Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On Loving Your Enemies

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. While the nation will commemorate it next Monday with the official national holiday, actually he was born on this day in 1929. I was raised on the speeches of King and learned many of them verbatim from my early childhood. I have read much of his writings and have found them inspiring at many levels. My favorite book from King is Strength to Love. It is a small collection of some of his sermons and speeches on moral authority and Christ-like social actions. Today I want to share an interesting quote from the sermon Loving Your Enemies taken from the text of Matthew 5:43-45. Consider these words from Dr. King:

Now we can see what Jesus meant when he said, "Love your enemies." We should be happy that he 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 immeasurable 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.

After all these years, I am still wondering if he is right. What do you think?


Marlon said...

By just imagining hearing Dr. King, in his captivating voice, speak those words, it "sounds" right. However, I think he was wrong. I think his statement, "But Jesus recognized that love is greater than like," actually helps to address the issue. The greater includes the lesser. The issue seems to be that Jesus is calling us to do that which is impossible with man but possible with God. So in response to his very appropriate questions, I say, we can't, but the Christ in us can ("it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.") (Gal 2:20)

Ebony Puritan said...

Well put marlon!!!

Lionel Woods said...

I think I agree with brother Marlon. Brother Tony. The times I struggle with Agape I don't look within myself nor do i think Christ is referring to Good works, but that He is calling us to something outside of ourselves and that something is a someone namely the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Without Him it is impossible to have biblical love. I guess the only question is how is that flushed out as it relates to your enemy or neighbor?

Rodney in PA said...

I agree with MLK, Love is greater than Like, i can love u without liking u.
I agree that the greater Love that allows u to love your enemies comes from the Holy Spirit, But that kind of love is not based on how u feel, It is based on what Christ has done and His ultimate purpose for u and the enemy u are to love.

Skully said...

How is that we encounter wrong-doing, idolatry, pride, and sinfulness daily and still entertain the notion of loving our enemies? Because in spite of the flaw we see in our neighbor, we (who understand the nature of Christ's sacrifice, and the grace afforded us) can clearly see the flaw in ourselves. Our worst enemy is our lives in the presence of a holy God. Only those who recognize our debt to Christ can appreciate the words of MLK, and of Scripture!