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Martin Luther King Jr. On ‘Loving Your Enemies’

On November 17, 1957 Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a message at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama.   

King’s voice is strong and passionate in the recording and belies the fact that he was sick. His doctor had told him to stay at home in bed but King refused, insisting that he preach.

The civil rights leader used Matthew 5 as the text for his message titled “Love Your Enemies.”  It’s a message that he said he preached once a year adding new insights that corresponded with his experiences.  

He said the passage is part of his basic philosophical and theological orientation—the whole idea of love, the whole philosophy of love. He read from verses 43 through 45,

“Ye have heard that it has 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 that despitefully use you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”

King emphasized that “hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe.”  He said he believed “the strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love.”

King said Christ’s death on a cross was not meaningless but a reminder to a generation drunk on power, war and violence that “love is the creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.”

King told the churchgoers that he loved them and would rather die than hate them. He was also convinced that love could transform even the most wicked man to feel the same way.

It was a common theme that month for King who also delivered his “Love Your Enemies” message at At Howard University’s Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel in Washington, D.C. during the convocation of the School of Religion.

In this video, we also hear his closing prayer as King calls on God to help him and those who are listening to love their fellow man.