This last Monday, this country celebrated–to the extent that it celebrates any federal holiday–Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. In honor of the occasion, the New York Times ran an interesting essay by Sarah Vowell that I couldn’t help but agree with.
Here’s what Dr. King got out of the Sermon on the Mount. On Nov. 17, 1957, in Montgomery’s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he concluded the learned discourse that came to be known as the “loving your enemies” sermon this way: “So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all of my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you: ‘I love you. I would rather die than hate you.’ ”
Go ahead and re-read that. That is hands down the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical thing a human being can say. And it comes from reading the most beautiful, strange, impossible, but most of all radical civics lesson ever taught, when Jesus of Nazareth went to a hill in Galilee and told his disciples, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.”
The Bible is a big long book and Lord knows within its many mansions of eccentricity finding justification for literal and figurative witch hunts is as simple as pretending “enhanced investigation technique” is not a synonym for torture. I happen to be with Dr. King in proclaiming the Sermon on the Mount’s call for love to be at the heart of Christian behavior, and one of us got a Ph.D in systematic theology.
2 responses to “OPW: ‘Radical Love Gets A Holiday’”
i very much agree. that is probably one of the top three most important passages that would make the world a better place. if you do that, you automatically mimic what the bible said is god’s love for us, which is unconditional, and quite literally, the willingness to die in face of the sins of others. the question for me would be, though … would i give my son for that? i can honestly answer “no.” but of course what does all that christian “son of man” mean? maybe not literally what we think it means. but then i don’t really know.
This is a great post!
Thanks so much!