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Love Your Enemies

January 15, 2011

Happy birthday Martin Luther King, Jr.

On this day, January 15, in 1929 Martin Luther King, Jr was born Michael King, Jr.  He was named after his father.  In 1934 the family traveled to Germany and visited the places where Martin Luther, the German reformer lived.  So impressed with Martin Luther was the elder King that he changed his name and consequently his son’s from Michael King to Martin Luther King.  Good move :).

On Monday, January 17, the nation will celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and remember many of his memorable speeches, writings, and discuss the impact of his life.  Today, as I reflect upon him, I am drawn back to my childhood and remember many hours of listening to Dr. King’s more famous speeches and having to recite large sections of them on special occasions.  Even today I find myself every now and then in a quiet reflective moment rehearsing The Drum Major Instinct or I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.

Someone once asked me if I considered Martin Luther King, Jr one of my heroes.  I responded by saying not a hero in the sense of wanting to emulate him.  I don’t desire to be a preacher in the vain of King.  However, I consider him a hero in admiration of the sacrifices he made to make life better for me and all Americans.  I consider him as important an American as our country has ever produced.  I would consider him a hero like I would consider Abraham Lincoln or even George Washington.

When I examine Dr. King’s preaching I would not call him a biblical preacher.  His sermons don’t carry the force of Scripture behind them as much as they carry the force of logic and even love.  He was a humanistic preacher.  He preached with the goal of humanity’s good in mind.  It was this preaching that inspired men and women, boys and girls to take up the cause of bettering our country, even at the risk of their own lives.

People will judge Dr. King for not being more expository (as they define exposition) in his preaching; and I can agree with them, so far as their definition is concerned.  However, I don’t judge Dr. King on his ability to exposit a text.  Though I would not choose to preach in his manner, I can nonetheless appreciate and even feed upon the thought-provoking, heart-analyzing way he prophetically spoke to his and even our generation.

For example, in a sermon from Matt. 5:43-45 entitled Love Your Enemies, Dr. King wrote:

“We should be happy that he [Jesus] did not say, “Like your enemies.”  It is almost impossible to like some people.  “Like” is a sentimental and affectionate word.  How can we be affectionate toward a person whose avowed aim is to crush our very being and place innumerable stumbling blocks in our path?  How can we like a person who is threatening our children and bombing our homes?  This is impossible.  But Jesus recognized that love is greater than like.  When Jesus bids us to love our enemies he is speaking neither of eros nor philia; he is speaking of agape, understanding and creative, redemptive goodwill for all men.  Only by following this way and responding with this type of love are we able to be children of our Father who is in heaven.”

Today, I am still thinking about the implications of these words.  And the life of Dr. King.  How about you?

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