Many years ago I read Strength to Love, a book of sermons, by Martin Luther King Jr. It was published in 1963 just after the campaign in Birmingham and a couple years before the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. In honor of King on this day, here are some of the passages I copied out.
“The length of life is the inward drive to achieve one’s personal ends and ambitions, an inward concern for one’s own welfare and achievements. The breadth of life is the outward concern for the welfare of others. The height of life is the upward reach for God.”
“After one has discovered what he is made for, he should surrender all of the power in his being to the achievement of this. He should seek to do it so well that nobody could do it better. He should do it as though God Almighty called him at this particular moment of history for this reason. No one ever makes a great contribution to humanity without this majestic sense of purpose and this dogged determination. No one ever brings his potentiality into actuality without this powerful inner drive.”
“Jesus reminds us that the good life combines the toughness of the serpent and the tenderness of the dove. To have serpentlike qualities devoid of dovelike qualities is to be passionless, mean, and selfish. to have dovelike without serpentlike qualities is to be sentimental, anemic, and aimless. We must combine strongly marked antitheses.”
“I am thankful that we worship God who is both toughminded and tenderhearted. If God were only toughminded, he would be a cold, passionless despot sitting in some far-off heaven “contemplating all” as Tennyson puts it in "The Palace of Art." He would be Aristotle’s “unmoved mover,” self-knowing, but not other-loving. But if God were only tenderhearted, he would be too soft and sentimental to function when things go wrong and incapable of controlling what he has made. He would be like H. G. Well’s lovable God in “God, the Invisible King” who is strongly desirous of making a good world, but finds himself helpless before the surging powers of evil. God is neither hardhearted or softminded. He is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it.”