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    Martin Luther King Jr. statue

    Love Your Enemies

    Jesus’ words can’t be dismissed as an exaggeration. So how exactly should we follow them?

    By Martin Luther King Jr.

    January 15, 2023

    Available languages: עברית

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    • Ethan Anderson

      Powerful and timeless.

    • DFR

      I believe this principle applies on a more even playing field. Even the use of the word "mistreating" shows a fundamental ignorance of what's happening to my community. I am a transgender woman. My enemies are so-called "christians." There is a huge chunk of them that are actively working to not "mistreat", but EXTERMINATE us. Do trans people want to exterminate christians? Certainly not! We simply want to live in a world where we have the same fundamental human rights and privileges as everybody else enjoys. Meanwhile, every day we are greeted with shiny, new legislation designed to eliminate us from society. Families are being investigate on outrageous claims of child abuse(!) because their children are going through the torturous trial of dysphoria and they are helping them to sort this monstrous situation out. I live every day watching over my shoulder. I am constantly "situationally aware" of my surroundings. The stress that creates is exhausting and humiliating. When you ask these "christians" why are they hurting us, they have the nerve to claim they are "loving" us. They say they're simply trying to show us we are broken and have to change to enjoy God's love. They claim to speak for God. Their "love" is worse than any hatred on any individual. To call that "love" is a profound evil. So, NO. I will not "love" anyone who is trying to exterminate me or my community. They have declared war on one of, if not THE most misunderstood and vulnerable groups of human beings alive today. Sometimes war is necessary. Self-defense is one of them. Their actions in no way falls into the category of "mistreatment." It is outright elimination. Their WAR against us will be met with resistance. Again- we simply want to live in peace. We don't want to exterminate anyone. We want equality. We want REAL LOVE, not some perverse, twisted definition of it. Just remember- they started it.

    • grazia villani

      THANK YOU, thank you, thank you!!!

    • Cornelius Taylor, Jr.

      Powerful and true.

    • Jezmond

      Strong words like these remind me that the only real power we experience is acknowledging Gods universal dominion.

    • Nicole Solomon

      This message cannot get out to enough of us!!! It is so important and such a reminder to the call that Martin Luther King, Jr. had for everyone--to forgive and love one's enemies. Every article and book you send is a reminder to seek first for God's Kingdom and His Righteousness--and we are so grateful for everything that we read from you! I really appreciate that you have eBooks for those of us who cannot afford to buy them all--each book is a real treasure!

    You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:43–45

    Certainly these are great words, words lifted to cosmic proportions. And over the centuries, many persons have argued that this is an extremely difficult command. Many would go so far as to say that it just isn’t possible to move out into the actual practice of this glorious command. They would go on to say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist who never quite came down to earth. So the arguments abound. But far from being an impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist. The words of this text glitter in our eyes with a new urgency. Far from being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Yes, it is love that will save our world and our civilization, love even for enemies.

    Now let me hasten to say that Jesus was very serious when he gave this command; he wasn’t playing. He realized that it’s hard to love your enemies. He realized that it’s difficult to love those persons who seek to defeat you, those persons who say evil things about you. He realized that it was painfully hard, pressingly hard. But he wasn’t playing. And we cannot dismiss this passage as just another example of Oriental hyperbole, just a sort of exaggeration to get over the point. This is a basic philosophy of all that we hear coming from the lips of our Master. Because Jesus wasn’t playing; because he was serious. We have the Christian and moral responsibility to seek to discover the meaning of these words, and to discover how we can live out this command, and why we should live by this command.…

    statue of Martin Luther King Jr.

    Photograph by Raffaele Nicolussi

    Within the best of us, there is some evil, and within the worst of us, there is some good. When we come to see this, we take a different attitude toward individuals. The person who hates you most has some good in him; even the nation that hates you most has some good in it; even the race that hates you most has some good in it. And when you come to the point that you look in the face of every man and see deep down within him what religion calls “the image of God,” you begin to love him in spite of – no matter what he does, you see God’s image there. There is an element of goodness that he can never slough off. Discover the element of good in your enemy. And as you seek to hate him, find the center of goodness and place your attention there and you will take a new attitude.

    Another way that you love your enemy is this: When the opportunity presents itself for you to defeat your enemy, that is the time which you must not do it. There will come a time, in many instances, when the person who hates you most, the person who has misused you most, the person who has gossiped about you most, the person who has spread false rumors about you most, there will come a time when you will have an opportunity to defeat that person. It might be in terms of a recommendation for a job; it might be in terms of helping that person to make some move in life. That’s the time you must do it. That is the meaning of love. In the final analysis, love is not this sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely an emotional something. Love is creative, understanding goodwill for all men. It is the refusal to defeat any individual. When you rise to the level of love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system….

    If your neighbor is doing wrong to you, just keep loving them, and by the power of your love they will break down under the load.

    The first reason that we should love our enemies, and I think this was at the very center of Jesus’ thinking, is this: that hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. If I hit you and you hit me and I hit you back and you hit me back and go on, you see, that goes on ad infinitum. It just never ends. Somewhere somebody must have a little sense, and that’s the strong person. The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate, the chain of evil. And that is the tragedy of hate, that it doesn’t cut it off. It only intensifies the existence of hate and evil in the universe. Somebody must have religion enough and morality enough to cut it off and inject within the very structure of the universe that strong and powerful element of love….

    There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case…. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

    Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because if you hate your enemies, you have no way to redeem and to transform your enemies. But if you love your enemies, you will discover that at the very root of love is the power of redemption. You just keep loving people and keep loving them, even though they’re mistreating you. Here’s the person who is a neighbor, and this person is doing something wrong to you and all of that. Just keep being friendly to that person. Keep loving them. Don’t do anything to embarrass them. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with bitterness because they’re mad because you love them like that. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.


    Source: From a sermon, November 17, 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama. Excerpted from Following the Call, reprinted from A Knock At Midnight, ed. Clayborne Carson and Peter Holloran (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 1998), 37-57, by arrangement with The Heirs to the Estate of Martin Luther King Jr., c/o Writers House as agent for the proprietor New York, NY. Copyright © 1963 by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Renewed © 1991 by Coretta Scott King.

    Contributed By MartinLutherKingJr Martin Luther King Jr.

    Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) was a Baptist minister and activist.

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