Love and Rebuke: Honoring Martin Luther King

King on Loving the Enemy

“There is still a voice crying out in terms that echo across the generations, saying: ‘Love your enemy, bless them that curse you, pray for those that despitefully use you, that you may be the children of your Father in Heaven.’…The end is reconciliation, the end is redemption, the end is the creation of the beloved community” (King, “The Birth of a New Age,” August 11, 1956).

“I believe that the Ku Klux Klan can be transformed into a clan for God’s kingdom. I believe that the White Citizens Council can transformed into a Right Citizens Council. I believe that. That’s the essence of the Gospel” (King, Address to the MIA Mass Meeting, November 14, 1956).

Matthew 5

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (Torah) or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(יז) לֹֽא־תִשְׂנָ֥א אֶת־אָחִ֖יךָ בִּלְבָבֶ֑ךָ הוֹכֵ֤חַ תּוֹכִ֙יחַ֙ אֶת־עֲמִיתֶ֔ךָ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֥א עָלָ֖יו חֵֽטְא׃ (יח) לֹֽא־תִקֹּ֤ם וְלֹֽא־תִטֹּר֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י עַמֶּ֔ךָ וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃
(17) You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. (18) You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself: I am the LORD.

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored...I have earnestly worked and preached against violent tension, but there is a type of constructive nonviolent tension that is necessary for growth. (King, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," April 16, 1963)

(יז) בִּנְפֹ֣ל אויביך [אֽ֭וֹיִבְךָ] אַל־תִּשְׂמָ֑ח וּ֝בִכָּשְׁל֗וֹ אַל־יָגֵ֥ל לִבֶּֽךָ׃ (יח) פֶּן־יִרְאֶ֣ה יְ֭הוָה וְרַ֣ע בְּעֵינָ֑יו וְהֵשִׁ֖יב מֵעָלָ֣יו אַפּֽוֹ׃ (יט) אַל־תִּתְחַ֥ר בַּמְּרֵעִ֑ים אַל־תְּ֝קַנֵּ֗א בָּרְשָׁעִֽים׃ (כ) כִּ֤י ׀ לֹֽא־תִהְיֶ֣ה אַחֲרִ֣ית לָרָ֑ע נֵ֖ר רְשָׁעִ֣ים יִדְעָֽךְ׃
(17) If your enemy falls, do not exult; If he trips, let your heart not rejoice, (18) Lest the LORD see it and be displeased, And avert His wrath from him. (19) Do not be vexed by evildoers; Do not be incensed by the wicked; (20) For there is no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked goes out.
(כא) אִם־רָעֵ֣ב שֹׂ֭נַאֲךָ הַאֲכִלֵ֣הוּ לָ֑חֶם וְאִם־צָ֝מֵ֗א הַשְׁקֵ֥הוּ מָֽיִם׃ (כב) כִּ֤י גֶֽחָלִ֗ים אַ֭תָּה חֹתֶ֣ה עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וַֽ֝יהוָ֗ה יְשַׁלֶּם־לָֽךְ׃
(21) If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; If he is thirsty, give him water to drink. (22) You will be heaping live coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you.
(יט) שמואל הקטן אומר, (משלי כד) בנפל אויביך אל תשמח ובכשלו אל יגל לבך, פן יראה יי ורע בעיניו והשיב מעליו אפו .

(19) Shmuel the Younger says: (Proverbs 24) "When your enemy falls, do not be happy, and when he stumbles, let your heart not rejoice." Lest God see and it be bad in God's eyes and God turn God's anger away from him (the enemy).

Samson Raphael Hirsch: It may very well be that God has tolerated your foe's pursuit of you only as a means to bring about your moral betterment. Your malicious joy at his downfall would then indicate to God that you have still not attained moral maturity; as a consequence it may be that God will let your pursuer rise again to complete the process of your moral betterment.

Buber's Hasidism

Rabbi Raphael of Bershad used to teach: "If a man sees that his companion hates him, he shall love him the more. And the meaning of this is: the whole of Israel is a carriage for the holiness, and if love and unity is between them, then the Shekhina and all holiness rests over them, but if, God forbid, there is a rupture, then a rent and an open place comes, and the holiness falls downward into the 'shells.'" When therefore at the one place there is too little love, at the other one must love so much the more in order to create agreement and restore the wholeness of the "carriage."

-- Martin Buber, Hasidism and Modern Man, 239.