Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Loving Your Enemies” Sermon Was Quoted in the Royal Wedding
May 24, 2018
Millions tuned in on Saturday, May 19, to watch the royal wedding ceremony of Britain’s Prince Harry and African American actress Meghan Markle. Bishop Michael Bruce Curry of the American Episcopal Church delivered a stirring and dynamic sermon for the occasion. At the get-go, he quoted none other than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
The late Dr Martin Luther King Jr once said, and I quote: "We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world, for love is the only way."
There's power in love. Don't underestimate it. Don't even over-sentimentalize it. There's power, power in love.
The quote comes from Dr. King’s sermon “Loving Your Enemies.” Delivered at Dexter Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on November 17, 1957, “Loving Your Enemies” was one of Dr. King’s favorites. In it, he insists that loving one’s enemies could bring about conversation. Moreover, it’s the only way to become a better human being. Here’s an excerpt of it to give context of the redemptive power of love Dr. King spoke about:
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.
There is a power in love that our world has not discovered yet. Jesus discovered it centuries ago. Mahatma Gandhi of India discovered it a few years ago, but most men and most women never discover it. For they believe in hitting for hitting; they believe in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth; they believe in hating for hating; but Jesus comes to us and says, “This isn’t the way.”
And oh this morning, as I think of the fact that our world is in transition now, our whole world is facing a revolution. Our nation is facing a revolution, our nation. One of the things that concerns me most is that in the midst of the revolution of the world and the midst of the revolution of this nation, that we will discover the meaning of Jesus’ words.
History unfortunately leaves some people oppressed and some people oppressors. And there are three ways that individuals who are oppressed can deal with their oppression. One of them is to rise up against their oppressors with physical violence and corroding hatred. But oh, this isn’t the way. For the danger and the weakness of this method is its futility. Violence creates many more social problems than it solves. And I’ve said, in so many instances, that as the Negro, in particular, and colored peoples all over the world struggle for freedom, if they succumb to the temptation of using violence in their struggle, unborn generations will be the recipients of a long and desolate night of bitterness, and our chief legacy to the future will be an endless reign of meaningless chaos. Violence isn’t the way.
Another way is to acquiesce and to give in, to resign yourself to the oppression. Some people do that. They discover the difficulties of the wilderness moving into the promised land, and they would rather go back to the despots of Egypt because it’s difficult to get in the promised land. And so they resign themselves to the fate of oppression; they somehow acquiesce to this thing. But that too isn’t the way because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
But there is another way. And that is to organize mass nonviolent resistance based on the principle of love. It seems to me that this is the only way as our eyes look to the future. As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.”
From A TIME TO BREAK SILENCE. All material copyright © Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.; all material copyright renewed © Coretta Scott King and the Estate of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In our time of ongoing and heightened racial strife, the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sends a powerful message of bridging the racial divide. Seeing the cultural significance of their wedding, our author Sheryll Cashin took to Twitter that day.
As Cashin writes in her book Loving, cultural dexterity is important for fostering interracial understanding, because it’s “an enhanced capacity for intimate connections with people outside one’s own tribe, for seeing and accepting difference rather than demanding assimilation to an unspoken norm of whiteness.”
Our other author, Crystal Fleming, took to Twitter, too. She wrote about her obsession with the royal wedding in her forthcoming book How to Be Less Stupid About Race. With regard to the royal family’s white supremacist and colonialist history and Markle’s mixed-race ancestry, the royal wedding is sure to give us plenty to discuss in our “national conversation about race.”
Indeed, the royal wedding will be a cultural touchstone for the ages. It will stand out as an example of redemptive power of love can be an act of nonviolent resistance of oppression and “make of this old world a new world.”