“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
These words of Martin Luther King’s are incredibly poignant as we begin the Holy Year of Mercy. After all, watching the news and scrolling through my Facebook feed, it is clear that right now is not a particularly easy time to be merciful—Paris, San Bernardino, Donald Trump’s comments, the simultaneous growth of the highest and lowest economic classes (the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer). Mercy does not seem like a practical option – our gut reaction is to respond with violence and exclusion.
Violence, we must remember, is not something we do only with our hands, but also with our words and in our hearts. We are afraid that a response that is nonviolent and loving will make us look weak, so we hear cries for more guns and more restrictions on who deserves to be allowed into our country; we see the formation of an “us versus them” mentality. On the flip side, even those of us who are not Donald Trump supporters—and who boast unwavering support for refugees of all religious persuasions—can develop a violent intolerance for those who think differently, so much so that we become blind to our own subconscious prejudices and ideologies. The problem is always “them.” It is never “us.”
“You reap whatever you sow.” – Galatians 6:7
If we sow seeds of violence and hatred, we will continue to reap more violence and hatred. Whenever one country violently attacks another, a revenge attack is almost certain to occur, and then a revenge attack after that. When we mock and attack another religion, we reap feelings of anger and fear. We also reap ignorance because we fail to see the seeds of violence that have sprung from our own beliefs, and we miss out on seeing the seeds of love that can be nurtured in a religion other than our own.
If we sow seeds of love, little by little, we will reap more love. Think of how it feels when someone does an incredible act of kindness for you – your feelings of gratefulness may make you want do something kind for someone else. When you experience genuine love and care from another, you feel hopeful, your outlook on the world becomes brighter. If we sow seeds of mercy, we will reap more mercy. When we forgive, we let go of seeds of anger and resentment, making room for creative ideas and responses to enter our minds. When we show compassion toward others, we make room for compassion and understanding to be given toward us.
Advent is a time to begin sewing new seeds. Now, I am not saying that by sowing seeds of love and mercy today, you will see an end to all war, violence, and poverty by tomorrow. Maybe you will not even see it in this lifetime. But maybe you can influence one person, or touch one community. Maybe you can help others see how powerful and practical mercy is. Imagine if more and more people were to continuously sow seeds of love and mercy. There would then be no room for seeds of violence and hatred to grow.