“Why should we love our enemies? The first reason is fairly obvious. 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. So when Jesus says, “love your enemies,” he is setting forth a profound and ultimately inescapable admonition. Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies– or else? The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
The idea of love, true agape love (love that knows no bounds and is selfless and unconditional), was at the core of Dr. King’s beliefs. While delivering a sermon in 1957, Dr. King boldly spoke those now famous words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
You might be thinking, “Okay, great advice; I see quotes like that all the time in my feed,” but the context and atmosphere from which that entire sermon sprung is what makes it so unique.
America, 1957: segregation between whites and blacks was a common occurrence in many states, to a point where they weren’t even allowed to use the same bathrooms. “Whites Only” signs could be seen posted on restaurants and other businesses. Black demonstrators, crying out for equality, were often met with billy clubs, police dogs, and firehoses.
After witnessing and experiencing the injustices for himself, Dr. King knew the fight for equality couldn’t be won with fists, but with peace. He often referenced Matthew 5:43-44:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
It would have been easy for Dr. King to adopt hate and preach war, but he followed the example set by Jesus, to love your neighbor, no matter who they are or what they do. Hate breeds hate, but like it says in Proverbs 25:21-22:
If you see your enemy hungry, go buy him lunch; if he’s thirsty, bring him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness, and God will look after you. (MSG)
Light overcomes darkness-—every time, and love drives away hate—every time.
In our own lives, we often want to meet anger with anger; instead of reacting in a negative way, what is a proactive step we can take to meet anger with love and kindness and gentleness. If you’re a Republican, how do you love a Democrat? If you’re a Democrat, how do you love a Republican? How can you love someone from a different ethnic background? How do you love that person at work that’s always getting on your nerves? How do you love that neighbor or that relative you can’t seem to see eye-to-eye with?
We’re going to have differences with each other, we weren’t made to be the same (which is a wonderful thing!), but we have a unique opportunity, through Christ, to love anyway.