Strength to Love

By Martin Luther King Jr.

3,015 ratings - 4.62* vote

A collection of sermons by this martyred Black American leader which explains his convictions in terms of the conditions and problems of contemporary society.

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Book details

Paperback, 155 pages
April 1st 1981 by Augsburg Fortress Publishing

(first published 1963)

Original Title
Strength to Love
0800614410 (ISBN13: 9780800614416)
Edition Language

Community Reviews


Martin Luther King Jr. may be seen by many people, unfortunately, as a cliche historical figure. Everybody feels as though they know a lot about him, but in reality most people know nothing about him besides the fact that he was a civil rights leader who got assassinated. I personally have always wanted to pick up a book by MLK Jr. because I have never been satisfied with the info that black history television programs and school classes gave me. Don't get me wrong, those sources gave me good info, but I just yearned for more. Television programs would tell me of things such as the bus boycott, and MLK's marches, but I wanted to know more than just what he did. I wanted an in depth look at his character, and his thought processes, and this book gave me exactly what I was looking for. The insight that I gained about this man's way of thinking is incredible. His teachings and beliefs on love, forgiveness, and suffering are irrefutable. I see now why this man was an instrument of God used to bring a positive shift in this country and the world. This book humbled me, and honestly made me a better christian, a better thinker, and a better person. If you are one of those people who have only HEARD of MLK then you need to get this book, because there's a lot more you can learn about him than what you've heard. And I assure you that your new insights will change you for the better.

Ted Mallory

Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Junior wrote that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" in 1963.

Just last week Nigerian President Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan said that "A terrorist attack on any of us is an attack on all of us."

I shared both quotes with my Civics class, but one eighth grader wrote on the board under Dr. King's words that "no one gets this." I asked if they'd like me to discuss it with them and the same student said, "no, we don't care either."

That made me thing of Jimmy Buffett's famous line, "Is it ignorance, or apathy? I don't know and I don't care."

I care, God knows I care, but God only knows how I'm supposed to teach eighth graders how to care.

So I took King's words,

Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE

and I paired them with James Madison's words-

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

[Disunity] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Unity] EVERYWHERE

[Turmoil] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Tranquility] EVERYWHERE

[Insecurity] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Security] EVERYWHERE

Or would that have sounded better with [Offense] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Defense] EVERYWHERE?

[Suffering] ANYWHERE is a threat to [the General Welfare] EVERYWHERE!

Now THERE'S one that probably makes "rugged individualists" absolutely cringe, but AREN'T I my brother's keeper?

And of course,

[Tyranny] ANYWHERE is a threat to [Liberty] EVERYWHERE

So isn't it true?

Don't you CARE?

Don't you realize? Don't you know?

That "Injustice ANYWHERE is a threat to Justice EVERYWHERE!"

Is justice really blind?

Have you ever heard, "No Justice, No Peace!"?

Did you know, what Cornell West says?

He says that “Justice is what love looks like in public.”

Merrium and Webster say that "public" means

"exposed to general view :
open, well-known, prominentc :
perceptible, material..."


"of, relating to, or affecting ALL the people."

Did you know?

Do you care?

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"

robin friedman

Martin Luther King's Strength To Love

A new anthology of essays exploring the philosophy of Martin Luther King, "To Shape a New World" (2018) (edited by Tommie Shelby and Brandon Terry) has moved me to explore for myself the five books King published during his lifetime. King was an activist during his busy life, cut short by assassination fifty years ago. It is valuable to explore the degree of reflective thought King brought to his activism.

King's second book, "Strength to Love" (1963) consists of 14 sermons King preached during or after the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, or at the Ebeneezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. The book also includes a separate essay "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence" that addresses themes considered in the sermons. King states that he was reluctant to have the sermons published. He believed sermons were properly meant to be heard as a discourse on a single occasion rather than to be read. They were "directed toward the listening ear rather than the reading eye." King states that he published the volume only after the repeated requests of friends and colleagues in the hope that "a message may come to life for readers of these printed words."

King was a preacher by calling. It is what he was born and trained to do and in this book, as in his famous "I have a Dream" speech, it shows. This collection shows the influence of the African American Protestantism in which he was steeped upon King. It shows his way with words and his ability to move and inspire. Most importantly, the book shows King's thought, both on religious matters and on social activism. King tries to show how they are to be brought together. Of the books I have read by or about King, "Strength To Love" easily gives me the most understanding of King and what he was about.

What impressed me most about the book was its deep religiosity. King discusses what he sees as the need for transcendence if human life is to be meaningful. In common with many religiously-oriented thinkers, King views human life as a combination of the "eternal and the temporal". The sermons place a great deal of emphasis on the eternal. His understanding of the eternal played a great role in his temporal actions fighting injustice during his life.

King explores the nature of love, the interrelationship of all things, and the search for moral and ontological absolutes -- the existence of God -- rather than relativism. What he says is not necessarily original but it is expressed with power, eloquence, and sincerity. The book focuses at least as much on God and on worship as it does on the need for action to combat injustice in the world. In King's view a religious outlook drives his temporal efforts. He recognizes in the sermons that humanistic people could share in his efforts for social justice while not sharing his religious commitments. King respects this view but clearly rejects it for himself. The sermons address important theological and philosophical issues such as the relationship between science and religion, the mixture of good and evil in human nature, the problem of evil, fundamentalism and liberalism in approaching Scriptural texts and much more. King talks a great deal about his reading and studies and about the views that influenced him. I learned a great deal both about King and about the difficult questions he addresses.

The sermons I most enjoyed included "A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart" which explores the roles of justice and love in religious life, "Transformed Nonconformist" which emphasizes how religious life requires in part a response to the divine rather than simply to the mores of a society. "Shattered
Dreams" which discusses living with loss and disappointment, and "Paul's letter to American Christians" in which King effectively assumes the voice of Paul both to praise and to critique American society and Christianity. In "How should a Christian View Communism" King both articulates his own strong Christian, idealist commitments which rejecting the materialism and ethical relativism of communism. The final essay"Pilgrimage to Nonviolence" explores some of King's activism but it includes as well a great deal of information about King's intellectual growth.

This volume taught me a great deal about King's religious and philosophical thinking and about his commitment to social justice using nonviolent methods. The book has little of the radicalism found in some of King's latter writings. The book shows King at his best as a outstandingly gifted, thoughtful religious individual and African American minister. The book helped me understand King and his mission.

Robin Friedman


I read this book in Africa, it was life changing. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not only an amazing leader for the African American community's fight for social justice, he also offers so much wisdom for all of us with words of guidance in love, faith, hope, and strength. He challenged me to become a thinking Christian, not just a following one.

Kristen Freiburger

I savored each sentence like fine dark chocolate. Poignant and powerful messages even all these years later. Thank you for the recommendation Julie!


Dr. King's eloquence, rhetorical power and Christian witness inspire at every turn of phrase. each page is saturated with prophetic power. "Strength to Love" (1963) is a collection of sermons that Dr. King delivered in the late 1950s and 1960s and edited for print. I feel challenged to identify what the most powerful part of this book is. Every page seems to bear the best of the book's message. Dr. King's gospel of social justice and non-violence consistently radiates forth. Of special interest to me is Dr. King's explanation of the formative role of Gandhi's satyagraha movement on Dr. King and the civil rights and freedom movement. In at least one proleptic passage, Dr. King sounds the call against war, though it would not be until April 4, 1967 (yes, mysteriously one year to the day before he was assassinated) that he would explicitly warn us that our nation would lose her soul if it continued its involvement in Vietnam. The sermons are simply gorgeous. Dr. King weaves his own reflections and urgings with poetry, African-american spirituals, and philosophy. This is truly a book that transmits the transformative message of Jesus. Dr. King also discusses the influence of Gandhi and the _satyagraha_ movement on his thinking and on the subsequent unfolding of the civil rights movement and Dr. King's later decision to take a stand against the war in Vietnam.


5 stars!!! I'm so so happy that I finally found a really good book and a 5 star worthy book. AND it was within the first month of 2021!! :)

Okay, so this was a fantastic book and I highly recommend it. It's a compilation of MLK sermons, and literally all of them were stellar. They were easy to understand, all based on biblical passages/verses and perfectly mixed God's grace and love for his people with the racial injustice that was happening in the 1960s. This was also interesting to read in 2021, when there is still a lot of racial unrest in our country. I found that a lot of the points MLK was making could also be relevant in 2021, which was obviously disappointing... As far as we have gone in equality, we still have a long way to go.

I hate to admit, but it's been awhile since I've read a Christian book and I'm so incredibly thankful I read this. I needed this. God is so good.


"I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."

"Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude."

"Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated."

Rachel A. Dawson

I hate to admit it, but it took me this long to finally read a book by MLK himself. It was incredible— rich, thought-provoking, Gospel-centered, timely, relevant, powerful.

Nick Klagge

I found this book of King's sermons to be very moving. I started thinking about reading it because of the whole tiff-taff over the fake King quote circulating on Twitter after the OBL assassination. (Despite not being a direct quote from King, it certainly expressed a sentiment consistent with his philosophy, and was more or less a paraphrase of a passage in this book.)

Before reading StL, I was of course familiar with King in a cultural sense and had read a couple of his writings such as "Letter from Birmingham Jail," but none of his more intellectual or religious work. If you are the same way, I would urge you to read StL, particularly if you consider yourself a Christian. It evinces a depth of intellectual engagement (both theological and philosophical) that adds a lot of perspective to the work King did in the world.

One intellectual concept that particularly stuck with me, which King actually attributes to someone else (Harry Emerson Fosdick, for those of you keeping score at home), is the distinction between enforceable and unenforceable obligations, which he discusses in the context of the story of the Good Samaritan. Unenforceable obligations, writes King, "concern inner attitudes, genuine person-to-person relations, and expressions of compassion which law books cannot regulate and jails cannot rectify" (37). The story of the Good Samaritan is significant because of his commitment to unenforceable obligations. (King, obviously, also cared a great deal about enforceable obligations!) I feel like discussion of unenforceable obligations is largely missing in modern political discourse, and that's part of why I find significance in reading King, Teddy Roosevelt, Stanley Hauerwas, and others who pay attention to virtue.