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A Gift of Love
Cover of A Gift of Love
A Gift of Love
Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings
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The classic collection of sixteen sermons preached and compiled by Dr. King
 
As Dr. King prepared for the Birmingham campaign in early 1963, he drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his best-known homilies. King had begun working on the sermons during a fortnight in jail in July 1962. Having been arrested for holding a prayer vigil outside Albany City Hall, King and Ralph Abernathy shared a jail cell for fifteen days that was, according to King, ‘‘dirty, filthy, and ill-equipped’’ and “the worse I have ever seen.” While behind bars, he spent uninterrupted time preparing the drafts for classic sermons such as “Loving Your Enemies,” “Love in Action,” and “Shattered Dreams,” and continued to work on the volume after his release.
 
A Gift of Love includes these classic sermons, along with two new preachings. Collectively they present King’s fusion of Christian teachings and social consciousness, and promote his prescient vision of love as a social and political force for change.
The classic collection of sixteen sermons preached and compiled by Dr. King
 
As Dr. King prepared for the Birmingham campaign in early 1963, he drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his best-known homilies. King had begun working on the sermons during a fortnight in jail in July 1962. Having been arrested for holding a prayer vigil outside Albany City Hall, King and Ralph Abernathy shared a jail cell for fifteen days that was, according to King, ‘‘dirty, filthy, and ill-equipped’’ and “the worse I have ever seen.” While behind bars, he spent uninterrupted time preparing the drafts for classic sermons such as “Loving Your Enemies,” “Love in Action,” and “Shattered Dreams,” and continued to work on the volume after his release.
 
A Gift of Love includes these classic sermons, along with two new preachings. Collectively they present King’s fusion of Christian teachings and social consciousness, and promote his prescient vision of love as a social and political force for change.
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  • From Chapter 5 From Chapter 5

    Loving Your Enemies
     

    Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt 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 which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be children
    of your Father which is in heaven. 
    Matthew 5:4345
     
    Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more difficult to follow than the command to “love your enemies.” Some men have sincerely felt that its actual practice is not possible. It is easy, they say, to love those who love you, but how can one love those who openly and insidiously seek to defeat you? Others, like the philosopher Nietzsche, contend that Jesus’ exhortation to love one’s enemies is testimony to the fact that the Christian ethic is designed for the weak and cowardly, and not for the strong and courageous. Jesus, they say, was an impractical idealist.

    In spite of these insistent questions and persistent objections, this command of Jesus challenges us with new urgency. Upheaval after upheaval has reminded us that modern man is traveling along a road called hate, in a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love one’s enemy is an absolute necessity for our survival. Love even for enemies is the key to the solution of the problems of our world. Jesus is not an impractical idealist: he is the practical realist.

    I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy. He never joined the ranks of those who talk glibly about the easiness of the moral life. He realized that every genuine expression of love grows out of a consistent and total surrender to God. So when Jesus said “Love your enemy,” he was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet he meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.
     
    Let us be practical and ask the question, How do we love our enemies?
    First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is de- void of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one’s enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us. It is also necessary to realize that the forgiving act must always be initiated by the person who has been wronged, the victim of some great hurt, the recipient of some tortuous injustice, the absorber of some terrible act of oppression. The wrongdoer may request forgiveness. He may come to himself, and, like the prodigal son, move up some dusty road, his heart palpitating with the de- sire for forgiveness. But only the injured neighbor, the loving father back home, can really pour out the warm waters of forgiveness.

    Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relation- ship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the cancelling of a debt. The words “I will forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you’ve done” never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally from his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that...

About the Author-
  • The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929–1968), Nobel Peace Prize laureate and architect of the nonviolent civil rights movement, was among the twentieth century's most influential figures. In 1954, Dr. King became pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, and in 1960, he joined his father as copastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. One of the greatest orators in U.S. history, King was the author of several books, including Stride Toward Freedom, The Trumpet of Conscience, Why We Can't Wait, and Where Do We Go from Here.

    Coretta Scott King (1927–2006), the wife of Martin Luther King, Jr., was an author and a human rights activist. She helped lead the civil rights movement after King's assassination, carrying the message of nonviolence and the dream of a beloved community to many countries and spearheading civil rights coalitions and foundations.

    The Reverend Dr. Raphael G. Warnock is senior pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the spiritual home of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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    Beacon Press
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Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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