There’s a scene in the film Gandhi where photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White is interviewing Gandhi for Life magazine. He is talking to her in prison for his non-violent resistance against the British Empire for India’s independence. She asks him, “But do you really believe you could use non-violence against someone like Hitler?” Gandhi pauses. “Not without defeats and great pain. What you cannot do is accept injustice. Every enemy is a human being – even the worst of them. He believes he is right and you are a beast. And if you beat him over the head you will only convince him that you are. But you suffer to show him that he is wrong; your sacrifice creates an atmosphere of understanding – if not with him, then in the hearts of the rest of the community on whom he depends.”
Jesus didn’t teach us to wear rose-colored glasses and pretend evil doesn’t exist, nor did he call us to avoid our adversaries. Being Christian isn’t a matter of being a doormat and never confronting evil. Jesus spoke out against any kind of corrupt power that dehumanizes people, and yet he did so not with hateful words or vengeful acts, because that would only create more evil. He spoke the truth in love knowing some would hate him for it and even destroy him. Yet, Jesus understood that being silent and avoiding the truth is the same as condoning the injustice and evil. Jesus was called, as he calls us, to deal with the problem another way—to speak the truth in love, to overcome evil with good, to pray for our enemies. Gandhi called it satyagraha, which means “truth-force” or “soul-force”. It is the same soul-force that empowered Jesus to pray for those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
When we can grieve for those who abuse their power—those who use terror and fear and dehumanize human beings—just as much as we grieve for those who suffer at their hands, our hearts become channels of peace. We realize the truth that they are like us, human beings who are susceptible to being enslaved by hatred and fear.
When we open ourselves and allow God to free our hearts from all fear, anger, hatred, and the desire for revenge, we are freed from that slavery and become citizens of the Peaceful Reign of God within and among us.