Sticking With Love

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

On Monday, we had the annual march and celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and it was held once again on the Limestone County Courthouse Square. The weather was much more pleasant than in past years, and this year Athens Limestone NAACP President Wilbur Woodruff read one of my favorite quotes of Dr. King; the one about “sticking with love.”

Below is the context of the statement, and the scripture to which it refers, I Jn 4

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick with love, for I know that love is ultimately the only answer to humankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. And I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love; I’m talking about a strong, demanding love. For I have seen too much hate. […] and I say to myself that hate is too great a burden to bear. I have decided to love. If you are seeking the highest good, I think you can find it through love. And the beautiful thing is that we aren’t moving wrong when we do it, because John was right, God is love. He who hates does not know God, but he who loves has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.

I am not sure I understand the “aren’t moving wrong” phrase, but this I know, hate is indeed too great a burden to bear. When I was a flaming feminist and screechy socialist, many many moons ago, I allowed myself for a brief time to get caught up in hate. It did not manifest itself in violence, but the violence was definitely in my heart. In 1969 I saw a movie called Easy Rider that had Jack Nicholson, Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda in it. That movie enraged me, and I stayed enraged until Jesus began to peel off the hard stuff and show me that He loved everyone, not just druggies; He loved shotgun wielding Louisianans.

The movie tried to shamelessly promote the rebellious American youth counter-culture, the value of taking drugs, throwing morals to the wolves, and above all, disrespecting authority. And then, boom! Jesus People hit like a freight train at my high school, and I was forever changed. But the hate didn’t go away right away. It was something that I had to throw into God’s Heavenly In-box, and that began a lifelong adventure of learning to love the unlovable — myself (and I can be unlovable) — and anyone who crosses my path. And I wouldn’t trade that journey for the world.

Do I think that it’s possible MLK had moments when he felt hate, even after saying that he had decided to stick with love? Most likely. He was a human under enormous pressure from within his own ranks and without. But the whole point and power of the speech is that he decided to stick with love, which to me means that if he strayed, he knew there was only one place that was safe, and he had to get back there, pronto! Let’s make a commitment in 2023 to stick with love because hate is indeed too heavy a burden to bear.