Nine years ago today, I sat with my fellow graduate students the liberal arts conference room at our university. We were drained, emotionally and mentally, by all that we had seen on the television that long, horrible day.
“Do you want to talk about it?” our professor asked. We stared at the table, at our notes on Henry IV, Part 1, uneasily shifting in our seats.
A student broke the silence. “Do you think we’ll go to war?”
“Violence begets violence.” Our professor, always a serious man, spoke in the somber tone of a reluctant prophet. “It always does.”
I’ve never forgotten his words. I’ve seen this truth affirmed and reaffirmed in the years since that Tuesday morning.
- In the war, first on Afghanistan, then in Iraq.
- The demonstrations of flag burning and cheers by the terrorists’ supporters.
- The murderous rage of Americans desiring revenge.
- The recent murder of medical doctors in Afghanistan.
- The plans of a church to burn the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11, which can and undoubtedly will lead to retaliation on the soldiers still stationed overseas. More death . . .
Violence begets violence.
As an American, I grieve for those lost on 9/11, the lives lost in the war, the minds that are forever scarred by the trauma of war, who carry wounds on their bodies and their souls. As an American, I am angered by those who hate freedom enough to resort to violence.
As a Christian, I grieve for those who reject peace and grace, whether it be in the hearts of those sitting on church pews or in the hearts of those who live far across the globe. And as a Christian, I am angered by the demonstrations of hate in the name of Christianity.
If Christ-followers are to be known by our love, we’re failing if we only pray against the political power of a different religion and not for the hearts and souls of those who follow that religion. We’re failing if we think screaming insults at Muslims or burning their holy book is the answer. We’re failing, miserably failing, if we think that fighting evil with evil is effective.
Hatred begets hatred. There’s no other possible outcome.
Unless—what if someone stopped the hatred?
What if love and forgiveness stood in the way of violence?
What if we put aside our natural desire for revenge and our natural inclination to hate?
What if we fought for justice and freedom out of a true concern for freedom to reign in every country? What if we fought for justice and freedom out of concern for freedom to reign in every life, regardless of nationality or race?
Yes, there would still be bloodshed in the battle for justice. But when even one person is willing to die that another person may live and have freedom, that is love.
And sacrificial, self-denying love bewilders evil. It confounds it because it is counter-intuitive and unnatural. It confuses the hateful and unjust.
It embraces a path to justice that fights out of a love for others, both the oppressed and the oppressors. This love desires justice for the victim. It also desires that the oppressors be brought to justice so that they might see the evil in their ways and turn from it. This is neither vengeful nor apathetic to the needs of others.
When violence and hatred encounter love, evil can be stopped.