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“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it...Hatred darkens life; love illumines it.”

—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.


L
OVE IN THE FACE OF HATRED IS THE MOST TRANSFORMATIVE CONCEPT THE WORLD HAS EVER KNOWN. Where hatred causes only destruction, love has the power to build bridges between people and restore trust. But sometimes hatred can create an all-consuming downward spiral of events, with one evil deed inspiring another in return. When confronted with persistent hate, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to show love to others. In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” How do we live by this command so that we can follow in Christ’s footsteps and experience the joy that is eternal?

 

Facing Down Hate

“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but it has not solved one yet.” —Maya Angelou

On June 17, 2015, a 21-year-old white supremacist opened fire on a prayer group at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. Nine people were killed, while only three survived. The shooter was apprehended the following day. That same week, a bond hearing was held where relatives of the victims had the opportunity to speak directly to the shooter. Their words stunned the entire nation. “I forgive you,” said Nadine Collier, whose mother had been killed, her voice breaking in sorrow. “You took something very precious from me. I will never talk to her again. I will never, ever hold her again. But I forgive you and have mercy on your soul.” One at a time, others came forward with a similar message. “I acknowledge that I am very angry,” said Bethane Middleton Brown, the sister of murder victim DePayne Middleton-Doctor, a minister at the church. “But one thing that DePayne always enjoined in our family…is she taught me that we are the family that love built. We have no room for hating, so we have to forgive.” In this moment of unspeakable sorrow, the families of the victims taught us all a lesson. They understood that to respond with hatred would destroy them from within. So they chose instead to hold onto the love they shared with those they lost, to keep that spirit alive within their hearts, and to remain united together with them in Christ. Wanda Simmons, whose grandfather was killed in the massacre, said, “Although my grandfather and the other victims died at the hands of hate, everyone’s plea for your soul is proof that they lived in love and their legacies will live in love. So, hate won’t win.”

 

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