“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”
Today, we enter into the third week of the New Year, and I’m still enjoying all of my Christmas decorations, especially the lights that illuminate my tree. I love the liturgical seasons of Advent and Christmas. They are symbols of hope, peace, joy, and light, themes that we should live with 365 days of the year. “The Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.” This sentence from the Gospel acclamation summarizes our reason for joy and hope.
Today many people in our nation will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We celebrate his life for many reasons. My reason may be different from yours but what we may be able to agree on was that he was a man that taught us how to love in some of the most difficult situations in our nation. His Six Pillars are as challenging, remarkable, and relevant today as they were when Dr. King wrote them over fifty years ago.
An Experiment in Love: Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Six Pillars of Nonviolent Resistance and the Ancient Greek Notion of ‘Agape’. Find the entire document here:
“Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate. This can only be done by projecting the ethic of love to the center of our lives.”
In the first of the six pillars, Dr. King addresses the tendency to mistake nonviolence for passivity, pointing out that it is a form not of cowardice but courage. “It is not passive non-violence to evil; it is active nonviolent resistance to evil.”
Second Tenet: “Nonviolence…does not seek to defeat or humiliate the opponent, but to win his friendship and understanding. The aftermath of nonviolence is the creation of the beloved community, while the aftermath of violence is tragic bitterness.”
In considering the third tenet, “Dr. King appeals to the conscientious recognition that those who perpetrate violence are often victims themselves.”
Fourth tenet: ‘Nonviolent resistance [requires] a willingness to accept suffering without retaliation, to accept blows from the opponent without striking back…”
The fifth tenet turns the fourth inward and arrives at the most central point of the essay – the noblest use of what we call “love.” Here, Dr. King turns to Ancient Greek philosophy ‘agape.’ Agape means understanding, redeeming good will for all men. It is an overflowing love which is purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. King argues that at the heart of agape is the notion of forgiveness.
The sixth and final principal of nonviolence King sees as a force for justice: Nonviolent resistance...is based on the conviction that the universe is on the side of justice. Consequently, believers in nonviolence have deep faith in the future.
I believe that each of us has a moral obligation to continue to roll up our sleeves each day to work for justice and peace. Keeping the dream alive with hope.
“Kindness and truth shall meet; Justice and peace shall embrace” (Ps 85: 10)