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"The Peril of the Sword"

King, Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 1, 1955 to December 31, 1960
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


King explores ideas about nonviolence that he developed more fully in speeches and sermons delivered after the start of Montgomery bus boycott.1 In this handwritten outline, King advocates nonviolence and says of confronting an oppressor, "The true aim should be to convert him, to change his understanding and his sense of values."

  1. Introduction—the existence of evil in the universe
    Because of this evil disputes and conflicts arise between individuals. The question which every individual and every nation confronts soon or later is, how will I deal with this evil force.

  2. Now one method is the method of violence. The sword method This is the popular method. To this method Jesus said, "He who lives by the sword shall perish by the sword.2 History is replete with the bleached bones of natios. So this method carries the seed of its own destruction. It is perilious Over against this stands the method of non-violence. It resist just as strongly as the violent method.

    1. The method of violence assumes that evil can overcome evil. It confront a negative with a negative. Retailatory violence does nothing but multiplies the existence of Man and his deeds are two distinct things.

    1. The use of the sword presuppese that evil can overcome evil.
      The doer of the deed must always be respectd.

    2. The aim of the sword is to defeat injure and humiliate an oppressor. But the true aim should be to convert him, to change his understanding and his sense of values.

1. For example, see King, "When Peace Becomes Obnoxious," 18 March 1956, pp. 257-259 in this volume. In an October 1960 letter which King wrote while in the Georgia State prison in Reidsville, he requested that Coretta King bring him this and seventeen other "sermons from my file" (see King to Coretta Scott King, 26 October 1960, Papers 5:531-532).

2. Cf. Matthew 26:52.


CSKC, INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 5, "Man's Sin and God's Grace" "The Peril of the Sword."