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More of What We Need (the Monday post) January 19, 2021

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in Changing Perspectives, Dharma, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Faith, Healing Stories, Hope, Life, Love, One Hoop, Pain, Peace, Philosophy, Suffering, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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[This is the post for Monday, January 18, 2021 – Martin Luther King Day for many in the USA.

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“The Greek language comes out with another word for love. It is the word agape, and agape is more than eros. Agape is more than philia. Agape is something of the understanding, creative, redemptive goodwill for all men. It is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in the lives of men. And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love men, not because they are likeable, but because God loves them. You look at every man, and you love him because you know God loves him. And he might be the worst person you’ve ever seen.”


– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)

The Civil Rights Activist and (1964) Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Since 1986, the third Monday in January has been a federal holiday designated as his “birthday” – even though it was not officially observed on the state level until 1991 and it wasn’t until 2000 that every state actually acknowledged the date with his name. However, even to this day, there are states that combine the observation of Reverend King’s birthday with the acknowledgement of the rights for which he fought or with the celebration of people significant to the Confederacy.

Even in this, the United States is conflicted.

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the greatest orators of the 20th Century. One of my personal MLK Day traditions, as a yoga teacher, is to share his words. Specifically, I am in the habit of sharing his sermon on the “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” (which is a natural follow-up to the practice about Benjamin Franklin’s instruction to “live well”). However, this year, it seems like a lot to focus on the three elements within that sermon (the length of life being one’s inward concern; the breadth of life being the outward concern for others; and the height of life being “the upward reach for God”). Reverend King, himself, acknowledged that “A lot of people never get beyond the first dimension of life.” So, this year, I thought we could focus on one thing – just one, simple, little thing that can make a huge difference. This year, I turned to another of his favorite sermons: “Loving Your Enemies.”

I often lament that I cannot truly share the power of his speeches and sermons in class, because I cannot replicate and share his cadence and emphasis (let alone the power of hearing his words along with the congregation or audience). But, I can share that with you here. It doesn’t have to be today, or even tomorrow, but sometime soon, take a moment to listen (or read) one (or both) of these sermons.

As I have noted before, you can find similar teachings on love in other religions and many of the Eastern philosophies. I truly believe that if more of us live these ideas – fully integrate them into our being – we can all live well.


“Loving Your Enemies” – audio and transcript (from November 1957, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama)


“The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life” – audio and transcript (from April 9, 1967, Chicago, Illinois)


“There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate.”


– quoted from “Loving Your Enemies” sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (11/17/1957)


If you are interested in some of my previous posts on Reverend King, you can find my January 2016 post here and a thread of related posts here.





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