The holidays and the meaning of love

frontpageslide_martin_luther_king_jrIt’s not about the shopping, it’s not about the presents, and it’s not just about Christmas. It’s about the spirit of the season.
To most of us, the holidays are always a special time, and that’s a good thing. There’s nothing better than spending quality time with family and those whom you love, and letting them know just how much they mean to you.
Although, hopefully, this isn’t the only time of the year when you make that effort…
In a word, the spirit of the season is about love. That’s a rather small word expressing a concept so large that for most of us who truly ponder its meaning, it can seem nearly impossible to render a satisfactory description without sounding like a Hallmark card. But it can be argued that Dr. Martin Luther King, more than just about anyone else in modern times, understood the true power, significance, and relevance of love throughout the boundaries of time and space as it relates to the human condition. King understood that true love can be as simple as a peck on the cheek, or it can be more powerful and devastating than an unleashed atomic weapon. He understood the unbreakable connection between love and justice.
Love is not merely a sappy sentiment. Love is a transformative force that no man-made creation will ever be capable of harnessing. King, one of our nation’s greatest warriors for civil rights as well as human rights, understood this phenomenon as few others did. And so, in this holiday season, as we share what we believe to be the meaning of love with others, perhaps this is the right time to reflect on the deeper meaning of the word as expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King.
From “Paul’s Letter to American Christians” sermon, delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on November 4, 1956.
“I understand that you have an economic system in America known as capitalism. Through this economic system you have been able to do wonders. You have become the richest nation in the world, and you have built up the greatest system of production that history has ever known. All of this is marvelous, but Americans, there is the danger that you will misuse your capitalism. I still contend that money can be the root of all evil. It can cause one to live a life of gross materialism.  I am afraid that many among you are more concerned about making a living than making a life. You are prone to judge the success of your profession by the index of your salary and the size of the wheel base on your automobile, rather than the quality of your service to humanity. The misuse of capitalism can also lead to tragic exploitation. This has so often happened in your nation. They tell me that one tenth of one percent of the population controls more than forty percent of the wealth.
“Oh America, how often have you taken necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes. If you are to be a truly Christian nation you must solve this problem. You cannot solve the problem by turning to communism, for communism is based on an ethical relativism and a metaphysical materialism that no Christian can accept. You can work within the framework of democracy to bring about a better distribution of wealth. You can use your powerful economic resources to wipe poverty from the face of the earth.
“God never intended for one group of people to live in superfluous inordinate wealth, while others live in abject deadening poverty. God intends for all of his children to have the basic necessities of life, and He has left in this universe “enough and to spare” for that purpose. So I call upon you to bridge the gulf between abject poverty and superfluous wealth.”
From the speech, “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam”, delivered in 1967 at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta Georgia.
“A genuine revolution of values means, in the final analysis, that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies. This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing, unconditional love for all men. This oft misunderstood and misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of mankind.
“And when I speak of love I’m not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality. This HinduMuslimChristianJewishBuddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of John “Let us love one another, for God is love. And every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.”
Happy Holidays, everyone.


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