“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 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.”
“Strength to Love,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963
A young man is shot dead by a policeman in Missouri. A photojournalist is horrendously executed by Islamists. A dear friend’s niece and her baby are killed and their bodies burned in a family dispute.
Three non-related events have touched me deeply in recent days, each having a different “why,” but each making me cry.
I am on my way to Ferguson, Missouri now. There is grief, anger, and uncertainty there. But also there, somewhere, is the truth of how and why Michael Brown died.
That truth will be revealed in time.
We yearn, of course, for immediate answers and swift justice. There can be no justice, though, without truth. And without peace, the search for truth becomes more difficult.
In some instances, such as what happened to James Foley at the hands of ISIS or my friend’s niece and her baby at the hands of a rage-driven relative, the truth is plain to see. No explanation could possibly justify what their killers did. We know who the wrongdoers are and whatever their rationales for their actions, those rationales are woefully insufficient.
In the case of Michael Brown, we have conflicting reports as to the events that led to his shooting. The jury is not in. Yet, rather than wait for the truth, some have acted from a deep-seated sense that they already know the truth. In the name of “justice,” some victims have inflicted great injustices on themselves and the collective by turning to violence. In their pain and anger, they have brought more harm than good.
Now, I’m not saying we shouldn’t have righteous anger at acts of oppression, hatred, or cruelty that are offenses before God. God’s Word teaches us, though, that we should be slow to anger. And we should be careful to distinguish human emotional outrage over an offense to ourselves versus an offense to God. God’s righteous anger is most powerful; seeking to restore righteousness, not trample upon it by committing more wrongs.
In my book KING RULES I write about how my uncle, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and my father, the Rev. Alfred Daniel Williams King, knew injustice. They, like millions of other African Americans, needed no introduction; injustice greeted them virtually every day of their lives. But they also knew peace in their hearts, the peace that surpasses all understanding. And from this peace, they sought and achieved a modicum of justice for the masses.
We live in a corrupt world. Yet God’s Word teaches us not to repay evil with evil. Instead we must live to overcome evil with good.
When Jesus was being wrongly arrested by the Romans, Peter took up a sword and cut off a soldier’s ear. Jesus responded, “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” In compassion, Jesus healed the wounded soldier who had come to arrest him.
Wow! That’s a higher frequency that we should tune into our heart. Love overcoming hate.
As men of God, and students of history, Uncle M.L. and Daddy understood that violence begets violence. Violence is often borne of rage. And rage destroys – not only neighborhoods, but also lives. Rage is borne of hate. And hate does not seek the truth, but rather spawns victims. And victims seek other victims to make them suffer as they’ve suffered. Hurting people hurt people. And on and on and on souls fall towards a yawning abyss.
As Uncle M.L. Once wrote, violence is a descending spiral.
But inspired by 1 Corinthians 13, believing “Love never fails,” he also wrote, “darkness cannot drive out darkness and hatred cannot drive out hate. Only light can end the darkness, only love can drive out hate.”
My prayer is for the peace and healing of Ferguson, but also for the peace and healing of those who have recently lost loved ones – the families of Michael Brown, James Foley, my friend, those who have died at the hands of the abortion industry such as LaKisha Wilson and Tonya Reaves, and those who are victims of human trafficking, war, poverty, and other horrors of our fallen world.
My prayer is that we love truth; loving truth, that we seek it. Once finding the truth, that we seek justice. And once finding justice, we enjoy peace. As Uncle M.L. said, “true peace is not the absence of tension, but the presence of justice.”
Grieving, but believing, please join me in prayer for all of Ferguson as well as for all victims of violence who suffer in sterile hospital units, in darkened rooms, in abortion chambers, and by tear-drenched gravesites. We need repentance, forgiveness, and love. Let us seek them first.