Sunday, November 17, 1957, the young Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., stepped into the pulpit at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Ala., to deliver one of his most profound sermons, ever. The sermon, entitled, “Love Your Enemies,” taken from Matthew 5, not only presented a Biblical definition of love, and God’s commandment to have this love toward all men. It also outlined the philosophy of Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement from that day forward.
The Civil Rights Movement had just secured a major victory after the Supreme Court ruled that Montgomery’s ordinances segregating the bus lines were unconstitutional. In the aftermath of that victory, Dr. King saw that his method of non-violent resistance and civil disobedience to the Jim Crow laws of the South could secure more freedoms for his people, and put an end to racial segregation.
However, Dr. King also realized that while those political, legislative and judicial victories could put an end to institutional racial discrimination, they could never put an end to racism, or heal the wounds left from America’s racial strife. Dr. King understood that for there to be true peace and equality, America had to be redeemed from its past, not defeated because of it.
Therefore, love became central to Dr. King’s message. In His sermon, “Love Your Enemies,” Dr. King said that God commanded us to love our enemies, not only because God is love, because God loves them, and He wants to redeem them, but because love itself has a redemptive quality.
“Love has within it, a redemptive power,” Dr. King stated. “And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals.
“That’s why Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies,'” he continued, “Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and transform them.”
Dr. King went on to say that at the root of love is the power of redemption.
This concept is not only a philosophy put forth by Dr. King. It was stated by Jesus Christ Himself in Luke 6:35-36:
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
This love that God had toward us motivated Him to give His only begotten Son for our salvation (John 3:16). The love God had toward us redeemed us. We can extend that same redeeming love to others, and in doing so, we can see others transformed by the power of the Gospel into the people God created them to be.
Today, America is divided. Political discourse has grown harsh, cold, and even leads to physical violence. With each passing day, our society becomes more about us vs. them than it is about E pluribus unim.
With more sin and evil being propagated in our society, and more rancid division arising daily, it becomes easy to look at those on the other side as enemies, and work to defeat them. This runs contrary to scripture.
While scripture teaches us to hate sin and to hate evil, we are also commanded to love the sinner. While “love the sinner but hate the sin” seems to be a modern cliche, we are taught by the Word that if we love the sinner, we can see him redeemed from the sin. Isn’t that the goal that all believers should have toward non-believers?
So, as we move toward 2018, let’s make an effort to see people as God sees them. Let’s love people, and see the redemptive power of love come alive.
–Leland Acker is the pastor of Life Point Baptist Church. Life Point meets for Sunday School at 10 a.m., Morning Worship at 11 a.m. Services are held at the Early Chamber of Commerce building at 104 E. Industrial in Early. This week, Bro. Waymon Childress will bring the morning message.