“To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour to beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process and our victory will be a double victory.'”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
(From his sermon, “Loving Your Enemies,” preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, Christmas 1957).
That, my friends is how you change the world.
Of course, you may have to lay down your life to do it. Perhaps this is why Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” The way in which Dr. King would address his enemies continues to blow my mind. It’s nothing less than a call to live the Sermon on the Mount.
In a recent interview my favorite theologian, Stanley Hauerwas, was asked:
Why are you considered so controversial?
“Because I tell Christians that they ought to do what they say. They ought to forgive their enemies. There isn’t an asterisk in the Sermon on the Mount that says, ‘Unless they are Arabs.'”
Martin Luther King realized this. And guess what? It changed the world. So don’t tell me the Sermon on the Mount isn’t practical.
But the way of love takes more patience than the way of violence. The reality is that violence doesn’t change the world, it just recycles the sin.
Martin Luther King had the courage to change the world because he believed that Jesus actually meant what he said.
Happy MLK Day!