Strength to Love
November 11, 2015
“Strength to Love: A Christian Principle That Challenged the Conscience of a Nation”
What do you think of when you hear the name, “Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.”? A gifted African-American preacher and orator? An African-American civil rights leader? The march Dr. King lead on Washington D.C. in August, 1963 during which he made what has become widely known as his, “I Have a Dream” speech? One of the national leaders that gave impetus to the “Civil Rights Act of 1963”? The “Nobel Peace Prize” winner? The other side of the “Martin and Malcolm X Debate”? A voice for the poor and powerless that preached non-violence that died a violent death as he lived out the principles of his convicts?
What one thinks about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may depend on a number of factors. Your living in the “United States” in which he lived. How you saw and understood life in that nation. Your views on civil and human rights. Your views on segregation and integration. Your views on justice and injustice. Your views on power and being powerless. The traditions the shaped your life and world views.
In Dr. King’s book, Letter from The Birmingham Jail, he goes directly to the heart of the matter of what others may think about him as he responds to the criticism of a group of southern white preachers. He says that what others may think about him is of little consequence. What mattered to him was how he lived out his faith in Jesus Christ and how that faith equipped and moved him to speak to the injustices of this Nation. In the foreword of Dr. King’s book, Strength to Love, Coretta Scott King, the wife of Dr. King, wrote these words pertaining to the foundation on which he stood as he challenged the evil and injustice of this nation:
“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. I believe it is because this book best explains the central element Martin Luther King, Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence: His belief in a divine, loving presence that binds all life. This belief was the force behind all of my husband’s quests to eliminate social evil…..By reaching into and beyond ourselves and tapping the transcendent moral ethic of love, we shall overcome these evils. Love, truth, and the courage to do what is right should be our own guidepost on this lifelong journey. Martin Luther King, Jr. showed us the way; he showed us the Dream-and we responded with full hearts. Martin was an optimist. I am too. I do believe that one day our strength to love shall bring the Dream to fruition and the Beloved Community to earth.”
As a Baptist preacher, teacher and theologian, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that “God is love” (I Jn. 4:16) and that love is the most powerful weapon in the Christian arsenal. (Eph. 1:6-12) He understood that if we are to walk in The Word, Way and Will of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and put “flesh” on Christian principles, we must learn to love people who hate us. (Matt. 5:43-48) He understood that the true foundation of the Christian faith declares we are to love God with all of our heart, soul and mind and love our “neighbor” as ourselves. (Matt. 22:37-40) And, even more, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood that the ultimate act of Christian love is to give one’s life while striving to advance the “kingdom of God and the Cause of Christ “in this world. (Jn. 13:12-13)
From Montgomery to Memphis, God continually challenged and strengthened Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to hold fast to his strength to love in a world of hatred, injustice, and evil. Though often tired, weary and worn with the fight of faith, Dr. King held fast to his “undying faith” that love is the only weapon that can overcome evil. Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr. said that when violence and death claimed his mortal body on April 4, 1968 his faith in the strength to love was undaunted.
As those who would follow Jesus Christ in this world, we like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. must come to know that love is the greatest weapon in our arsenal of faith. Through our faith in Jesus Christ it creates the heart of a believer “the untold strength to love God and humanity while yet in this world”. May the Lord continually trouble our hearts, that we like Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., would constantly seek His face for the strength to love others in this world until He calls us from labor to reward. Amen.
Reverend Larron D. Jackson, DMin
Ministry and Mission Coach