The other day I was talking to a Cameroonian friend in my living room who told me that she had saved up enough money to go down to a local medical clinic. After a battery of tests, it was concluded that she had malaria and typhoid. She went to the clinic pharmacy, and, in reading the price tags of the prescribed medication, was relieved to find that she had enough money. She started to pay for the medication when the clerk behind the counter increased the cost for no apparent reason. Now unable to pay for the needed medicine, my friend went back to talk to the original nurse. The later calmly acknowledged that the clerk often increased prices so that she could pocket the extra.
Finishing her story, my friend said that she had only purchased part of the prescribed medication because she couldn’t afford the inflated price. She and I mourned the exploitation of the sick, knowing there was nothing we could do about it.
Unfortunately, this is only one of the many stories of corruption and lack of compassion in Cameroon. Time and time again I feel hot rage well up inside of me when the wealthy steal the fields of the poor or when students are turned away because they cannot afford to pay to take tests. And what is crazy is that both the oppressed and the oppressors are people that I interact with on a daily basis. Crazier still, those who are oppressed often become oppressors when given a chance. What weapon do I have in the face of such injustice? Or in the face of violence? Of cruelty? The day of confrontation is sure to come, but that day should be paved with a greater weapon.
Love: The Weapon None Can Resist
Jesus was personally affected by the cruelty of man. Yet he said “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27). Martin Luther King Jr, saw the incredible power that love could have in the face of those who hate. He said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Love is the only weapon strong enough to drive out the poison of hatred. This is incredibly contrary to human nature which says that hate must be reciprocated in order to demonstrate the severity of the original offense.
A lovely children’s story, The Giant Killer, illustrates the need for love beautifully. In this allegory, there is a brave knight who has carelessly drunk of the poisoned waters of the fountain Anger. In his inebriated state Fides tosses aside his armour and sword, striking out at everything around him in blind hatred. This leaves him exhausted, defenseless, and thus easily overcome and bound by the Giant Hate.
Lying on the ground, defeated and suffering, Fides is approached by Lady Conscience who reveals that there is still hope. She points to a tree, which rises above all others, named Forgiveness. The narrator describes the tree as,
“A wondrous tree … the deeper the wound inflicted on its trunk, the righter and freer its waters gushed forth, so sweet and pure, that it was a marvel that any thirsty pilgrim who knew the refreshment that they yielded could turn for a moment aside to drink at the fountain of Anger” (68).
Conscience ran over to Forgiveness, broke off a stem, and hurried back to give it to the knight. A single taste gave him the strength to hobble over to the tree, followed closely behind by his enemies. He shimmied up just in time and found himself surrounded by wonderful fruit called Benefits. He plucked a fruit and with one hand applied its juice to his own wounds and…
“with the other he flung down upon his enemies below Benefit after Benefit, as fast as he could throw them. Quickly the shower of fruit descended on the heads of the persecuting band; this was his return to the stones and the sharp venomed darts with which they had annoyed him” (70).
The knight looked down from his post to see how his new war strategy was working.
“He saw the crowd eagerly gather up the ripe fruit, and, with a wondering glance at the source whence it came, drop their darts to commence their delicious repast” (70).
“Even as the waters of Anger produced a strange effect upon those who drank them, so Benefits, the fruit of the tree of Forgiveness, seemed to work a change upon those who partook of them. Insolent looks grew mild, angry voices gentle, the storm of passion became hushed and still. The savages themselves broke their darts, and gazed up with strangely altered feelings upon the champion of order and peace” (70-71).
Finally, one person from among the knight’s oppressors called up to the tree and said,
“We own ourselves overcome; thou has returned evil with good, and wrongs with Benefits, though has weapons which none can resist” (71).
Forgiveness and the fruit which was born out of forgiveness (Benefits) healed our wounded hero. As he was healed by forgiveness, he was then strong enough to start hurling Benefits (or acts of kindness) towards those trying to take his life. The result: mutual love.
To the Suffering
I turn now to the suffering, to those who may have had their only source of livelihood ripped out from underneath them. I turn to those who cannot heal because they are deprived of medication by greedy pharmacy clerk. I turn to those who have insensitive spouses; to those who have obstinate, rebellious children. I turn to those brothers and sisters who are facing persecution for Christ. I turn to those who are in the middle of a civil war that they didn’t choose or want; to those who have loved ones who have been kidnapped.
I want to remind you that a couple thousand years ago another man found himself on a tree. While he hung there, vicious darts of unkind words and curses were hurled at him. He was mocked, spit upon, betrayed by those he so cared for. And on that tree of forgiveness, Christ threw down only benefits, crying out “Father forgive them!” One day that same man will come again. He will bring vengeance, such that his garments will be soaked in blood. But that day is not today. Today we do not fight with swords and spears, we have been given a much more powerful weapon: love. It is more powerful because whereas swords can kill, only love can change.
I hear a lot of “clamor” in my village. People yelling and screaming at one another, making threats, and sometimes physically harming one another. Strangely enough, no one walks away convinced of the other side’s position. In the same way, I see a lot of “clamor” and attacks online where an offender’s issue is broadcast and he is shamed. There is certainly a place to expose evil, and it can be loving to do so. But it must be done with hope and faith, knowing that oppressors can become brothers. May forgiveness heal our bitter hearts and then may we pick up the weapon of love for our enemies; a weapon which “none can resist.”
**The above imagine was accessed online here.