By Vincent L. Hall
Strength to Love debuted in 1963 as a book of sermons, principally centered on the topic of segregation. Its author was the social justice activists’ mentor; the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It went past separation of the races and juxtaposed what love would look like, if fully integrated.
Pastor Stephen Bedard is the pastor of Queen Street Baptist Church in St. Catharines, Ontario, and I hate to mention it, but he is a White brother. Bedard snapshots his love for King’s book in a few persuasive paragraphs.
“His sermons are intellectually satisfying. He often quotes philosophers, historical figures, and classic authors. He is very thoughtful in putting together his arguments.
“Although I have always known King was a preacher, he is often portrayed as more of a social activist. I got the impression from popular sources that he used the Bible just to illustrate the need for social change.
However, in these sermons, he preaches Christ. He makes it clear that it is only by the power of God that anything will get done. In some of his sermons, he reveals how his faith in Christ got him through difficult times.”
After recalling reading this blog post a few years ago, I attached it to the recent trial of Amber Guyger.
I have never mentioned the name of her victim in a column. I never will…It hurts too much. My then-14-year-old daughter and I live one block across the street from the incident. I witnessed the sudden loss of the last moments of her childhood innocence. I can’t say his name.
Dr. King makes any of his critical thinking readers shudder. His non-violent resistance revolution was always meant to be bloodless. Nevertheless, the truth, when applied with the power of believed scripture, cuts like a two-edged sword. King was never brutal or barbaric; the truth just seems that way when you are on the opposite side of it.
“One day we will learn that the heart can never be totally right when the head is totally wrong.” Even in the simplest terms, King causes the rational among us to think introspectively. In 20 words or less, King implies that all of us must ask ourselves that needling but necessary question; “Am I wrong?”
Once you take a position, King advances that you must follow right to its fullest course. A half-right is wrong. King realized that Christians are generally more subject to this malady than all others.
“One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying. A persistent schizophrenia leaves so many of us tragically divided against ourselves. On the one hand, we proudly profess certain sublime and noble principles, but on the other hand, we sadly practice the very antithesis of these principles.”
How often are our lives characterized by a high blood pressure of creeds and an anemia of deeds!
We talk eloquently about our commitment to the principles of Christianity, and yet our lives are saturated with the practices of paganism. We proclaim our devotion to democracy, but we sadly practice the very opposite of the democratic creed. We talk passionately about peace, and at the same time we assiduously prepare for war.
We make our fervent pleas for the high road of justice, and then we tread unflinchingly the low road of injustice. This strange dichotomy, this agonizing gulf between the ought and the is, represents the tragic theme of man’s earthly pilgrimage.”
Recently, this nation was presented with the most moving example of “the ought” and “the is.” It happened in a courtroom of all places, and a young man, rooted in the spirit that King lived and died in, defied his agony and embraced the executioner of his much-beloved sibling.
I realize that all of us are conflicted in our emotions, but the embrace he offered was the Christ-like thing to do. We were all in tears, but Dr. King must have looked down from Heaven to see that not all of his work was in vain. There continues to be some among us who possess the “Strength to Love.”
Blessed are they!