“Generations will rise and fall; men will continue to worship the god of revenge and bow before the altar of retaliation; but ever and again this noble lesson of Calvary will be a nagging reminder that only goodness can drive out evil and only love can conquer hate.”
-Martin Luther King Jr.
I love King’s language that the lesson of the cross is a “nagging reminder” that the hate, gossip, prejudice, and injustice we inherently seek to imbue life with is simply incompatible with the ruling order of love. The irony, for most of us who desire a better, peaceful world order, is that peace is often sought through violence. Peace is sought through control. Peace is sought through superiority. This happens on an international, national, state, communal, and individual level; a political, religious, socio-economic, and racial level. The problem is this: Violence establishes only more violence. Control is fleeting, and fuels bitterness. Superiority is hybris, and the father of enmity.
Instead, seek peace through humility. Peace through meekness. Peace through friendship. Peace through inclusion. Peace through acts of mercy, compassion, and justice. Seek peace through love.
Abraham Lincoln once responded to a woman shocked that he could speak kindly of the south with, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” This, as I understand it, is the crux of not only Christian love, but love that binds all things together toward reconciliation. It is through the action of love that all things are made new. Hate is of no good to anyone except those that derive pleasure in their own destruction.
In Romans 12:20, Paul exhorts the church at Rome, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Evil is best destroyed by becoming good. Darkness is best obliterated by becoming light. Do we not destroy our enemies when we make them our friends? Not because we seek to destroy the person, but because we seek to destroy the aversion between us. The person is no longer our enemy, but friend. The enemy is destroyed, the friend has come. The old is gone, the new has come. Evil is overcome when we seek what is right and good; when we seek justice; when we seek to deliver our enemies from injustice and into a welcoming community; when we forgive even the gravest offenses; when we live life with the earth-shattering worldview of a committed, faithful love.
If love is the simplest answer to the world’s problems, it is also the most complex. Because in our minds to love is to qualify. We must qualify and set limitations on our love so as to not allow ourselves to be dominated. But this is not the message of the cross, or the message of a savior who allowed himself to be dominated for the sake of love. It is the event of the cross that ought to be meditated on as the true symbol of love, and one that we ought to carry on in our new lives, because according to Jesus, and the Father God who sent him, this is precisely that which will destroy evil.