Nonviolence: A practice grounded in love

Not for the faint of heart

Ideas+saturated+with+love.

Creed Bauman, The Horizon

Ideas saturated with love.

Riley Potter, Guest Writer

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you … For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 43-44, 46). 

This powerful call of Jesus is a beautiful image, one Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tirelessly worked towards, but not in a way many people are familiar with. He was greatly inspired by the methods of Gandhi to fully enflesh his “Christian love as a force for social change.” This emphasis on lived-out love became an impetus for his commitment to nonviolence.  

The King Center, established in 1968 by Mrs. Corretta Scott King, includes detailed descriptions of Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy as well as a compilation of statements entailing his vision for the beloved community. 

The fundamentals of nonviolence, as outlined in his book “Stride Towards Freedom,” consist of six principles outlining a form of peaceful resistance grounded firmly in love, justice and Jesus. In this book, Dr. King shares that this is “the method for social reform that I had been seeking.” 

These principles are compelling and incredibly Christ-like. One that stood out to me is that nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice or evil, not people. The principle recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil at their core. Nonviolence chooses love over hate and believes that the universe is on the side of justice, that ours is a God of justice. 

Not one to leave things half-finished, Dr. King also included a list of practical steps for implementing a nonviolent approach. In dealing with those with whom we disagree, Dr. King recommends that we look for “what is positive in every action,” and “don’t seek to humiliate, but call forth the good in the opponent.” In shocking clarity, he asserts that he and his brethren must “abhor segregation,” but  “love the segregationist.”

Elsewhere, he writes, “The beauty of nonviolence is that, in its own way and in its own time, it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil.” This is what loving our enemies looks like in practice. 

The firm religious convictions of Dr. King are evident in this philosophy as it echoes so strongly the life and teachings of Jesus. Dr. King was labeled an extremist, communist and radical for all of these ideas, ideas saturated with love and truly reflective of our calling to be followers of Christ in an embodied and tangible way.  

Ultimately, Dr. King saw the way of nonviolence as one that would lead to redemption and the creation of “the beloved community,” which he saw not as an unattainable utopia, but as an achievable goal.

For him, this was the only way to engage with humanity. This community will not be devoid of conflict, which Dr. King recognized as an “inevitable part of the human experience,” but conflicts would be resolved peacefully, “transforming opponents into friends.”

A practice of nonviolence is not for the faint of heart, but it truly is the only path forward. In his 1959 Sermon on Gandhi, Dr. King expressed his concern for those who had succumbed to violence and acquiesced to the destructive tendencies of this world: “The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But, the way of non-violence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community.”

Central to this method is the power of agape love. This is a love that is “understanding redeeming goodwill for all, an overflowing love which is purley spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless and creative, the love of God operating in the human heart.” Rooted in agape of love, we can love others for their own sake, being a part of the Kingdom of God here on Earth, and fulfilling the vision of the King Center, where “injustice ceases and love prevails.”

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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