The greatest of all temptations is to eliminate evil by resistance, regulation, and compulsion, rather than by virtue; this is to become that which we seek to destroy. To undertake the regulation of another is to engage in a form of slavery; it is to say that our brother lacks reason enough to be taught and persuaded, it is to lower him to the level of the irrational being and subject him to our “superior” judgment. Is this not that very crime which we originally set out to destroy? Do we not violate the dignity of our brother by such behavior? Rather, we should place the dignity of our brother on level with our own, by trusting that he can be brought to choose good for himself, if given the opportunity, and by restraining ourselves from selfishly preempting his virtue.
But some think appealing to virtue is irrational. But why would we say so? Is it because we really believe our neighbor is incapable of virtue? Or is it really because we find it too inconvenient and too demanding for us to commit ourselves to the greater cause? It is so much easier to hire “peace” officers and create new rules and regulations. Where is our patience, diligence, long-suffering, self-sacrifice, and love? Which approach will work best in the long run? Which approach will require the least work in the long run?
Consider the following words of John Milton –famous poet and writer, and a strong advocate of Christian Virtue:
We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of Force: God therefore left him [Adam] free, set before him a provoking object, ever almost in his eyes herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence. They are not skillful considerers of human things, who imagine to remove sin by removing the matter of sin; for…though some part of it may for a time be withdrawn from some persons…yet the sin remains entire. Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure, he has yet one jewel left, ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercised in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste…Suppose we could expel sin by this means; look how much we thus expel of sin, so much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike. This justifies the high providence of God, who though he command us temperance, justice, continence, yet powers out before us even to a profuseness all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety.
…God uses not to captivate under a perpetual childhood of prescription, but trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooser; there were but little work left for preaching, if law and compulsion should grow so fast upon those things which heretofore were governed only by exhortation.
Yet if these things [Regulations] be not resented seriously and timely by them who have the remedy in their power… such iron molds as these shall have authority to gnaw out the choicest [spirits] …the more sorrow will belong to that hapless race of men, whose misfortune it is to have understanding. Henceforth let no man care to learn, or care to be more then worldly wise; for certainly in higher matters to be ignorant and slothful, to be a common steadfast dunce will be the only pleasant life, and only in request….this obstructing violence [Regulation] meets for the most part with an event utterly opposite to the end which it drives at: instead of suppressing sects and schisms, it raises them and invests them with a reputation: The punishing of wits enhances their authority.
Were I the chooser, a dram of well-doing should be preferred before many times as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous person, more then the restraint of ten vicious.
(Speaking on the Regulation of Books)
If it be true, that a wise man like a good refiner can gather gold out of the drossiest volume, and that a fool will be a fool with the best book (or without book), there is no reason that we should deprive a wise man of any advantage to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool, that which being restrained will be no hindrance to his folly.
What do the below words of Christ have to do with what John Milton is trying to explain?
But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
Give ve to him that asketh thee, and from him that would bborrow of thee turn not thou away.
How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
– Jesus Christ
The true pursuit of justice and righteousness will begin when come to understand why Christ counsels as he does in the above scriptures. Then we will no longer say “let me pull out the mote that is in [your] eye, [while we ourselves see not] the beam that is in [our] own eye.” If we truly have virtue, we will exercise patience, diligence, long-suffering, love unfeigned (and so forth), long before we resort to the Vice of Regulation.