Daily Reading for April 4 • Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader, 1968
How deeply King understood the role of forgiveness in the creation of his beloved community is seen in his assertion that the struggle for justice and the resistance against evil is not a struggle against other persons. It is rather a struggle against the structures of evil that entrap not only the oppressed but the oppressors as well. Thus the struggle against racism was not a campaign of hatred against racists but a militant resistance against racism itself which sought to release those caught on both sides of the battle from the sin of racism. Revenge was to be foreign, forgiveness commonplace.
Christianity, for Dr. King, required not only that we have our own sins forgiven but that we, through forgiveness, dismantle what holds all of us in bondage. The power of forgiveness is a gift of Christ bestowed upon the community for the purpose of ushering in the kingdom, the beloved community. The power to forgive is given to us by the Holy Spirit.
In the process we must be willing to take on suffering ourselves rather than inflict harm on others. We must renounce not only the use of physical violence but the internal spirit of violence as well. We must genuinely love our enemies, not sentimentally, not because we like them or find their actions comprehensible, but because we have been challenged to do so by the Gospels. In this we find cosmic accompaniment, which, King believed, was aligned ultimately with the emergence of justice.
From The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost by Wendy M. Wright (Upper Room Books, 1994).