The selection for this week’s Urban Engagement Book Club (sponsored by CitySquare) was the classic book of sermons by Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love. First published in 1963, there are some devotees of Dr. King’s work that call this his most important book.
Here’s what Coretta Scott King wrote in her foreword:
If there is one book Martin Luther King Jr. has written that people consistently tell me has changed their lives, it is Strength to Love. I believe it is because this book best explains the central element of Martin Luther King Jr.’s philosophy of nonviolence; his belief in the divine, loving presence that binds all life.
It’s pretty tough to provide a synopsis of a book of sermons. Each sermon truly does stand alone.
Did I have a favorite sermon from the book? Maybe Transformed Nonconformist (Be not conformed to this world; but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2). Here are a couple of short excerpts from this sermon:
The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood… In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!
Someone has said, “I love reforms but I hate reformers.”
I confess that I never intend to become adjusted to the evils of segregation and the crippling effect of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive men of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence… Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
After I read the entire book, I came away with these lessons and takeaways:
#1 – Some of the struggles are not the same (Communism; legal segregation); some are every much the same (prejudice; discrimination; the threat of war, the absence of peace).
#2 – Dr. King states very clearly: have faith in the goodness and the ultimate power of God; but always be working hard for justice.
#3 – Evil is real, and ever-present. The struggle is always ongoing. (Remember this line from his speech in Selma — “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”).
#4 – We have to be intelligent. And, this book, these sermons, were written by a man who took intelligence seriously.
#5 – Always be on the lookout for evil, from within, and without. Be strong. Pursue justice.
This classic book is definitely worth reading. It helps deepen our understanding of what drove Dr. King is his quest for justice.