Monday, 2 May 2011

Love your enemies ...

A friend gave me this quotation tonight and I think it merits another blog post - two in one day!  The received quotation begins:
"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.
This morning I woke to the breaking news on television that Osama bin Laden had been killed ... but it was reported in such a triumphalistic way with scenes from an American city that showed thousands of people dancing and rejoicing in the street ... and it felt wrong.  It was almost cannibalistic where there was a victory celebration over a death.  I find myself feeling very sad and wondering ....
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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for putting words to my feelings...unease. Perfect. I just don't know what to make of this whole situation. Once upon a time, Osama bin Laden was an innoncent baby with a Mom who rocked him to sleep at night. Thank you for the quote!

Rev Elizabeth said...

Another page to read here:

Thanks Caroline.

Anonymous said...

I am not a Christian, but I thank you immensely for posting this as it thoroughly articulates the peculiar sense of sadness and rejoicing over death that I have been feeling all day. Thank you for your thoughtfullness.

Rev Elizabeth said...

Thanks "Anonymous"!!!

Anonymous said...

I too am not a Christian yet stumbled upon your blog after googling that very MLK quote. My social networks are bombarded with grotesque "celebrating" and it makes my heart sad to see the revelry. Your blog post made my heart a little lighter, thank you. Peace be with you.

... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
... said...

amazing! I feel terrible for those who lost their lives to 9/11 as well as the many others who were abused/ killed because of osama. Yet, to say that his death is justified just seems so wrong to me.
As the saying goes-- an eye for an eye will make the whole word blind **

Unknown said...

Thank you! This MLK quote was exactly what I needed to hear to express my feelings. I, too, found your blog by googling that quote.

Kelly Moore said...

The Vatican statement was very appropriate, as well as that of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I and many people I know - Christian, Muslim and nothing in particular - do not celebrate Bin Laden's death but mourn the life of an evil man.

Emotions are running high where the terrorist attacks hit: NYC and here in Washington, D.C. No one survived Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania so there is only silence there. Please consider the possibility that for a great many, though not all, this not a celebration of Bin Laden's death but an expression of relief and closure that he himself can do no more harm.

I myself think of Chris Newton, a young father from our church who died on the plane that flew into the Pentagon. I think of my friend Diane who escaped from halfway up the second tower and went to 70 memorial services in the months following 9/11; and for months afterward as she commuted into the city, she saw the smoke rising from the Twin Towers although they were long gone. I think of attending the funeral of Francis Obaji (nephew of one of our church families, from Liberia) at Arlington National Cemetery, who enlisted in the army as soon as he could because he was proud to serve his country and was killed in action in 2005 at the age of 21.

I suppose it is easier for those closer to the situation to give some allowances to those whose emotions at this sobering news are very overwhelming.

TJ said...

Ma'am, you don't happen to know where that quote from Martin Luther King Jr. comes from, do you? Is it from a certain speech or book he wrote? An interview? I am seeing this quote trend up in Google, but no one seems to know when or where he said it.

Silver said...

I want to thank you for saying what you said. I just happened upon your blog by chance. I was listening to the radio and they recited that there was a woman who posted a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. so I popped the part of it I could remember into Google and found my way here. Many people on my Facebook were celebrating, and all I felt was "another senseless killing"as well as feeling a sense of justice for the victimms of 9/11. I know he did alot of bad things, and not just to the U.S., but I couldn't force myself to celebrate. I do not claim any religion, because I am not sure, but one thing I do know is that you made me feel a whole lot better, so thank you once again.

lesleyc said...

Thank you Elizabeth for showing us Christian spirit in the face of shocking triumphalism. God's name has been greatly abused and misused by many causes over the centuries.

Jesus came in love, peace and forgiveness.

Valerie said...

@Reverend (and adorable dog!), I think you meant this for TJ (hi TJ!) & must have traced him to my blog (irreverant - apologies) blog:

"Hope I'm in the right place ... the corrected quotation from MLK is now on my blog ... with source. Thanks for your comment."

Valerie from

Rev Elizabeth said...

Hi Valerie ... thanks ... I was doing it in an awful rush and had a feeling it wasn't the right place but didn't have time to check!!!! appreciate that and willl check out your blog later ... but am just passing right now!!! ....

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.