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Returning Hate for Hate: Perhaps Our Greatest Temptation


Yesterday our country experienced another act of violence! As of this writing, there are more questions than answers.

Violent and deadly events always produce strong feelings. Many times, those feelings are to return violence and call it “justice.” In these times, I’m drawn back to the words of Martin Luther King Jr.

These words remind me that I am not pre-conditioned for retribution and human being are not predisposed for requital. In fact, those of us who call Jesus Lord are called to “offer the other cheek as well (Matthew 5:38).”


Nonviolence is absolute commitment to the way of love. Love is not emotional bash; it is not empty sentimentalism. It is the active outpouring of one’s whole being into the being of another.
–Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957

At Oslo I suggested that the philosophy and strategy of non-violence become immediately a subject for study and serious experimentation in every field of human conflict, including relations between nations. This was not, I believe, an unrealistic suggestion. World peace through non-violent means is neither absurd nor unattainable. All other methods have failed. Thus we must begin anew. Non-violence is a good starting point. Those of us who believe in this method can be voices of reason, sanity and understanding amid the voices of violence, hatred and emotion. We can very well set a mood of peace out of which a system of peace can be built. Racial injustice around the world. Poverty. War. When man solves these three great problems he will have squared his moral progress with his scientific progress. And more importantly, he will have learned the practical art of living in harmony.
–Martin Luther King, Jr., “DREAMS OF BRIGHTER TOMORROWS” (March 1965)

I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of nuclear annihilation… I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow… I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed.
–Martin Luther King, Jr., Address in Acceptance of Nobel Peace Prize – 10 December 1964

I am convinced that love is the most durable power in the world. It is not an expression of impractical idealism, but of practical realism. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, love is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. To return hate for hate does nothing but intensify the existence of evil in the universe. Someone must have sense enough and religion enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil, and this can only be done through love.
—-Martin Luther King, Jr., 1957

Which of these quotes strikes you? What is meaningful about them? 

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  • ClayMan

    I’m always impressed by the writings of Dr. King. Thank you for sharing these!

  • R Debenport

    Excellent quotes. How did the conversation go with your group?

    I’m sitting here at a non-profit org that supports the oppressed refugees within Burma. On the wall is a poster with a quote from the displaced democratically elected president of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently under house-arrest in Burma. She states, “There will be change because all the military have are guns.”


  • Jesse Ward

    All of those quotes are amazing. I like how his definition of nonviolence is not just a not doing of violence but a doing of love. I am also impressed with how convicted he was that nonviolence could really change the world. And even that nonviolence was the only way to change the world. Maybe somebody needs to write a book called Nonviolence Wins. I also love that quote about cutting off the chain of hate through love. I was actually sharing that one with some of the kids in the youth group at church the other day.

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