell. Retaliation can lead to a hell of destruction. Returning good rather than evil can lead to a heavenly solution.