As I post these words of encouragement on September 11, 2019, our Nation remembers the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. that killed thousands of Americans. It was September 11, 2001. Eighteen years ago. My youngest child was about to turn one, and most of our lives were unaffected by the hatred and violence that engulfed the world.
Then everything changed.
9/11, as the date has come to be known, was the day America – all of America – realized that evil is all around us and that bad things do happen to good people. Oklahoma City already knew this all too well, because on April 19, 1995, one hundred sixty-eight Oklahomans were murdered in a domestic terrorist attack on Oklahoma City’s federal building.
The people of Oklahoma City are still healing, but they will never forget.
The people of New York City are still healing, but they, too, will never forget.
America as a nation is still healing, but we will never forget.
I am not referring here to revenge. “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy,” Martin Luther King, Jr. taught. “Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, 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.”
What we must remember – what we must never forget – is that politicians, military leaders, and law enforcers may try to solve the problem of violence around the world, but they will never be completely successful. Violence, you see, is merely a symptom of a larger malady: evil in the human heart.
And so, Dr. King’s words still ring true:
Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
On the day Jesus of Nazareth addressed a crowd from the side of a mountain in ancient Judea, He spoke words that were equally clear and equally unambiguous:
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43–48, NIV)
Love as God loves, Jesus told us. And do so perfectly – or as nearly as we humans can achieve.
On the night before His death on a cross, a death that would become our salvation, the Son of God made this point once again:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34–35, NIV)
Today, almost two thousand years later, Jesus’ words seem to have been lost. Or forgotten. Or ignored.
But light, not darkness, is still the goal.
And love, not hate, is still the way.
In our own lifetimes, we have seen darkness, hate, and violence up close on our television screens, in our newspapers, and on the Internet. Mass murders of men, women, and children now occur with chilling regularity, both in the world and at home, but the news of it (if it is covered at all) fades with the passage of just a few weeks.
World leaders and national leaders must continue to address the problem, but there is, ultimately, only one path to real peace.
We must return to light – the light of Jesus Christ.
We must return to love – the love of our Risen Savior.
Today, please join me in praying for those who foster hate and perpetrate violence. Let us offer our words and our sacrifices so that God may be glorified and human hearts may be changed. Let us drive out darkness with the light of our Lord and drive out hate with His love.
-- Dr. John Morris
 Rev. John Dear, “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind,” https://www.huffpost.com/entry/an-eye-for-an-eye-makes-t_b_8647348 (November 25, 2015, updated November 25, 2016).