Just like the little boy said. In Sunday School the answer is always Jesus or God. I would add that in our everyday lives, the answer is always love. In January we remember one of our greatest leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King.

Dr. King wrote an essay entitled Walk for Freedom, published in 1956. He wrote it in the midst of extreme racial tension when the need for reconciliation was great. Violent acts against his people were common occurrences. The following words were part of his essay and are just as timely today as our country faces great divisions.

He said,

“This is a spiritual movement, and we intend to keep these things in the forefront. We know that violence will defeat our purpose. We know that in our struggle in America and in our specific struggle here in Montgomery, (Alabama) violence will not only be impractical but immoral. We are outnumbered; we do not have access to the instruments of violence. Even more than that, not only is violence impractical, but it is immoral; for it is my firm conviction that to seek to retaliate with violence does nothing but intensity the existence of evil and hate in the universe. Along the way of life, someone must have sense enough and morality enough to cut off the chain of hate and evil. The greatest way to do that is through love. I believe firmly that love is a transforming power that can lift a whole community to new horizons of fair play, good will and justice.”

Dr. King went on to explain how he used love rather than retaliation when on January 30, 1956 his home was firebombed. He was away at a meeting when the phone call came through telling him of the attack. He first inquired about the well-being of his wife and daughter and when he found out they were safe he stopped in the middle of his meeting and spoke to that group urging them not to panic and not to retaliate in any way. He then returned home, where a large crowd had gathered numbering somewhere between five hundred and one thousand people.

He recognized there was potential for violence as the crowd continued to grow. So he stood on his porch and addressed the group. He referred to Matthew 26:52, “He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword.” He urged the people to continue to retain their dignity and using self-discipline, continue to act in love. He encouraged them to confront the problem with love. He was able to maintain calm in a time of high emotion and distress.

Acting in love requires sacrifice and isn’t always pleasant. We want to do something to punish the aggressor, we want to act and not just stand. But Dr. King was right. Our struggles are not only political—they’re spiritual. And love always triumphs over hatred.