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"The Human Tension"

King, Martin Luther, Jr.
January 1, 1948 to December 31, 1954
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education


Text: “The good that I would I do not and the evil … ”1

Introduction—Our thinking goes back to Paul this morning.

  1. Show Paul struggle with himself in attempting to fulfill the law

  2. Show how out of this experience grew the text.
    Show how Paul's experience is a continual experience in the life of all.

    1. Quote Ovid2

    2. Quote Goethe3

    3. Quote Augustine4

    4. Quote Plato5

    5. There is, therefore, the perennial tension between what we ought to be and what we actually are.

      We are forever aware that the “isness” of our being is far from the “ought‐ness” of our highest ideals. The “isness” of our present nature is out of propotion to the eternal “oughtness” forever confronting us.6

  1. How is this tension removed

    1. Accept the fact that you are in need and that you do have an evil element in your nature. Dont try to rationalize and make it right.

    2. Without alibi and pretense lay your life before God.

    3. God will give you his grace. You will have power that you didn't know that you had. This is what Paul did and the result after Demascus was amazing. Conversion for didn't just begin on Demascus; he had been troubled about it long before.7

The God of the universe forevr stands before us knocking. Who will open the door. He is there to help you. He doesn't just stand at the door, but he knocks. If you open the door he will come in an help you release the tension.8

1. Cf. Romans 7:19.

2. King probably refers to Ovid Metamorphoses 7.20, as he does in Man's Sin and God's Grace, 1954-1960, p. 383 in this volume.

3. King probably refers to a quote by Goethe as used in Sheen's book Peace of Soul, p. 36: “Goethe regretted that God had made only one man of him when there was enough material in him for both a rogue and a gentleman.” He also made this reference in the sermon “Mastering Our Evil Selves” / “Mastering Ourselves,” 5 June 1949, p. 95 in this volume.

4. King probably refers to Augustine Confessions 8.7, as he does in “Creating the Abundant Life,” 26 September 1954, p. 190 in this volume.

5. King probably refers to Plato's analysis of the conflicted personality from Phaedrus 246a-247c, as he does in Man's Sin and God's Grace, 1954-1960, p. 383 in this volume.

6. Cf. Niebuhr, Beyond Tragedy, pp. 137-138.

7. Paul's conversion experience as recorded in Acts 9:1-22 occurred on the road to Damascus.

8. Cf. Revelation 3:20.


CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 67, The Human Tension.