by Rick Love
Street protests, blatant racism, hate groups and fake news characterized 2017, and Christian-Muslim relations continue to be one of the greatest points of contention.
Peace Catalyst International staff were opposed by hate groups for the first time in 2017. Instead of hosting counter protests, we responded to these groups with a peaceful presence. Instead of shouting down a hate group intent on disrupting us, we responded gently yet truthfully.
Hate groups will continue to poison hearts, stir up violence, and polarize people in 2018. So to gear up for these challenges I began re-reading Martin Luther King Jr.’s Strength to Love.
One of the chapter titles grabbed my attention. King calls us to be “transformed nonconformists” (p.11). I grew up in the ’60’s, so I’m not always impressed with “nonconformists.” But then I read the biblical basis for King’s term:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
Transformed nonconformists reject racism, discrimination, hatred and other such worldly behaviors that tear our societies apart.
Transformed nonconformists break the chain reaction of evil by refusing to “fight fire with fire.”
Why? Because as King explains, “Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence… in a descending spiral of destruction” (p 47). This is the pragmatic reason for not responding in kind to evil. In the words of Ghandi, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
The second part of Romans 12 describes the divine reason we break the chain reaction of evil. The Scriptures command us to conquer hate through the power of love:
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse (v. 14).
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone (v. 17).
- If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (v. 18).
- Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath (v. 19).
- If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink… (v. 20).
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (v. 21).
These commands indicate that a transformed nonconformist is in fact a peacemaker. And these peacemakers break the chain reaction of evil – through suffering, absorbing pain and responding in love.
Peacemaking is not for the faint of heart. Peacemaking demands an uncompromising rejection of the unloving ways of the world and a radical embrace of the enemy-loving way of Jesus.
A civil rights worker was asked how he was able to endure racial hatred and violence while working for justice. “The hatred coming at me in those fists and clubs was bouncing right off me back into the air, and it could just continue to spread like electricity. I decided not to fight back. I would let my body absorb that hatred, so that some of it would die in my body and not bounce back into the world. I now see that my job in the midst of evil is to make my body a grave for hate” (Sacred Fire, p 165).
“Making my body a grave for hate” sounds scary. It is! But we follow Jesus – the one who made his body a grave for hate, the one who rose from the grave, and the one who said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21).