Martin Luther King Jr. defined agape love as willingness to serve without the desire for reciprocation, willingness to suffer without the desire for retaliation, and willingness to reconcile without the desire for domination.
For me, nonviolence is that quality that comes out of all the great world religions: the notion that the creative force of the universe is love, that God is love, and that love is all-encompassing.
We went to the mosques on Friday at noon after prayers, to the markets on Saturday morning, to two churches every Sunday. We gave all our sisters the same message: Liberian women, awake for peace!
I invite us to have a conversation together about what it means to follow the risen, nonviolent Jesus, who calls us to be peacemakers, put down the sword, and love everyone, even the enemies of our nation.
—John C. Wester
This love ethic must be at the center of our whole life, or it cannot be effective or real in the crucial moments of conflict. We have to practice drawing our lives from this new Source, in thought, word, emotion, and deed, every day, or we will never be prepared for the major confrontations or the surprise humiliations that will come our way.
“Spirit” refers to that which gives life. “Warriors” live a life of action and clear direction. We can bring warrior-spirit to the cause of peace and harmonious connection because it is about life and living, not power and aggression.
—angel Kyodo williams
A Spirituality of Nonviolence
Franciscan peacemakers Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard have identified ten “commandments” for those seeking to live a spiritual life of nonviolence. They call it “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence”:
Active nonviolence calls us:
- To learn to recognize and respect “the sacred” in every person, including in ourselves, and in every piece of Creation. . . .
- To accept oneself deeply, “who I am” with all my gifts and richness, with all my limitations, errors, failings and weaknesses, and to realize that I am accepted by God. . . .
- To recognize that what I resent, and perhaps even detest, in another, comes from my difficulty in admitting that this same reality lives also in me. . . .
- To renounce dualism, the “we-they” mentality (Manicheism). This divides us into “good people/bad people” and allows us to demonize the adversary. It is the root of authoritarian and exclusivist behavior. It generates racism and makes possible conflicts and wars.
- To face fear and to deal with it not mainly with courage but with love.
- To understand and accept that the New Creation, the building up of the Beloved Community is always carried forward with others. It is never a “solo act.” . . .
- To see ourselves as a part of the whole creation to which we foster a relationship of love, not of mastery, remembering that the destruction of our planet is a profoundly spiritual problem, not simply a scientific or technological one. We are one.
- To be ready to suffer, perhaps even with joy, if we believe this will help liberate the Divine in others. This includes the acceptance of our place and moment in history with its trauma, with its ambiguities.
- To be capable of celebration, of joy, when the presence of God has been accepted, and when it has not been to help discover and recognize this fact.
- To slow down, to be patient, planting the seeds of love and forgiveness in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us. Slowly we will grow in love, compassion and the capacity to forgive.
Rosemary Lynch and Alain Richard, “The Decalogue for a Spirituality of Nonviolence,” in From Violence to Wholeness: A Ten Part Program in the Spirituality and Practice of Active Nonviolence, Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno (Las Vegas, NV: Pace e Bene Franciscan Nonviolence Center, 1999), 18.
Explore Further. . .
- Read Richard on contemplation and nonviolence.
- Learn more about this year’s theme Nothing Stands Alone.
- Meet the team behind the Daily Meditations.
Image credit: Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0017 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Iraq War Anniversary Peace Rally (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Susan Ruggles, Rally Against Iraq War 0014 (detail), 2003, Milwaukee, photograph, Wikimedia. Jenna Keiper & Leslye Colvin, 2022, triptych art, United States. Click here to enlarge image.
Image inspiration: Candles are on either side of a central image, as in a sanctuary. Nonviolence is sacred.
Prayer for our community:
God, Lord of all creation, lover of life and of everything, please help us to love in our very small way what You love infinitely and everywhere. We thank You that we can offer just this one prayer and that will be more than enough, because in reality every thing and every one is connected, and nothing stands alone. To pray for one part is really to pray for the whole, and so we do. Help us each day to stand for love, for healing, for the good, for the diverse unity of the Body of Christ and all creation, because we know this is what You desire: as Jesus prayed, that all may be one. We offer our prayer together with all the holy names of God, we offer our prayer together with Christ, our Lord, Amen.