Thursday, February 16, 2006

Grace, Love, Limits

If grace is real, it must be real for everyone no matter how malevolent they may be. Limit cases interest me because they force me to reconsider the depth of the love that Jesus commands his followers to exercise always and everywhere. That's why the "does God love Osama?" question is interesting. The answers we offer to such question shape and form how we live our lives everyday in the face of the suffering inflicted upon us by others. This is true in the outsized cases such as a terror attack, but it is also true in the intimate personal cases like when a partner says something hurtful or when a colleague spitefully undercuts us or a friend speaks ill of us. The question, in a blog-size nutshell: If God is love, how are we to respond to hate?
Here's what Dr. King wrote, in Strength to Love:
"We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory."

1 comment:

doug said...

A friend and I were talking about social injustice issues, particulary domestic violence. My friend works in law enforcement. My question to him was "how do you respond to this, especially as a law enforcement official and Christian?"

"I don't," he answered, "I hope it goes away on its own."

I find this answer unsettling.

I feel that we need to respond to hate with love and compassion, and that we need to confront it. By answering this with our compassion and prayer, I feel that God will create acts of kindness and build communities of solidarity and wholeness.

I'm reminded of a friend that would pray at night that our hearts be softened. Perhaps we should listen to these words and practice them...