Little Faith
"... a god or ... image that can do no good?" - A Theological Reflection on Idolatry

The Strength Behind the Movement

Strength to love

As a preacher, I would say that there are two ways to know me. 

Listen to my sermons.

Watch my life.

See where they agree and forget the resume and the introductions. I am who I am at the intersection of my preaching and my living.

That is how it was with Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The Junior is important because, Daddy/Pastor Martin Luther King, Senior was such a vital part of the mix that made MLK Jr. He too, was a powerful preacher who lived what he preached.

"Strength to Love" is a book of ML Jr.'s sermons that provide us with a glimpse into the heart and mind of one of the greatest men of the twentieth century.

Martin Luther King was 39 when he died.

My oldest son is 40 at the time I write this in 2023.

39 years old.

That is all. I am always in awe of how much he did in such a short time.

It is amazing.

By that time, the whole world new his name. He was a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He had set a movement in motion that would change history.

He was already, my hero.

That sentiment has grown as I have grown older. His humanity, his motivation, his depth, his sacrifice, even his flaws have all reinforced his greatness in my mind.

I love Dr. King because of his intellect, faith, imperfections, vulnerability, sensitivity, consistency, and commitment to a cause greater than himself.

I love Dr. King as a follower of Jesus, as a fellow pastor, and as a man who struggled with the meaning of his times in the light of theological realities.

I honor Dr. King as an overcomer who believed that all unmerited suffering was redemptive.

I honor and love him because at the core of his philosophy was a rugged theology of and commitment to love.

I honor and love Dr. King because he demonstrated that peaceful  resistance to evil can be more powerful than violence or force.

He lived out that dimension of Jesus' example meeting external strength with inner strength, accepting the consequences of taking a stand, and offering one's life in the service of God and others.

We live in an era when it is respectable to honor Martin King, but everything he taught and demonstrated is up for grabs. We are drifting into the very old notion that only force can accomplish good and that the only security we can know is that of worldly power.

But that kind of power shifts, waxes, wanes, and changes hands. The strength Dr. King knew and demonstrated was the strength to love.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a human being, flawed like the rest of us, sometimes troubled, but overcoming in every attitude and action. He was playful and fun-loving and found joy in sorrow and in the work to which he had reportedly been reluctantly called.

In the end he said, "I just want to do God's will."  It was as if he saw his own death.

His dream became the dream for a generation to come after him. It was not so important for him to go to the promised land because he saw it. It became a promised land for all people.

It was all wrapped in his theology and his theology was wrapped in love.

It is a good thing that we pause today to reflect upon this great American life, this Christian life, because what he dreamed and lived has significance for all of us.

His legacy has freed many of us in ways we do not even realize.

My ancestors were never slaves to white masters or to racist public policy. But mine were slaves to the institution of slavery and the attitudes of racism, to hatred, bigotry, and perversion of the gospel of Jesus.

Martin Luther King set us free as well.


To to truly grasp King's thinking, I would read, "Strength to Love."