Hate cannot drive out hate

Published on Monday 19 June 2017

I read this morning about someone who was beaten up by Grenfell Tower protesters.  He was apparently mistaken for the CEO of the management company responsible for Grenfell Tower, whereas in fact he had been volunteering to support the victims (see here).

To me, such behaviour is reprehensible, and equally deserving of prosecution as anyone who is found responsible for failing in their duty of care for the tower and its residents.  There is of course tremendous anger - and rightly so, for this is a tragedy that almost certainly could have been avoided had other decisions been taken, and the concerns of residents listened to.

However, that does not give victims the right to physically attack anyone, no matter how responsible they are (or believed to be).

We know Jesus was angry at injustice - even on occasion violent, once turning over the tables of people who were cheating and robbing poverty-stricken worshippers at the Temple in Jerusalem.  But he also said, ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Luke 6.31, NIV).  There is nothing wrong with experiencing righteous anger at injustice - the crunch comes with how we handle it, control and channel it.

For example, imagine how different it would be if every time the council members walked into their offices, the protesters all shook their hands and wished them a good and productive day at work?  Imagine how different it would be if, instead of attacking a stranger, the crowds outside the council offices provided a morning coffee to people on their way in?  Imagine how different it would be if they tried to encourage the councillors to do their jobs diligently, instead of risking descending into an angry mob?

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (Strength to Love)

The correct human response to injustice is anger.  But unless that anger is handled constructively and with self-control, our anger stops being righteous, and becomes vindictive.  It is my hope and prayer that this does not happen to the righteous anger at the Grenfell House disaster and injustice, any more than it already has.