Sacrificial Love

The great American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. preached one of his most moving sermons, Loving Your Enemies, while he was in jail. He had been imprisoned for daring to suggest that African Americans should have the same rights as other Americans. During his lifetime he received countless death threats, was maliciously accused of being a communist, was jailed over 20 times, and his house was bombed. Yet, in this sermon, he said, “hate multiplies hate…in a descending spiral of violence” and is “just as injurious to the person who hates” as it is to their victim. However, “love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” for it has “creative” and “redemptive” power.[1]

“For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:7–8)


Paul’s message of love in Romans 5 is connected to Jesus’ command to love one another. Paul’s logic is that men are heroes if they die for another person who deserves the sacrifice because of their goodness. The power behind God’s love is that even though no one deserves His love, He loves everyone. “While we were yet sinners, Christ died of us (me).” So which has greater transformational power, God’s love or human love? And another question arises, how should we love one another? The answer: love as God loves. One final question is, how does God love? The answer being: God loves sacrificially


God loves us as we are, and Jesus gave up His life for us before we were good. When we experience this kind of love and realize how God sacrificially loves us, although we don’t deserve it, we begin to understand how to love others in the same way. This is the transformational message of the Gospel. It is the sacrificial love of God that can transform an enemy into a friend; only the love of God has perfect redemptive power. Dr. King preached the message of God’s love because he found it to be truly transformational. 


Have you been transformed by the sacrificial love of God? If so, do you love others the same way you have been loved? 


Pastor Cary Wacker


[1] Source: reported in David Garrow, Bearing the Cross. Martin Luther King Jr and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference

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