Acts of Kindness: What Martin Luther King Teaches Us About Love

Acts of kindness are love in action.

However, as much as we want to be loving and kind and do good deeds, doing so may take us out of our comfort zone.

That’s okay. God supports us in making mistakes. The path toward acts of kindness will be riddled with mistakes.

It involves risk-taking and boundary-crossing for the sake of growth in consciousness, relationship-building, and the pursuit of bringing love and goodness to the world.[1] 

Pursue Acts of Kindness

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is an excellent example of how to embody love and perform acts of kindness.

Throughout his career, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. developed sermons on love, including a handwritten outline exploring how to forgive and live according to God’s teaching.[2]

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” ~Luke 23:34

Acts of Kindness: Picture of the cover of MLK's book: The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Volume I by Martin Luther King Jr.

As we celebrate his birthday in 2023, it’s timely to remember that on 20 May 1964, Dr. King gave a wonderful homily on “Love and Forgiveness.” 

In his sermon notes, King concluded: “Jesus was nailed to the cross not simply by badness but also by blindness. The men who [cried] ‘crucify him’ were not bad men but rather blind men. This tragic blindness expresses itself in many ominous ways in our own day … Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. The church must urge men to be kindhearted & sincere.”[3]

Overcome Evil with Good

For King, there is a law that is more important than the laws the federal or state governments impose. “Jesus affirmed a higher law from the cross,” King insists. “He knew that an eye for an eye would leave everybody blind. He did not seek to overcome evil with evil. He overcame evil with good.”

What a magnificent lesson. Generations will rise and fall. Men will continue to worship the god of revenge and bow before the altar of retaliation; but ever and again this noble lesson of Calvary will be a nagging reminder that only goodness can drive out evil”[4]

Offer Unconditional Love

If we follow MLK’s teachings, we are all called to pour onto the world, unconditional love. Yet, more often than not, most of us find it nearly impossible to respond to that call. 

But I believe that once we feel God’s unconditional love in us, the beauty that overtakes us can move us to love and offer beauty to others, even to people who wrong us, malign us, or hate us.

If you are not a religious person, don’t stop reading because I’m talking about God. The name “God” is shorthand for personal unconditional divine love emerging in evolution, as consciousness complexifies and people unite: “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20).

Evolution reveals a newness to God because love is always expressing itself in new patterns. Divine love is forever new. God is always newness in love. Thus, the world is forever new as well.

We must be changing all the time. Love is in motion all the time, sometimes it moves slowly and unnoticed but it is never stagnant.

You Can’t Step into The Same River Twice

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said: “you cannot step into the same river twice.” I believe that he meant that change is inherent to life. Every act bears an essential newness. In other words, divine love is not a river of stagnant water but a fountain full of overflowing love. This love is forever awakening to new life and new acts of kindness.[5]

The essence of love in action, is service. 

“You make a life by how you serve.” ~Orest Bedrij 

The summit of service is sacrifice; what Christians refer to as the cross. This sacrifice touches the spiritual realm.

“LOVE IS KIND. IT IS AT THE SERVICE OF OTHERS. Love benefits and helps others, always ready to serve them and to do them good even if one does not feel like doing so.” ~Pope Francis

A More Meaningful Life

There are so many books written on spirituality but many miss the mark. Spirituality is really about service to and connectedness with others. Embracing this type of spirituality can help us achieve a more meaningful life.

But the world tells us otherwise. We are encouraged—sometimes forced—to seek safety and security, to stay in our comfort zones, and to be quiet and compliant.

Our compliance is driven most often by fear.  

Fear Harms You

Martin Luther King was fearless. He felt the fear but acted anyway. He performed acts of kindness even when those acts put him at odds with the mainstream.

Fear, perhaps more than anything, is our greatest obstacle to becoming our highest selves.

Helen Keller said this regarding security. “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.”

Four Questions to Ask Yourself:

What is God?
Who is God?
Where is God hiding?
Where is God being revealed?

Emmanuel appears twice in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:148:8) and once in the New Testament (Matthew 1:23).

The word Emmanuel is a Hebrew name that means, “God with us.” Even within a world immersed in violence, constant conflict, fear, and anxiety, we must sense and act on the deeper truth hidden beneath the surface of human judgment. In other words, this broken, anxious world is oozing with God because there are those special people that live accordingly, exemplify God in all that they do, and humble us.

Four More Questions to Ask Yourself:

Whom Am I Serving?
How Can I Best Serve?
Am I Making My Unique Contribution?
What Am I Becoming?

As you celebrate this holiday, take some time to sit and think, meditate, and pray. Embody the virtues you care about most. Show forgiveness. Express gratitude. Be compassionate. Perform acts of kindness. Display sacrificial love.

Bring love and goodness to the world.

“More than ever, the world needs a revolution of tenderness.” ~Pope Francis

Here is a link to Donnie’s band Souliverse, performing “What’s Going On”

About the Author:

Donald R. Yance is the founder of the Mederi Center. A Clinical Master Herbalist and Certified Nutritionist, Donnie is renowned for his extraordinary knowledge and deep understanding of the healing properties of plants and nutrition, as well as of epigenetics, laboratory medicine, oncologic pathology, and molecular oncology. He is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild, National Association of Nutrition Professionals, Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine, and the Society for Integrative Oncology.

[1] Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2019), 140, 144.

[2] King later developed this sermon further and included it in a thematic series (King, “Levels of Love,” Sermon Delivered at Ebenezer Baptist Church, 16 September 1962, pp. 437-445 in this volume). He would also submit a version of this sermon for publication (King, Draft of Chapter IV, Strength to Love, “Love in Action,” July 1962-March 1963, pp. 486-494 in this volume). According to a 3 April 1960 program from Ebenezer, King preached the sermon “Love in Action.”

[3] CSKC-INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 120, ”Love in Action” / ”Father Forgive.”

[4] King, Love in Action II, 3 April 1960

[5] Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2013), 74, 76–77.

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2 Replies to “Acts of Kindness: What Martin Luther King Teaches Us About Love”

  1. Thanks. “ Spirituality is really about service to and connectedness with others”. I think of others as all life forms.

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