Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386

The themes of Martin Luther King Jr.'s book, Strength to Love , revolve around the uses of love in spiritual and temporal struggles. The book is a collection of sermons in which Dr. King elucidates his philosophy of the love of God and how one might apply this to the...

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The themes of Martin Luther King Jr.'s book, Strength to Love, revolve around the uses of love in spiritual and temporal struggles. The book is a collection of sermons in which Dr. King elucidates his philosophy of the love of God and how one might apply this to the struggle for racial justice.

There are limits to most kinds of love, according to King, and the deficiencies of a person's character and spirit which result from these limits can explain the fundamental fear and hatred of African Americans that underpinned centuries of slavery and segregation. The only way to succeed in the struggle against racial injustice is to strive for the highest love of all: to love God and your fellow men and women equally. If it is done right, this doesn't drag down the love to God to the level of mere human love; rather, it elevates human love to the love of the divine. When you can achieve this, you can truly be powerful, because you will have achieved the strength of character to surmount any barrier.

One of the secular uses of this highest kind of love is nonviolent resistance to racial injustice. This is a theme which recurs frequently in Dr. King's sermons. Only when you love other people as you love God will you accept their faults and forgive them their actions. If you can do this, then you can change their minds about the sources of their fear and hate.

Another theme you will encounter in the book is the need to work together. If you have the strength to love people who hate you, you can work with them to solve the problem of racial injustice. Without that, people, groups, and institutions work separately—sometimes against each other—as they try to solve problems selfishly or without the cooperation of others who are affected.

A third theme, which you'll find throughout the book and, indeed, throughout Dr. King's sermons generally, is the necessity of that highest kind of love for God. The spiritual benefits of cultivating that most intense love are transformative. They are also—and this is the theme itself—transformative for others who receive your love. Christian conversion is possible, according to Dr. King, when you embody the love of God and bestow it on others.

Christian Themes

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 131

King’s message of courage and hope was rooted in the example of Jesus Christ: As exemplified in Christ, love is the most durable power in the world. The universe is governed by a loving, personal God who is the companion of those who struggle for justice. Evil cannot permanently organize itself, for it contains the seeds of its own destruction. In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see that unearned suffering is redemptive and that evil is overcome with good. God is able to subdue all evil, but God calls on humankind to cooperate in this task and strengthens those who do so. Hence, when combined with Mahatma Gandhi’s method of nonviolent resistance, the Christian doctrine of love is a potent force in the struggle for freedom.

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