Fifty years ago, an assassin’s bullet took the life of the greatest civil rights leader of our lifetime, Martin Luther King. Looking at MLK 50 years later, we see his message more clearly, we hear his words more distinctly, and we wish for the civility in discord that he portrayed.
Today we are polarized by opposing factions that spread lies and do everything they can to split our great nation. But when I look back on King’s words, I don’t hear hate. Passion, yes. Did he fight the establishment? No doubt. But his message was one of love, not hate.
Servant the leadership, the type of leadership that I espouse and strive to exhibit in my life, is one that has to be rooted in love. A servant heart cannot survive without love.
King noted that love is integral to leadership. That power and love are completely intertwined:
“One of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power, and power with a denial of love . . . What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love, implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.”
One writer noted that King’s ministry was formed by the way of love. In his words, “I would recommend to you a way of love. I still believe that love is the most durable power in all the world.” Love is a power, power at its purest, but as such, it is a power that runs contrary to the powers and principalities of the world. It is, as we have seen, power that is only known in our weakness.
The opposite of love is hate. And King also makes it clear what hate does to us:
Hate is a cancerous disease which distorts the personality and scars the soul. To return hate for hate only intensifies the existence of hate in the universe. Hate seeks to annihilate rather than convert. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. We must learn that it is possible to stand up courageously and positively against an evil system and yet not resist it with physical weapons and inner feelings of hatred.
I hope we never give up on the goal of having a unified world based on love. It seems like, in some ways, we are more divided than ever. But I see so much good in so many people. I cannot help but believe that MLK’s dream is still alive and well in the hearts and minds of many.
Let me just close by reminding you of the words from Romans 12:17-21.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.