Excerpts from Strength to Love | Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By JoAnn Flett |Director at CFB
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. [MLK] Day offers us a time to celebrate his life and reflect on his legacy of justice and love. Our SPU community gathered in chapel and our celebrations and reflections were shaped by his book, Strength to Love. I can think of no better way to reflect on his legacy than to use Dr. King’s own’s words.
In the foreword of Strength to Love, Coretta Scott King observed, “If MLK, Jr. was an apostle of love, he was no less and apostle of action… I do believe that our strength to love shall bring the Dream to fruition and the Beloved Community to earth.”
In the first chapter, A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart, we receive a call to love and action. Dr. King wrote, “The shape of our world today does not permit us the luxury of soft mindedness. A nation or a civilization that continues to produce soft-minded men purchases its own spiritual death on an installment plan. But we must not stop with the cultivation of a tough mind. The gospel also demands a tender heart. Tough mindedness without tenderheartedness is cold and detached, leaving one’s life in a perpetual winter devoid of the warmth of spring and the gentle heat of summer… We must combine strongly marked antitheses.” (pp. 5-6).
In the third chapter, On Being a Good Neighbor, he observed, “True neighborliness requires personal concern. The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position, his prestige, and even his life for the welfare of others. In dangerous valleys and hazardous pathways, he will lift some bruised and beaten brother to a higher and more noble life” (pp. 26-27).
In the fourteenth chapter, Paul’s Letter to American Christians, “You travel distances in a single day that in my generation required three months. That is wonderful. What tremendous strides in the areas of scientific and technological development you have made! But, America, I wonder whether your moral and spiritual progress has been commensurate with your scientific progress…You may have the gift of scientific prediction and understand behavior of molecules, you may break into the storehouse of nature and bring forth many new insights, you may ascend to the heights of academic achievement, so that you have all knowledge, and you may boast of your great institutions of learning and the boundless extent of your degrees; but, devoid of love, all of these things mean absolutely nothing.” (pp. 146, 152).
These words offer us a moment to reflect upon important concepts like love, compassion, care and justice. I pray that these concepts will move us into active love for our neighbors.
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