"If there is one book Martin Luther King, Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love."
So wrote Coretta Scott King. She continued: "I believe it is because this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life." That insight, luminously conveyed in this classic text, here presented in a new and attractive edition, hints at the personal transformation at the root of social justice: "By reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, we shall overcome these evils."
In these short meditative and sermonic pieces, some of them composed in jails and all of them crafted during the tumultuous years of the civil rights struggle, Dr. King articulated and espoused in a deeply personal compelling way his commitment to justice and to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual conversion that makes his work as much a blueprint today for Christian discipleship as it was then.
Individual readers, as well as church groups and students will find in this work a challenging yet energizing vision of God and redemptive love.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the pivotal leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president. His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Jimmy Carter in 1977. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was established as a national holiday in the United States in 1986. In 2004, King was posthumously awarded a Congressional Gold Medal.
Martin Luther King Jr. may be seen by many people, unfortunately, as a cliche historical figure. Everybody feels as though they know a lot about him, but in reality most people know nothing about him besides the fact that he was a civil rights leader who got assassinated. I personally have always wanted to pick up a book by MLK Jr. because I have never been satisfied with the info that black history television programs and school classes gave me. Don't get me wrong, those sources gave me good info, but I just yearned for more. Television programs would tell me of things such as the bus boycott, and MLK's marches, but I wanted to know more than just what he did. I wanted an in depth look at his character, and his thought processes, and this book gave me exactly what I was looking for. The insight that I gained about this man's way of thinking is incredible. His teachings and beliefs on love, forgiveness, and suffering are irrefutable. I see now why this man was an instrument of God used to bring a positive shift in this country and the world. This book humbled me, and honestly made me a better christian, a better thinker, and a better person. If you are one of those people who have only HEARD of MLK then you need to get this book, because there's a lot more you can learn about him than what you've heard. And I assure you that your new insights will change you for the better.
A new anthology of essays exploring the philosophy of Martin Luther King, "To Shape a New World" (2018) (edited by Tommie Shelby and Brandon Terry) has moved me to explore for myself the five books King published during his lifetime. King was an activist during his busy life, cut short by assassination fifty years ago. It is valuable to explore the degree of reflective thought King brought to his activism.
King's second book, "Strength to Love" (1963) consists of 14 sermons King preached during or after the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, or at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The book also includes a separate essay "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence" that addresses themes considered in the sermons. King states that he was reluctant to have the sermons published. He believed sermons were properly meant to be heard as a discourse on a single occasion rather than to be read. They were "directed toward the listening ear rather than the reading eye." King states that he published the volume only after the repeated requests of friends and colleagues in the hope that "a message may come to life for readers of these printed words."
King was a preacher by calling. It is what he was born and trained to do and in this book, as in his famous "I have a Dream" speech, it shows. This collection shows the influence of the African American Protestantism in which he was steeped upon King. It shows his way with words and his ability to move and inspire. Most importantly, the book shows King's thought, both on religious matters and on social activism. King tries to show how they are to be brought together. Of the books I have read by or about King, "Strength To Love" easily gives me the most understanding of King and what he was about.
What impressed me most about the book was its deep religiosity. King discusses what he sees as the need for transcendence if human life is to be meaningful. In common with many religiously-oriented thinkers, King views human life as a combination of the "eternal and the temporal". The sermons place a great deal of emphasis on the eternal. His understanding of the eternal played a great role in his temporal actions fighting injustice during his life.
King explores the nature of love, the interrelationship of all things, and the search for moral and ontological absolutes -- the existence of God -- rather than relativism. What he says is not necessarily original but it is expressed with power, eloquence, and sincerity. The book focuses at least as much on God and on worship as it does on the need for action to combat injustice in the world. In King's view a religious outlook drives his temporal efforts. He recognizes in the sermons that humanistic people could share in his efforts for social justice while not sharing his religious commitments. King respects this view but clearly rejects it for himself. The sermons address important theological and philosophical issues such as the relationship between science and religion, the mixture of good and evil in human nature, the problem of evil, fundamentalism and liberalism in approaching Scriptural texts and much more. King talks a great deal about his reading and studies and about the views that influenced him. I learned a great deal both about King and about the difficult questions he addresses.
