I promised more on the subject of forgiveness and here it is. Continuing from the book I had mentioned in my last post, Why Forgive? by Johann Christoph Arnold, here are a few thoughts from Martin Luther King, Jr. These can be found in King’s book, Strength to Love. So if you want to read more of King’s thoughts, check out the book from your local library or find it online from Amazon or Half.com. Here’s King,
Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to love our enemies. Some people have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love your, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you?
Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for our enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not the impractical idealist; he is the practical realist . . . (emphasis mine)
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction . . .
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend. We never get rid of an enemy by meeting hate with hate; we get rid of an enemy by getting rid of enmity. By its very nature, hate destroys and tears down; by its very nature, love creates and builds up. Love transforms with redemptive power.
He goes on . . .
We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. Whoever is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us.
It is also necessary to realize that the forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression. . . . only the injured neighbor . . . can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start.
To our most bitter opponents we say: We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you.
For King, his focus was on civil rights and the extreme social resistance that he and his followers met. In our time, civil rights is not the hot button topic that it was in the ’50s and ’60s. Rather, we see and hear of an increasing amount of violent acts. Just this past week, a gunmen boarded a train travelling from Amsterdam to France with the intention of committing terrible violence to innocent people. This type of violence is, unfortunately, happening more frequently. From Aurora, Colorado to Sandy Hook, New Jersey and beyond, violence and its motivators of hate and evil are increasing. Amidst the encircling darkness must be a light that shows the path to a better way. As King said, only love can drive out hate. Nothing else will. And as Christians, we are called to show that love. Go light your love-light and . .
. . . love freely. Love boldly. Love the Father’s love in your world today. The world needs that type of love. Will you love?