The following article, written by Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Jr., was published in 1990. This was a time when the 50 year Cold war between the Soviet Union and the United States had thawed. The 1989 rise of democracy in Poland and the fall of the Berlin Wall was the first sign of what was to come-the eventual unraveling of the Soviet Union. As millions across Eastern Europe and western Asia were about to experience freedom from an oppressive government, Americans breathed a sigh of relieve and basked in the possibly of world peace.
In this climate of hope for the future, Coretta Scott King spoke of the need for nonviolence and forgiveness. A woman who lost her husband by assassination was continuing her husband’s call to change through civil and nonviolent means- a message desperately needed now, in the 21st century.
A Revolutionary Christmas
Nearly two millennia after the birth of Christ, the earth’s two billion Christians continue to struggle with his message of unconditional love and forgiveness.
It is a rare day when I don’t find myself wrestling with it. Although I was raised in a church-going family, by the time I got to college I shared with many of my fellow students a fashionable alienation from organized religion and a certain skepticism about the ability of the church to challenge injustice.
I started dating a young ministerial student, Martin Luther King, Jr., who surprised me by saying that he, too, had doubts about the relevance of the church in addressing social problems. But, he added, “to really carry out the precepts of Jesus would be the most revolutionary and dangerous thing in the world.”
I remember these words at Christmas as if they were spoken yesterday, for they remind us of the revolutionary nature of Jesus’ example and his message. What could be more truly revolutionary than to embrace his militant commitment to love our enemies, to forgive them, to share our wealth with the poor, and to refuse to practice violence?
It is difficult to find this true spirit of Christmas amid the yuletide commercialism and epidemic violence that permeates our communities. Yet, Christmas always brings us an elevated spirit of concern for the less fortunate. An added blessing is the decline of the Cold War, which offers new hope for world peace and the possibility of reconciliation and brotherhood.
But the continuing threat of terrorism and the accompanying cycle of retaliation seem to plague the people of all religions. Indeed, history shows that much blood has been shed by self-proclaimed Christians in the narrow pursuit of revenge. Yet forgiveness remains a central tenet of the Christian faith.
Forgiving, whether on the personal, social or on political level, is difficult. But the only alternative to forgiving is unending bitterness, hatred, and a consuming cycle of revenge and retaliation that injures the soul. Forgiveness breaks the chain of retribution and provides spiritual redress for injury.
Despite the war, violence, greed, exploitation, and the unearned suffering of impoverished millions, the love of enemies and the spirit of forgiveness are now more relevant to our survival than ever before.
After nearly twenty centuries, the light of Bethlehem burns as a beacon of hope in the hearts of peace-loving people across the earth. On this Christmas, may we, the people of every race, religion, nation, and religion, learn to love one another, to forgive and be forgiven. When we have mastered this calling , then the peace of Christ will truly prevail.