Thoughts about Dr. King began piling up in my brain, each bigger and more impressive than the last. One that kept begging for my attention was his unusual style of protest. Nonviolent protest.
What does it mean? It means fighting for what’s right, without using force. Not burning down buildings, throwing rocks through windows, or spreading vicious rumors.
It’s kind of counter-intuitive. I mean, it doesn’t come naturally to “turn the other cheek” when someone slaps you in the face! . . . Why did Jesus say to do that? Was he unconcerned about injustice? Hardly! But he knew how to defeat it. Yes, really.
Getting even doesn’t solve problems, it just makes them worse. Mahatma Gandhi, the great nonviolent activist of India puts it this way:
“An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” Wow!
So what does work? The apostle Paul gives the solution:
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21 NIV).
Nonviolent protest seems passive. Weak. A meaningless gesture. Well, it’s not. You have to be a big person to channel your anger in the right direction instead of just exploding. Big enough to wait for the right moment to act, even when people are calling you a coward. Big enough to not lose sight of your goal.
You have to be a big person to stand for what’s right and be beaten down but to stand again, and again, until evil crumbles. Until oppressors realize they can’t break you and they can’t get rid of you. Until people have to listen, after all, because you have attracted so much attention.
That’s how Jesus lived. That’s how the apostles lived. That’s how Mahatma Gandhi lived. That’s how Martin Luther King Jr. They changed their world. They showed us how to change ours.