Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning. It is the lifting of a burden or the canceling of a debt. The words “I will forgive you, but I’ll never forget what you have done” never explain the real nature of forgiveness. Certainly one can never forget, if that means erasing it totally for his mind. But when we forgive, we forget in the sense that the evil deed is no longer a mental block impeding a new relationship. Likewise, we can never say, “I will forgive you, but I won’t have anything further to do with you.” Forgiveness means reconciliation, a coming together again. Without this, no man can love his enemies. The degree to which we are able to forgive determines the degree to which we are able to love our enemies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) American clergyman, civil rights leader, social activist, preacher
“Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (25 Dec 1957)

Not to be confused with a similarly-named sermon preached on 17 November of the same year. This sermon was reprinted in Strength to Love (1963)

Added on 21-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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2 thoughts on ““Loving Your Enemies,” Sermon, Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, Montgomery (25 Dec 1957)”

  1. Hugh Hyatt

    This is indeed from a sermon titled “Loving Your Enemies” and preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church on Dec 25, 1957. The source link, on the other hand, is to a sermon of the same name, preached at the same place, but a few weeks earlier, on Nov 17, 1957. Here’s a link to the former: I think there are also a few possible typos in the quote:
    • “… but never forget what you have done…” should be
    “… but I’ll never forget what you have done…”, I think
    (also, some versions have “you’ve” for “you have”)
    • “… erasing totally for his mind.” should be
    “… erasing it totally from his mind.”
    • “… no man can ever love his enemies.” is, in some versions,
    “… no man can love his enemies.”

    1. Huh. Thanks. Not bad enough that MLK repeated some of his best phrases in multiple locations, but repeating a sermon title (even such a generic one) so close together seems hardly fair. I’ve updated the above to fix some typos as well as re-do some of the sources. (The link you quote looks like it’s a subsection of the overall sermon, which is printed in full elsewhere.) Thanks again.

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