A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings by Martin Luther King Jr

A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings cover imageSummary: A collection of sixteen sermons, an original introduction by Coretta Scott King, and a new introduction by Raphael Warnock. 

I have been slowly working through the audiobook of A Gift of Love for a couple of months. I tend to listen to a sermon about once a week as I am on a walk. I enjoy having audiobooks that I can dip into occasionally when I do not feel like anything else. Most of these sermons were compiled in 1963. And then, two more sermons were added along with a new introduction when it was re-released in the King Legacy edition. I have not looked to see which were the new sermons added.

None of the sermons in the collection are bad, but personally, the second half was more engaging than the first half. Some of King’s sermons felt more like speeches instead of sermons. But most of them were clearly a sermon given to a church and were in the black theological tradition, not the progressive tradition. There is a difference in the discussion of sin and the role of hope that differs from the progressive and the black theological traditions. That is not to say that some do not merge those traditions well. But I think King was at his best in these sermons when he spoke clearly about the reality of sin in a Christian theological register. This was not fire and brimstone preaching but a clear acquaintance with the reality of how sin impacted the world. Sin was not abstract. Sin was real and it impacted people that King knew, himself included. This was also not just individual or personal sin; sin here was a system or a force, not just individual wrongdoing or animus.

But just as much as sin was real in many of these sermons, hope was also real. I understand the critique of misplaced hope or hope that ignores the day-to-day world. But that was not King’s view of hope. Just as his pain at sin was real, so his hope was real. His home was bombed when his wife and infant daughter were home alone. But he had a personal spiritual encounter with Jesus not long after that still empowered him nearly a decade later when most of these sermons were written.

Many people have not read much that King wrote and primarily have only listened to a few of the more famous speeches. But there is a range that is helpful to get exposure to. If you have not read King widely, I would recommend starting with Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Then I think that Radical King is where I would recommend as a follow-up. This would probably be my fourth recommendation after Where Do We Go From Here.

I mostly listened to this on audiobook, but the narration bothered me less, and I am unsure why. Maybe JD Jackson was just better at impersonating King’s speaking than some of the other narrators of King’s books. But I think it may also be that except for the Drum Major Instinct, which is in Radical King and one of his best-known speeches, many of the rest of these were much less familiar.

A Gift of Love: Sermons from Strength to Love and Other Preachings by Martin Luther King Jr Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook

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