"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.... but that first line is not part of the original Martin Luther King Jr. quotation in the context where he wrote it ... the remainder is to be found in "Strength to Love" (published 1963)
“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.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
I know this was a man who did, and was responsible for, many acts of evil. But the reaction to the news troubled me and has left me feeling uneasy all day. The Martin Luther King Jr. quotation puts well what I have been wanting to say. "... I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. ... "
Crowds become so frenzied and many are caught up in behaviour that they would not normally condone. I could see the crowd on Good Friday containing many who did not wish necessarily to join in the "crucify him" chant ... but were carried along on the emotion. I wonder if many who rejoice at this death will reflect in the days to come and perhaps regret having been part of it.
There was an early response from the Vatican:
A Christian “never rejoices” in the face of a man’s death, the Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, said in a brief statement this morning. Here is an English translation of his statement:
Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.
There are many other voices who are standing up to the wave of jubilation ... people who want peace, recognise evil, appreciate the work done by the military but don't rejoice at any death.
This next article is a little too long to add as a quotation here but is written in a measured tone and I enjoyed reading it earlier this afternoon:
No doubt many more words will be written and spoken, there will be praise and criticism, there will be anger and delight .... I've seen comments that show only pure hatred ...
But always I hear in the background the words of Jesus ... " ... love your enemies ... pray for those who persecute you ... "
It is all too easy to claim that God is on "our" side. This means that when things go "our" way we interpret it as God's doing ... Does not this indicate a petty understanding of the Divine Being? Do we think that we can control God so that our enemies will be zapped? If this is true on an international scale do we then expect it on a local and personal level as well?
The questions are not easy, the answers are not going to be simple ... but the Christian man or woman does not have the freedom to hate.
Because love is patient: Help me to be slow to judge, but quick to listen, hesitant to criticize, but eager to encourage, remembering your endless patience with me.
Because love is kind: Help my words to be gentle and my actions to be thoughtful. Remind me to smile and to say "Please" and "Thank You" because those little things still mean so much.
Because love does not envy or boast, and it is not proud: Help me have a heart that is humble and sees the good in others. May I celebrate and appreciate all that I have and all that I am, as well as doing the same for those around me.
Because love is not rude or self-seeking: Help me to speak words that are easy on the ear and on the heart. When I'm tempted to get wrapped up in my own little world, remind me there's a great big world out there full of needs and hurts.
Because love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs: Help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. When I want to hold onto a grudge, gently help me release it so I can reach out with a hand of love instead.Because love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth: Help me stand up for what is right and good. May I defend the defenceless, and help the helpless. Show me how I can make a difference.
Because love always protects and always trusts: Help me to be a refuge for those around me.When the world outside is harsh and cold, may my heart be a place of acceptance and warmth.
Finally, because love always perseveres: Help my heart continually beat with love for you and others. AMEN.