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.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means that our world is flooded with romantic excitement about love, as it always is this time of year.
However, at this time in world history, we have once again seen a rise in blatant, tangible hatred and more public support of those who promulgate it. While Elie Wiesel was correct that apathy is the true opposite of love, hatred is nevertheless one of its great adversaries.
So how do we fight hatred with love, as Dr. King suggests?
The Greeks had six different words for love, ranging from self-love to brotherly love and everything between and beyond. Unfortunately, romantic love and playful love, two of the six (Valentine’s love), will not be strong enough to overcome hate in our world. We will need something more robust.
In everyone’s favorite wedding passage, 1 Corinthians 13, the Greek word for love used agape. It is not the word for romantic love, which is eros.
In the New Testament, agape is used to describe not only the caring regard between humans, but also to describe the relationship between God and Christ. And that Love is stronger than anything. So here is what the passage actually says:
Love is steadfast. Love is merciful. Love is not jealous. Love is not a braggart, not conceited, will not behave disgracefully toward another, is not possessive for one’s self, is not provoked to wrath, keeps no score of wrongs, does not enjoy injustice, but rejoices in the truth. Love always endures, always has faith, always hopes, always has patience. Love is never destroyed.
This this who God is. And this is who God calls us to be.
What is more, these are the ways we will fight hatred with love. By living with patience and mercy. By not giving into jealousy, bragging, conceit. By showing grace and honor to others. By being unselfish and not giving into anger. By not holding grudges and counting the score. By seeking to end injustice. By rejoicing in the real truth when we find it.
We do these things because our God is a Love that will always endure, have faith, hope, steadfast patience, and will never be destroyed. No matter what this world may try to do to us for speaking truth to power and hatred, no matter how much it may try to silence us, demonize us, or even kill us, in the end, God’s Love will win.
And it is our only weapon.
So here is your task for the day: actively love those around you. Not just with words, but also with concrete efforts to see them live the lives they were meant to: full of flourishing, equity, and wholeness.