Daily Reading for January 15 • Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader and Martyr, 1968
Jesus frequently illustrated the characteristics of the hardhearted. The rich fool was condemned, not because he was toughminded, but rather because he was not tenderhearted. Life for him was a mirror in which he saw only himself, and not a window through which he saw other selves. Dives went to hell, not because he was wealthy, but because he was not tenderhearted enough to see Lazarus and because he made no attempt to bridge the gulf between himself and his brother.
Jesus reminds us that the good life combines the toughness of the serpent and the tenderness of the dove. To have serpentlike qualities devoid of dovelike qualities is to be passionless, mean, and selfish. To have dovelike without serpentlike qualities is to be sentimental, anemic, and aimless. We must combine strongly marked antitheses.
From “The Strength to Love” in A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., ed. James M. Washington (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1986), 495.