What’s love got to do with it?

by Valora K Starr


Everything. That’s what The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have told us today as we honor his life and reflect on his message.


Growing up, I witnessed my parents, whose eyes were glued to watching television (black and white then), read newspaper articles and attend community rallies during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. To my family and the rest of the nation, Dr. King was a sign of hope.

The other day I listened to a recording of Rev. King’s keynote address at a Luther League Convention in 1961, an event sponsored by the American Lutheran Church for Lutheran youth.

In his 47 minute speech delivered to the young White audience, Dr. King spoke about three kinds of love described in the Greek language:

Eros: describes sexual emotion and feelings of romance.

Phileo: describes friendships and relationships that are built on what appeals to us.

Agape: for the Greeks, it describes the deepest kind of love based on doing good things for another person.

Rev. King goes a step further with the description of agape as the love of God operating in the human heart. As the speech continued he says “love is the most durable power in all the world and it is through love that we will solve this problem that is destroying our nation and the nations of the world.”

During this recording I noticed that his voice was different from the sound bites of his “I Have a Dream” speech that are played this time of year. I wondered why he would accept the invitation to speak at this event, an adult, a “minority” to a young, White audience? At the age 32, I believe he accepted the invitation because he believed he could make a difference. It is more obvious to me now that he lived his message.

Many in the African American community who knew Rev. King well called him the “love doctor.” The movement nearly fell apart when King announced to them that in order to talk about non-violence, they had to be authentic and live a non-violent life. He banned all weapons and any form of retaliation. “How will we protect you?” his bodyguards asked. He answered, “With love.”

We rarely reflect on this mantra of Rev. King because it is much easier to rest in the comfort of a dream that has yet to be realized, but, this love thing, takes work. Love has everything to do with how people of faith become the difference they want to see.

Today, while we celebrate this 30th Martin Luther King Day, think about community and what it means. Take a moment to research and reflect on Dr. King’s quotes on love. Start a conversation to talk about violence, gun laws and how the faith community can make a difference.

Love has everything to do with how we make a difference as people of faith through the way we serve. Dr. King says, “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” President Obama seven years ago urged America to use this national holiday as a day of service. How might you serve with love today?

Valora K Starr is the director of discipleship, Women of the ELCA.


Vickie L. Murph says:
Jan 21, 2013

Absolutely! Martin Luther King, Jr. was a messenger of love, justice and peace.

Syd says:
Jan 21, 2013

Thank you Valora. My brother who attended that LL Convention says it was pivitol in his life! May Rev. Kings message resound in our hearts for eternity!

Sandy Seffrood says:
Jan 21, 2013

Great One Valora!! A woman from our congregation was at that convention and said he was so inspirational. He was a very controversial speaker for the Luther League to hear at the time and some congregations chose to not attend. She remembers some of the controversy too but was glad she got to hear him in person.

Valora says:
Jan 22, 2013

Hopefully, Dr King’s words will not be packed away for the next MLK Day. Yes! Sandy, justice is controversial even today! Keep sharing!

Carol Rude Fleharty says:
Jan 18, 2016

I attended the is Luther League Convevtion in Miami Beach. It was quite the experience for a 14 year old Montana girl to travel across Montana by train beginning the trip in Whitefish and picking up fellow Luther Leaguers all across the state. We continued our 5 day trip by train all the way to Miami with a couple of pivotal stops along the way–one being in Alabama. You can imagine the shock seeing drinking fountains and bathrooms labeled for use by race. The convention hall was filled with 18,000 students. It truly was an experience of a lifetime. Of course hearing Doctor Martin Luther King speak was the highlight!

Valora Starr says:
Jan 20, 2016

Carol, it’s awesome to hear from you! My pastor, Don Luther was president of the Luther League then, so, you are now the second person I know who was there. What a memory.

Thanks for sharing.

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