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 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 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.

This post first appeared in the January 2013 issue of Boldcafe.