“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, born on Jan. 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Ga., was celebrated on the day set aside to eulogize the greatest of civil rights leaders at Iola’s Wesley United Methodist Church Monday evening.
About 60 people joined in an hour of prayer, hymns and a sermon given by the Rev. Linda Whitworth-Reed, pastor of First Presbyterian Church. Several other ministers assisted.
King’s mission in life was to change the hearts of those who put evil ahead of peace, and do it in a non-violent way. He enlisted Christian love — he was trained in the church from early childhood — and the inevitability of change, brought about by constant, dogged effort.
Whitworth-Reed said such progress marches along, though never in a straight line.
Among his tutors was Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader noted for social change through peaceful means, whom he visited for five weeks. The experience steeled his resolve and led King to refine his tactics to effect change in the United States by employing encouragement and love to counter violence of his detractors.
He confronted evil with good, which can lead to change only if those challenging hatred are willing to give themselves to the task. None did more than King, who gave his life while promoting civil rights for all Americans, regardless of color, creed or national origin.
King gave his life. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, dying at age 39 when he walked onto a motel balcony. He was there to plan a national occupation of Washington, D.C., called the Poor People’s Campaign.
“Hatred grows like poison,” Whitworth-Reed said. Dr. King told his followers and those trapped in the jaws of segregation and poverty forced on them by cruel overlords and employers that “he who accepts evil is as guilty as the perpetrator.”
“Love is the secret weapon,” Whitworth-Reed continued, alluding to the Christian principle “to love the sinner but hate the sin. There is good in the worst of us, and evil in the best of us. Evil leads us from the light of Jesus Christ.”
However, “unconditional love is stronger than evil,” King said. And, “hate is too great a burden to bear.”