Strive to Love Our Enemies

In honor of our great spiritual teacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr….

“The strong person is the person who can cut off the chain of hate…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.”

“Loving Your Enemies” Nov. 17, 1957

This quote and teaching feels particularly pertinent in light of the volatile times in which we live.  Here we learn how to combat hatred…without hating.  Here, Dr. King challenges us to transform such hatred by cultivating that strong and powerful element of love…within.

Indeed, it is only through the lens of unconditional love that we have any possibility of separating out deed from doer – that we have any possibility of rising up to confront an evil, hateful deed without becoming, ourselves, the very mirror of that which we hate.  It is only through the lens of unconditional love that we have any possibility of beginning to extend love to our enemies.

But, how to begin?  Dr. King tells us in “Loving Your Enemies”, “Now first let us deal with this question, which is a practical one:  How do we go about loving your enemies?  I think the first thing is this:  In order to love your enemies, you must begin by analyzing self.  And I’m sure that seems strange to you, that I start out telling you this morning that you love your enemies by beginning with a look at self.”

But, something very sweet happens when we begin to explore the possibility of unconditional love within ourselves.  I discover that I cannot love you without feeling that love myself – and I cannot hate you without feeling that hate myself.  It’s just not possible.

This is why Dr. King reminded us, “There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater.” 

And, it is exactly this hate that keeps us caught in re-action to one another instead of being able to act clearly to bring about justice for all.

In the early 1980s I witnessed how one person, in just a few minutes, rejected such re-action and, instead, injected this powerful element of love into a very volatile situation.  This story, which I tell in my book An Ordinary Life Transformed: Lessons for Everyone from the Bhagavad Gita, happened, surprisingly, on a TV talk show.

On this particular day, the audience was filled with African Americans and, on stage, were people representing various white supremacy groups.  The atmosphere was very volatile, with a lot of shouting back and forth.  It seemed everyone was feeding on the frenzy.  Then, a guest, a white man, was introduced.  He had written a book about how a black man had taught him to love and how the experience had changed him.  As a result, he had been able to give up his membership in a hate group.

I don’t remember a word the man said.  What I have never forgotten was the silence that fell over the audience as he spoke.  All the shouting and the frenzy stopped.  The mood shifted.  Then, after a break for commercials, the show returned, the man was gone and the frenzy resumed.

The guest did not seek to defeat the white supremacists.  Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he sought to demonstrate a different way…the way to that strong and powerful element of love. 

But, this quality of unconditional love is not for the weak minded.  As Dr. King said, “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.”

May we, in our daily lives, search our own hearts to stand for the Beloved in all.

May we become the peace that passes all understanding.

May we, as did Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., live the Truth that sets us…free…free at last.


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4 responses to “Strive to Love Our Enemies

  1. nan scull

    Love makes the world go round so be that love with every turn. namaste, nan scull

  2. Ginny Jackson

    Enjoyed this a lot Stephanie. Thank you for expressing this so clearly. Ginny

  3. Thank you Reverend Stephanie for continuing to spread the Love. Especially moving is Dr Kings message, “…love is not this sentamental something that we talk. It’s not merely an emotionally something.” Truly to love our enemy is not part of this world of ego, it is of the Kingdom; it is truly Love, and a Key to Heaven on Earth, as you and Dr King have so beautifully illuminated. Blessed be!

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