It’s grief that you are feeling; a deep sorrow, a keen mental suffering, a sharp inner affliction. We all feel it. Our world is acutely grief inspiring these days; like two hands around our throats, an inner bruise at the center of the chest. I hate this feeling.
But I don’t hate you.
Maybe I lived a sheltered life as middle-class white kid from Central Kansas, but I don’t feel like I grew up encountering that much hatred. I simply didn’t see hatred on display very often. Today I see it everywhere.
I’ve always felt a bit of distance between my life and the words of Martin Luther King Jr. I have known them to be beautiful, smart, and wise. But they have always felt like words for another time, another place. They no longer feel that way to me.
So I find myself in the strange position of having to state that which should actually be taken for granted for any Christian: I refuse to hate my enemies. I refuse to see my enemies as evil or deplorable. I will love my enemies and pray for those who despise & reject me, not because I am virtuous, but because Jesus commanded it, and the greatest pursuit of my life is to somehow follow his teachings. I will not hold to any political ideology. I will hold to love.
Forty-nine years ago today Dr. King was shot and killed. He loved his enemies all the way to the end. Today I pray that our society will learn that there is so much more power in love than in hate. There is so much room to work together for the good of our society and the life of the world. There is virtue in compromise. There’s a deep and undeniable wisdom to generosity, fidelity, and self-denial.
“I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself, and every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear. Somehow we must be able to stand up against our most bitter opponents and say:”We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws and abide by the unjust system, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good, so throw us in jail and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and drag us out on some wayside road and leave us half-dead as you beat us, and we will still love you. Send your propaganda agents around the country and make it appear that we are not fit, culturally and otherwise, for integration, but we’ll still love you. But be assured that we’ll wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom. We will not only win freedom for ourselves; we will appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”