The sermons I most enjoyed included "A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart" which explores the roles of justice and love in religious life, "Transformed Nonconformist" which emphasizes how religious life requires in part a response to the divine rather than simply to the mores of a society. "Shattered Dreams" which discusses living with loss and disappointment, and "Paul's letter to American Christians" in which King effectively assumes the voice of Paul both to praise and to critique American society and Christianity. In "How should a Christian View Communism" King both articulates his own strong Christian, idealist commitments which rejecting the materialism and ethical relativism of communism. The final essay"Pilgrimage to Nonviolence" explores some of King's activism but it includes as well a great deal of information about King's intellectual growth.
This volume taught me a great deal about King's religious and philosophical thinking and about his commitment to social justice using nonviolent methods. The book has little of the radicalism found in some of King's latter writings. The book shows King at his best as a outstandingly gifted, thoughtful religious individual and African American minister. The book helped me understand King and his mission.
Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior wrote that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" in 1963.
Just last week Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan said that "A terrorist attack on any of us is an attack on all of us."
I shared both quotes with my Civics class, but one eighth grader wrote on the board under Dr. King's words that "no one gets this." I asked if they'd like me to discuss it with them and the same student said, "no, we don't care either."
That made me thing of Jimmy Buffett's famous line, "Is it ignorance, or apathy? I don't know and I don't care."
I care, God knows I care, but God only knows how I'm supposed to teach eighth graders how to care.
So I took King's words,
Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE
and I paired them with James Madison's words-
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
[Disunity] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Unity] EVERYWHERE
[Turmoil] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Tranquility] EVERYWHERE
[Insecurity] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Security] EVERYWHERE
Or would that have sounded better with [Offense] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Defense] EVERYWHERE?
[Suffering] ANYWHERE is a threat to [the General Welfare] EVERYWHERE!
Now THERE'S one that probably makes "rugged individualists" absolutely cringe, but AREN'T I my brother's keeper?
And of course,
[Tyranny] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Liberty] EVERYWHERE
So isn't it true?
Don't you CARE?
Don't you realize? Don't you know?
That "Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE!"
Is justice really blind?
Have you ever heard, "No Justice, No Peace!"?
Did you know, what Cornell West says?
He says that “Justice is what love looks like in public.”
Merrium and Webster say that "public" means
"exposed to general view : open, well-known, prominentc : perceptible, material..."
"of, relating to, or affecting ALL the people."
Did you know?
Do you care?
"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"
I read this book in Africa, it was life changing. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only an amazing leader for the African American community's fight for social justice, he also offers so much wisdom for all of us with words of guidance in love, faith, hope, and strength. He challenged me to become a thinking Christian, not just a following one.
5 stars!!! I'm so so happy that I finally found a really good book and a 5 star worthy book. AND it was within the first month of 2021!! :)
Okay, so this was a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. It's a compilation of MLK sermons, and literally all of them were stellar. They were easy to understand, all based on biblical passages/verses and perfectly mixed God's grace and love for his people with the racial injustice that was happening in the 1960s. This was also interesting to read in 2021, when there is still a lot of racial unrest in our country. I found that a lot of the points MLK was making could also be relevant in 2021, which was obviously disappointing... As far as we have gone in equality, we still have a long way to go.
I hate to admit, but it's been awhile since I've read a Christian book and I'm so incredibly thankful I read this. I needed this. God is so good.
I consider myself a person who was “informed” about Martin Luther King, Jr. I knew the timeline of events in his life, and what he stood for. But apart from I Have a Dream, I had never read or listened to his work. I am so glad I remedied that.
First the content. The sermons reveal how King’s faith was carried forward into social action. I could see the development of his scholarship and ideas, and how he used them to challenge his own Black Baptist church tradition, daring it not to be complacent, as well as challenging white churches. He called upon everyone to embrace the true spirit of Christianity, which he defined as brotherhood, inclusiveness, justice and equality, brought about by nonviolent means. He never stated that God would wipe away injustice if faith and belief were strong enough. He said the people must stand up, resist, suffer and persevere. He also believed that winning would not mean vanquishing the enemies, but would mean living together as one society.
Next the style. Dr. King had a good knowledge of philosophy, psychology and sociology as well as theology, and he often cited sources. In many of the sermons, he built a case for his views based on science and reason, and would then say pure knowledge is necessary, but not sufficient. Faith, hope, courage, love and suffering are also required. I was impressed by his ability to get past the notion that all of these qualities are fluffy or “soft-minded” as he would have said; in fact, they call for extreme toughness. The sermons were meant to be delivered and not read on a page, so they use the cadence of spoken language. He especially liked to identify opposites and use repetition: “For the person who hates, the false becomes true and the true becomes false; the evil becomes good and the good becomes evil.” I liked the combination of academic rigor and folksy speech.
Then the criticism. Although MLK often used the term “men and women,” the majority of his sermons used men and mankind in a way that seemed to denote a masculine gender and men’s roles in society. He did use the stories and the work of women in a few examples. There was no recognition of women’s previous efforts (such as women’s suffrage) or ongoing work to achieve equality. (The sermons predate second-wave feminism). There is no doubt that he believed in social justice, and he spoke up for racial and religious tolerance. It is easy to think his beliefs would have eventually led him to speak for the rights of women and the LGBTQ community – as Coretta Scott King certainly did. Throughout his sermons, Dr. King often used the word schizophrenic to mean divided, while otherwise having an appreciation for mental health, so perhaps this is “of his time.” He focuses on suffering, saying the oppressed must be able to bear unlimited suffering and find value in suffering while resisting. In my opinion, there is a fine line in Christianity when it comes to glorifying suffering. The one thing I objected to was his dismissal of humanism as too optimistic and not realistic about sin and evil; and the need for one’s faith/hope/love/courage/suffering to be justified by Jesus. But since he was a Baptist minister, I do not expect him to defend atheism and humanism.
I thought this was a fantastic book. It showed the roots of Dr. King’s ideas, explained his religious faith, and outlined his philosophy of nonviolence. It was optimistic and inspiring. And some of the lines could have been written this week:
“Few people have the toughness of mind to judge critically and to discern the true from the false, the fact from the fiction. Our minds are constantly being invaded by legions of half-truths, prejudices and false facts.” – from A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart (sermon), 1959
A Strength to Love is out of print and has been replaced by the expanded edition A Gift of Love.
Dr. King's eloquence, rhetorical power and Christian witness inspire at every turn of phrase. each page is saturated with prophetic power. "Strength to Love" (1963) is a collection of sermons that Dr. King delivered in the late 1950s and 1960s and edited for print. I feel challenged to identify what the most powerful part of this book is. Every page seems to bear the best of the book's message. Dr. King's gospel of social justice and non-violence consistently radiates forth. Of special interest to me is Dr. King's explanation of the formative role of Gandhi's satyagraha movement on Dr. King and the civil rights and freedom movement. In at least one proleptic passage, Dr. King sounds the call against war, though it would not be until April 4, 1967 (yes, mysteriously one year to the day before he was assassinated) that he would explicitly warn us that our nation would lose her soul if it continued its involvement in Vietnam. The sermons are simply gorgeous. Dr. King weaves his own reflections and urgings with poetry, African-american spirituals, and philosophy. This is truly a book that transmits the transformative message of Jesus. Dr. King also discusses the influence of Gandhi and the _satyagraha_ movement on his thinking and on the subsequent unfolding of the civil rights movement and Dr. King's later decision to take a stand against the war in Vietnam.
Everyone should read this. Don’t get turned away by the constant talk of Christianity and being a follower of Jesus. I feel like it is so incredibly important to read this book thinking about the bigger picture. What a great way to get to know how MLK thought on a deeper level than just his most popular speeches. I’m really glad that I ended up purchasing this book, because I already know I’m going to be re-reading this slower and when I feel like I could use some important life reminders. A true eye-opening read.
“A religion that professes a concern for the souls of men and is not equally concerned about the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them, is a spiritually moribund religion.” - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This books was excellent. Challenging, comforting, deeply moving. I highly recommend it.
I found this book of King's sermons to be very moving. I started thinking about reading it because of the whole tiff-taff over the fake King quote circulating on Twitter after the OBL assassination. (Despite not being a direct quote from King, it certainly expressed a sentiment consistent with his philosophy, and was more or less a paraphrase of a passage in this book.)
Before reading StL, I was of course familiar with King in a cultural sense and had read a couple of his writings such as "Letter from Birmingham Jail," but none of his more intellectual or religious work. If you are the same way, I would urge you to read StL, particularly if you consider yourself a Christian. It evinces a depth of intellectual engagement (both theological and philosophical) that adds a lot of perspective to the work King did in the world.
One intellectual concept that particularly stuck with me, which King actually attributes to someone else (Harry Emerson Fosdick, for those of you keeping score at home), is the distinction between enforceable and unenforceable obligations, which he discusses in the context of the story of the Good Samaritan. Unenforceable obligations, writes King, "concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify" (37). The story of the Good Samaritan is significant because of his commitment to unenforceable obligations. (King, obviously, also cared a great deal about enforceable obligations!) I feel like discussion of unenforceable obligations is largely missing in modern political discourse, and that's part of why I find significance in reading King, Teddy Roosevelt, Stanley Hauerwas, and others who pay attention to virtue.
Whether an agnostic, devout protestant, curious catholic or even aethist... this is the quintiessential compilation of sermons and speeches by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Read and discover why we celebrate this man. A visionary beyond words, yet it is through words that we understand the greatest realms of his imagination.
Im still an agnostic, but after reading I feel like ive finally discovered the power of "the word" and gained respect for a man of his time but who was outside of it.
Strength to Love is a compilation of sermons by Dr. King that includes many of the quotes by him that are circulated on MLK day and throughout the year. These sermons provide a necessary context for each quote. They reveal Dr. King’s commitment to eliminating racial injustice and economic injustice. They reveal his disapproval of police brutality and poverty. They reveal the man who called on the church to address racism and segregation within its own walls and in communities across the country through social action. Today, this Dr. King, who was disliked by many, is often erased from conversations and lessons on his legacy.
In contrast to erasing Dr. King’s commentary on racial and economic injustice, the opposite trend I’ve seen people adopt when discussing Dr. King’s legacy is separating him from his faith in God. While the quotes that are circulated on MLK day and throughout the year are inspiring to Christians and non-Christians, it is important to remember that they are inspired by the Bible, rooted in Dr. King’s faith in Christ, and a product of his relationship with the Lord. Simply put, Dr. King wouldn’t be Dr. King without his faith in God. In an essay entitled “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” discussing the Civil Rights Movement’s Non-Violent approach, Dr. King said: “Christ furnished the spirit and motivation and Gandhi furnished the method.”
In his sermon titled “God Is Able,” Dr. King describes how after receiving threats for weeks, he began to realize that the threats were in “earnest.” One night, he answered his phone and an angry person said: “‘Listen, n*gger, we’ve taken all we want from you. Before next week you’ll be sorry you ever came to Montgomery.'” After hanging up, Dr. King says he reached “the saturation point” and that “all his fears had come down on him at once.” In his immense fear, he decided to “take the problem to God,” praying: “‘I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.'”
He continues, saying: “At that moment I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never before experienced him. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice, saying, ‘Stand up for righteousness, stand up for truth. God will be at your side forever.’ Almost at once my fears began to pass from me. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything. The outer situation remained the same, but God had given me inner calm. Three nights later, our home was bombed. Strangely enough, I accepted the word of the bombing calmly. My experience with God had given me a new strength and trust. I knew now that God is able to give us the interior resources to face the storms and problems of life.”
Strength to Love reveals that, like Harriet Tubman, Dr. King’s faith in God was vital to His success as a minister and a champion for the eradication of poverty and racial injustice. His faith in God– in spite of persecution, threats, ridicule, and mocking– is inspiring and serves as a reminder to me, as a Christian, that God is indeed able.
"Admitting the weighty problems and staggering disappointments, Christianity affirms that God is able to give us the power to meet them. He is able to give us the inner equilibrium to stand tall amid the trials and burdens of life. He is able to provide an inner peace amid outer storms. This inner stability of the man of faith is Christ's chief legacy to his disciples. He offers neither material resources nor a magical formula that exempts us from suffering and persecution, but he brings an imperishable gift: "Peace I leave with you." this is that peace which passeth all understanding."
This is the only passage I have highlighted from when I first read this book in College. It still spoke to me this time, in a powerful and profound way. A collection of Martin Luther King Jr.'s sermons, this book was amazing on many different levels. It does a phenomenal job of explaining his intellectual and theological underpinnings for nonviolent activism and for general Christian activism against social injustice - wherever it may be found. Additionally, the sermons were very heartening, thought provoking and spiritually uplifting, even though my time and situation are different. I strongly recommend this book. Very, very good!
A collection of sermons by MLK, this book exemplifies the deep conviction and strong voice with which he spoke. I always come away from his work amazed at his resolute commitment to the philosophy of non-violence and love in the face of such extreme hate and bigotry. Of course, this was only possible through a corresponding belief and personal encounter with a divine presence in Jesus Christ that was with him in the midst of deep suffering and continuous trials.
There are a few themes that stuck with me throughout his many different sermons.
1. A firm commitment to the needs others and a refusal to return hate for hate is the hallmark of a true believer.
“We so often ask “What will happen to my job, my prestige, or my status if I take a stand on this issue? Will my home be bombed, will my life be threatened, or will I be jailed?” The good man always reverses the question. Abraham Lincoln did not ask “What will happen to me if I issue the Emancipation Proclamation and bring an end to chattel slavery?” but he asked “What will happen to the Union and to the millions of Negro people, if I fail to do it?” The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy” (p. 26).
2. A faith that cares only for one’s spiritual needs and future hope while rejecting his earthly body and the present injustices that entangle him is a weak and meaningless one.
“It (the church) has often been so absorbed in a future good “over yonder” that it forgets the present evils “down here”. Yet the church is challenged to make the gospel of Jesus Christ relevant within the social situation. We must come to see that the Christian gospel is a two-way road. On the one side, it seeks to change the souls of men and thereby unite them with God; on the other, it seeks to change the environmental conditions of men so that the soul will have a chance after it is changed. Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and yet is not concerned with the economic and social conditions that strangle them and the social conditions that cripple them is the kind the Marxist describes as an “opiate of the people” (p. 104).
3. The destiny of any one group is inextricably tied to the destinies of the others. Injustice not only hurts the oppressed but twists and distorts the heart of the oppressor.
“In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality” (p. 69).
4. Our response to injustice has to be an urgent one. We are not meant to sit back and wait for God to act. We are meant to be, like Paul, a “chosen instrument�� of the Lord to bring his message to those in need while also relying on the Lord and being in constant prayer. It is meant to be both, not one or the other.
“No prodigious thunderbolt from heaven will blast away all evil. No mighty army of angels will descend to force men to do what their wills resist. The Bible portrays God not as an omnipotent czar who makes all decisions for his subjects nor as a cosmic tyrant who with gestapo-like methods invades the inner lives of men but rather as a living Father who gives to his children such abundant blessings as they may be willing to receive. Always man must be willing to do something. “Stand upon thy feet” says God to Ezekiel “and I will speak to you” (p. 139).
Martin Luther King Jr was not only a civil right activist, he was first and foremost a pastor. This part of his personality is often overlooked, if not forgotten, yet it's crucial to fully understand him. His faith fuelled his political engagement and militant activities.
Short collection gathering some of his most representative sermons, we discover here a man of church deeply shaped by his Christianity, to the point of using the Gospels as a weapon to deeply transform an unfair society. The man being quite smart, open minded, and everything but a bigot, here's a book interesting to get to grip with his motivating convictions. From Communism and the Cold War to the relevance of Jesus in addressing societal issues plaguing then the USA (the book dates back to 1964) he confronts the world he lived in through the prism of his Christian faith.
Sure, as an atheist, I couldn't but smile to the way he is reading and interpreting the Bible (cherry picking typical of a believer)! He contradict himself in his ideas about science and religion. He is at times annoying (what is it with him and disregarding Humanism?)… BUT those are personal criticisms, stemming from personal opinions that were not his. My disagreements were predictable.
To understand him, though, this remains a good read.
This book is one of those books you hold with so much reverence to an extent of not exactly wanting to review it, because of fear of misrepresenting the author’s intent.
With that said, I am just going to quote a few nuggets of wisdom I picked from this book, hoping that will help you determine whether it’s for you or not.
✨ Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that. ✨ One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong. ✨ Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude ✨ The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy ✨ We (Christians) are called to be people of conviction, not conformity; of moral nobility, not social respectability. We are commanded to live differently and according to a higher loyalty. ✨Most people, and Christians in particular, are thermometers that record or register the temperature of majority opinion, not thermostats that transform and regulate the temperature of society. ✨ Be sure that the means you employ are as pure as the end you seek
One must read this book to understand that Martin Luther King Jr. is more than the historical figure who fought and won against racial injustice and whose tragic end marked an important page in history. Just as strength to love is more and beyond the mundane romantic understanding our society generally tends to invests in the word "love". Unexpected, impressive, inspirational and a valuable lesson about life, virtues, attitude and meaning. And it all sums up to love. This book feels like the essence of the man and figure Martin Luther King Jr. Thus I very much look forward to reading his other writings.
