My life has been shaped, in part, by my observations of the terrible injustices that African-Americans suffered in South Georgia at the end of the Jim Crow Era. I have been inspired by the spiritually soaring words and the nonviolent actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. (I am glad to learn that his son, Martin Luther King III, continues his father’s work through educating others in the practice of nonviolence.)
This past week, I experienced a revelation about myself regarding nonviolence. I had previously written several letters to newspapers in which I supported nonviolence. At times, I had also posted these thoughts on a journalist’s blog. One of the other posters on that blog had, on several occasions, made a point to insult me. His manner reminded me of the classroom bullies I had dealt with over the years. From those classroom experiences, I knew that bullies cannot be ignored, or they will become even more aggressive. So, I fought back and told the poster that I considered him to be a bully. However, I said more than that. I, also, insulted him by calling him “small-minded and mean-spirited.” I thought I was justified because, after all, he was the one who was the bully, not me.
But the Holy Spirit worked within my heart, and I realized that I had been almost as insulting to that poster as he had been to me. I realized that insulting words are, in truth, small forms of violence directed at another. How could I write in support of nonviolence and not practice it within my own life, even if I felt justified? Upon deeper reflection, I knew that insults are never justified – even in defending oneself. “An eye for an eye” philosophy never elevates, and practicing that way of handling conflict means a loss for both parties. The only way to transcend violence – of any degree – is to understand and to practice the principles of nonviolence.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had said that in practicing nonviolence, a person does not simply passively accept the violence perpetuated against him. He resists that violence, but he does so by demonstrating against it (or publicly acknowledging it) while, at the same time, showing “a willingness to be the recipient of violence while never never inflicting violence on another.” King believed that in practicing the principles of nonviolence, the victim of violence would help the perpetuator to become shameful of his violent acts and to transcend his ways.
Jesus Christ practiced nonviolence when he chose to absorb the sins (violence against God) of humankind and to die on the cross for the sins of all humanity. On that cross, Jesus said to God, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” God, in Jesus, died on that cross, over two thousand years ago, to demonstrate his unchanging and unconditional love for his creation. Jesus was able to suffer that terrible pain, willingly, only by totally trusting the Lord’s Spirit, as he followed God’s will for his life to the grave, and beyond. Jesus’ choice to accept even death gave tangible testimony to all – the living and the yet to be born – of God’s unconditional love for every human being. Jesus’ choice, and his resurrection, also gave testimony to the fact that love is a stronger force in the universe than is sin, or even death.
Becoming aware of the disconnect between my published words and my insulting remarks, I realized that the Holy Spirit was leading me to apologize to that poster. However, I kept saying to the Lord, “Please don’t ask this of me, Lord, for this man has deliberately tried to hurt me. Perhaps, I can simply remain silent toward him in the future so that conflict can be avoided.” But the Holy Spirit kept encountering me, because my soul would not rest until I apologized to this man on that blog. I was not responsible for his words, but I was responsible for mine. I knew that I might appear silly by apologizing on the blog, or even self-indulgent, but the perceptions of others were not as important to me as doing what the Lord was asking of me. None of us knows the hour of our death. While I lived, it was necessary for me to apologize for my insulting words to that man, not only for my own soul to be at peace, but perhaps to be a model for others. So, I made my public apology to him. I do not know if that man actually saw my words, but that was not as important as the fact that I had done as the Lord had wanted me to do – difficult as that was for me. My soul has been at peace since I acted. I know that I will never, again, insult another, even to defend myself, for I have seen once again, through God’s help, that love is a more powerful force in this universe than hate. God is love.
Two more stories of my having listened to the Lord’s Spirit – and acting as the Lord had led me to act – will follow in my next posting. Both stories are revelations of the power of extrasensory perception. In the first story, the person to whom I had apologized, by phone, died the month thereafter, unexpectantly. That call was a healing experience for us both, before death separated us. In the second story, the person, whom I had not seen in a quarter of a century, was drifting into dementia, but he was aware enough of my apology to wish me well, as I had him, before we said a final goodbye, with grace, at the end of that fateful phone call.
I thank God for loving me enough to lead me to make those two critical calls. I am so glad that I listened to his Holy Spirit, and that I acted upon what he was telling me to do – just in time. “That which is not loosed on Earth, is not loosed in Heaven.”
“Repay no one evil for evil.” Romans 12:17
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Listen to the mesmerizing song, “Love Is Eternal Sacred Light” by Paul Simon: