Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr remains one of the most important religious, social, and political leaders in U.S. history. But he also was a first class theologian who understands the relationship between justice and love. Although he often is portrayed as an apostle of love for all humankind, which is true, we tend to soften or ignore his radical conception of justice that goes part and parcel with Christian love. Among many of his speeches and writings, this is one of my favorites. It is from an early speech where he shows the relationship between love and justice while placing the final emphasis on justice
“…in all of our doings, in all of our deliberations here this evening and all of the week and while–whatever we do–we must keep God in the forefront. Let us be Christian in all of our actions. But I want to tell you this evening that it is not enough for us to talk about love, love is one of the pivotal points of the Christian faith. There is another side called justice. And justice is really love in calculation. Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.
The Almighty God himself is not only, not the God just standing out saying through Hosea, “I love you, Israel.” He’s also the God that stands up before the nations and said: “Be still and know that I’m God , that if you don’t obey me I will break the backbone of your power and slap you out of the orbits of your international and national relationships.” Standing beside love is always justice, and we are only using the tools of justice. Not only are we using the tools of persuasion, but we’ve come to see that we’ve got to use the tools of coercion…”
(“Address to the first Montgomery Improvement Association [MIA] Mass Meeting,” Dec. 5th, 1955)