“Science investigates, religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power, religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts, religion deals with values. The two are not rivals. They are complementary. Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralysing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.”
One of the best books I've read in a long time. Profound!
For me, he cuts to the heart of the matter in Chapter 3, Love in Action, and Chapter 4, Loving Your Enemies. He says conquering the ignorance of those who promote segregation and prejudice requires love and forgiveness. "With Jesus on the cross, we must look lovingly at our oppressors and say, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.'" "How do we love our enemies? First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive." "Returning hate for hate only multiplies hate." "There will be no permanent solution to the race problem until oppressed men develop the capacity to love their enemies." "Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist." King had a willingness to wear his oppressors down with love, not only to win a personal or collective victory, but to win them over in the process. "The Negro must convince the white man that he seeks justice for both himself and the white man."
Given all King's suffering, these words are jaw-dropping. His ideas and goals are brilliant; his challenges so convicting! As he says, the church must be actively involved, individually and collectively letting God change us, and also acting to promote justice. I want to discuss these chapters with others. As a white person, how can I help make these goals our collective reality? How do we learn to forgive each other?
Another note about the book. As I study the Bible, I see that God's first priority, from Genesis to Revelation, is to reconcile the relationship between Himself and all people, for His honor and glory. If this book is an accurate reflection of King's priorities and values, it appears that his first priority is reconciliation and equality among people across racial lines by following the character, actions and values of Jesus, which in turn brings spiritual maturity. So while I agree with his assessments and challenges, I view this topic in a different larger picture than he does.
Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a bit like quoting Jesus. You sense sometimes that the people doing it the most haven't spent a whole lot of time with his work.
If they did, they might feel either unworthy or afraid to use his words so often and out of context. There might be something damning to their belief system or point right before or after the line they choose to quote.
In this collection, Dr. King the preacher and prophet calls out for Christian engagement with a troubled world. He's sharp, wide-ranging, and his ideas are embodied in the movements for which he calls. There's something inspiring, troubling, and disturbing for everyone here. That's the nature of good Christian thought.
I grew up in a faith tradition where he is often quoted and little read. It's a shame. Given room to develop in these sermons, his words helped lead me to clearer understanding of the role of the Church in politics, the shape that white supremacy takes, the traps set for Christians working toward justice, and the particular shape that sin takes in America.
Sermons are brief, so reading this collection brought me into the company of great ideas, but it didn't develop them or show their source fully. I'm looking forward to reading and wrestling with more of Dr. King's work, both in my own studies and with my sons as they grow up.
This has to be one of my all-time favorite books. What a stalwart saint MLK Jr was, and I pick this book up again and again to be reminded what it means to love my enemy, persevere in trial, and be courageous in having a tough mind and soft heart. He has taught me to be a better Christian and laid out the sharp keenness of his mind and theology and how it encompassed his worldview, how it should shape & challenge ours, and ask us to critique whose Kingdom and whose cause we are living for. I'm grateful and so humbled.
This is a collection of 15 of Dr. King's sermons, which were originally published in 1963. I swear, almost all of them could have been written today, and they would still be just as relevant, just as applicable. Here was an amazing man with an amazing point of view, who was passionate about justice and loving towards others, and who didn't need to scream the loudest in order to make a difference. Brilliant work. I had never heard any of his sermons or speeches before, besides the "I Have a Dream" speech, so it was an honor to be able to experience more of his work.
Too often Martin Luther King is treated as if he were simply a producer of random inspirational quotes with no context. In contrast, this short book gives a selection of his sermons and short writings that reveal both the depth of his ideas and their rootedness in concrete historical struggles. They also show how politics and theology cannot be separated when it comes to the ideas and life of Martin Luther King. If you've not read King before (and especially if you're coming from a Christian perspective), this is a good place to start.
Everyone knows that Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great orator, but after reading this book of essays, sermons, and speeches it's obvious that he was an extraordinary speaker because he was an excellent writer. King's use of language is simple and straightforward, but superbly eloquent and inspirational at the same time .
"... the inseparable twin of racial injustice is economic injustice"
"We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope"