Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

"Loving Your Enemies"

Main content start

Author: King, Martin Luther, Jr.

Date: August 31, 1952?

Location: Atlanta, Ga.?

Genre: Sermon

Topic: Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


In this handwritten outline, the earliest known version of this oft-given sermon, King invokes Jesus' call for people to love their enemies as a solution to the problems facing modern society.1 He contends that Jesus's teaching was not “the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer.” King continues, “This command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Love is the key to the solution of the world’s problem, yes even love for enemies.”

  1. Int. In the 5th Chapter of Matthew's gosple verses 42 and 3 we find these pressing words flowing from the lips of our Lord and Master: “ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”2
    1. Historical setting

      In the midst of this Jesus comes out with a new and revolutionary idea. He says in substance love not only your neighbors and friends, but love even your enemies

      1. Hebrew idea of tooth for tooth3
      2. Tribal God idea
      3. Love was binding only in the tribe.
    2. Man's reaction to this command

      Yet far from being the impractical idealist, Jesus has become the practical realist and the words of our text glitter in our eyes with a new pertinance. Instead of being the pious injunction of a utopian dreamer, this command is an absolute necessity for the survival of our civilization. Love is the key to the solution of the world's problem, yes even love for enemies.

      1. Over the years men have looked upon this command as an impractical ideal. Many people are convinced that it just isn't possible Many would say that this is just additional proof that Jesus was an impractical idealist of yesterday who never quite came down to earth.
  2. The inevitability of enemies [strikeout illegibleall of us have enemies hardness of the command. I think Jesus realized that it was hard
  3. How does one go about Loving his enemy

    This would not follow with all out war between nations. This deals with enimity between individuals

    1. First analyze self: We may be somewhat [responsible?]

      Quote Jesus: “How can you see the beam mote. etc.4

      1. It is true that some people hate others for no reason
      2. However there might be causes on your end. You might have done something in the past
      3. Notice the international situation Communism is our enemy because of many of our blunders.
    2. Always be willing to see the good points in your enemy.
    3. Whe the possibility of defeating your enemy presents itself, you must not do it
  4. Why Should one Love his enemy
    1. Because the process of hate for hate brings disaster to all involved
    2. Because hate distort the whole personality
    3. Because love has within in a redemptive power

1. “‘Loving Your Enemies’ Rev. King, Jr.'s Subject,” Atlanta Daily World, 30 August 1952. For a later example of this sermon that follows this early outline, see King, “Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 17 November 1957, in The Papers of Martin Luther King, vol. 4: Symbol of the Movement, January 1957-December 1958, ed. Clayborne Carson, Susan Carson, Adrienne Clay, Virginia Shadron, Kieran Taylor (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 315-324; see also King, Loving Your Enemies, Sermon Delivered at Detroit Council of Churches' Noon Lenten Services, 7 March 1961, pp. 421-429 in this volume, and King, Strength to Love, pp. 34-41.

2. Matthew 5:43-44.

3. This idea can be found throughout the Pentateuch; for an example, see Exodus 21:24.

4. Cf. Matthew 7:3-5.

Source: CSKC-INP, Sermon file, folder 1, “Loving Your Enemies.”

© Copyright Information