January 15, 2011
“So I want to turn your attention to this subject: ‘Loving Your Enemies.’ It’s so basic to me because it is a part of my basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. In the fifth chapter of the gospel as recorded by Saint Matthew, we read these very arresting words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: ‘Ye have heard that it has been said, ‘Thou shall love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.’ But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.’” ('Love Your Enemies'-sermon delivered November 17, 1957.)
Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s words still echo in our minds as we remember a courageous man who refused to be silent about inequality, injustice, and oppression. Born on January 15, 1929, Dr. King is widely hailed and respected for being a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, and for his advancement of civil rights throughout the world. He died a tragic death from an assassin’s bullet on April 4, 1968 at only the age of 39.
Despite his political movements and his cry for equality, it was King’s faith that led him to action. King was raised in the Baptist faith and would eventually co-pastor Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father, Martin Luther King Sr. Throughout his speeches and writings, he would draw frequently from his experience as a minister and his beliefs from the Bible. King was a theologian—having concentrated on Doctoral Studies in Systematic Theology and received his Doctor of Philosophy on June 5, 1955 from Boston University. The preeminence of Christ could not allow him to stay silent about inequality within the human race.
King would later become the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization founded by a group of black religious leaders. King was committed to non-violent protest, which stemmed from the words that Jesus spoke that we ought to love our enemies. His non-violent tactics led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott which would spark the flame that ignited the United States Supreme Court to outlaw segregation in all public transportation.
Without King’s belief in Christ and faith, it is safe to say that there would have been no civil rights movement. King spoke of equality because he believed in a God who commanded to love your neighbor as yourself. His spirituality was his driving force and he adhered to Christ’s words when he said that Christians must be a light in the darkness.
King’s faith led him to fight. It led him to speak for the oppressed and it is his certainty that all men are created as equal, a distinctive of Baptist belief, which has influenced countless human rights movements throughout the world. He was first and foremost a man who loved God and clung to His commandments and from that stemmed King’s view of the world.
Before he was titled Dr. King, before he led any political movement, he was first a reverend and a man of God. That is where he drew his strength and without his faith, there would have been no movement. In the following passage, taken from one of King’s sermons, he emphasizes his belief that it is only when man recognizes his dependence on God that he can make a difference.
“Finally, this man was a fool because he failed to realize his dependence on God. (Yeah) Do you know that man talked like he regulated the seasons? That man talked like he gave the rain to grapple with the fertility of the soil. (Yes) That man talked like he provided the dew. He was a fool because he ended up acting like he was the Creator, (Yes) instead of a creature. (Amen)
And this man-centered foolishness is still alive today. In fact, it has gotten to the point today that some are even saying that God is dead. The thing that bothers me about it is that they didn’t give me full information, because at least I would have wanted to attend God’s funeral. And today I want to ask, who was the coroner that pronounced him dead? I want to raise a question, how long had he been sick? I want to know whether he had a heart attack or died of chronic cancer. These questions haven’t been answered for me, and I’m going on believing and knowing that God is alive. You see, as long as love is around, God is alive. As long as justice is around, God is alive. There are certain conceptions of God that needed to die, but not God. You see, God is the supreme noun of life; he’s not an adjective. He is the supreme subject of life; he’s not a verb. He’s the supreme independent clause; he’s not a dependent clause. Everything else is dependent on him, but he is dependent on nothing.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool,” delivered 27 August 1967 at the Mount Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church (Chicago, IL) http://mlkkpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/documentsentry/doc_why_jesus_called_a_man_a_fool/
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By: Vicky Kaniaru