Rev. Maria Mallory White and Rev. John F. White II


How can anyone love their enemy? That’s the question the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. tackled in his sermon, “Jesus Wasn’t Playing” as he addressed his congregation at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.

He wanted them to know Christian love is not a sentimental something that we talk about. It’s not merely emotional. This love that Jesus intends and commands is creative. It’s understanding goodwill for all people. It is the refusal to defeat any individual, per se.

When you rise to the level of this love, of its great beauty and power, you seek only to defeat evil systems. Individuals who happen to be caught up in that system, you love, but you seek to defeat the system. This love is agape, and agape defeats systems and offers hope for people in those systems.

That’s why Harriet Tubman conducted on that Underground Railroad. That’s why Dr. King led the boycott of the bus company in Montgomery. That’s why Thurgood Marshall fought to overturn “separate but equal.” That’s why Gandhi led a boycott of British goods.

That’s why the children of Soweto, South Africa, refused to speak Afrikaans, that’s why Colin Kaepernick took a knee—the list goes on and on. The point is the battle isn’t against an individual; it’s against the system, and agape defeats the system, offering hope for people in the process.

And King told the church folk that morning that “agape” is more than eros; agape is more than philia; agape is a love that seeks nothing in return. It is an overflowing love; it’s what theologians would call the love of God working in people’s lives.

And when you rise to love on this level, you begin to love people, not because they are likable, but because God loves them. You look at every person, and you love them because you know God loves them—even though they might be the worst people you’ve ever seen.

Jesus wasn’t playing. Jesus was serious: “Love your enemy.” He does not say, “Like your enemy.” “Like” seeks to attach to something sentimental. Affectionate. There are a lot of people who are very difficult to like.

There are a lot people who we don’t like because of what they do to us. Don’t like what they say about us and our people. Don’t like their attitudes. Don’t like some of the things they’re doing. There are a whole lot of people, about whom we can say without a doubt and without hesitation, we don’t like them.

But Jesus says love them. Because we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. And love is greater than like. Jesus says love them. Because love is greater than like. Because the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. And love is greater than like.

Someone can misbehave and kill like. Someone can lie and kill like. Someone can steal and kill like. Someone can oppress and kill like. And from those things, there’s no return.

But love is greater than like. Love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power in love that lives on and that eventually transforms individuals. That’s why Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Because that’s what Jesus does. And He tells us to go and do likewise.

Rev. Maria Mallory White and Rev. John F. White II are pastors at Immanuel Temple, a holistic, Kingdom of God-centered approach to ministry located at 7040 Pines Boulevard Pembroke Pines. To contact the Whites, email or call 754-400-7927.