In his sermon “Loving Your Enemies,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote these words:
When Abraham Lincoln was running for president of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country talking bad about Lincoln. He said a lot of unkind things. And sometimes he would get to the point that he would even talk about his looks, saying, “You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the President of the United States.”
Finally, one day Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States, and it came time for him to choose a secretary of war. He looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Edwin Stanton. When Lincoln announced this, his advisors were shocked. They told him, “Mr. Lincoln, don’t be a fool. Don’t you know what Stanton has been saying about you? Nothing but negative and malicious things. He has tried to defeat you on every hand. Do you know that, Mr. Lincoln? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?” Abraham Lincoln stood before his advisors and said: “Oh yes. I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job.” Mr. Stanton did become secretary of war, and we all know the rest. The Union won the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865. And if you were to study history, you would discover that some of the greatest words or statements ever made about Abraham Lincoln was by this man Stanton. At Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, Stanton stood up and said: “He was a great man. Now he belongs to the ages.” He also made other beautiful statements concerning the character and the stature of this man.
If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, if he had answered everything Stanton said, Lincoln would not have transformed or changed Stanton’s heart. Stanton would have gone to his grave hating Lincoln, and Lincoln would have gone to his grave hating Stanton. But through the power of love Abraham Lincoln was able to redeem Stanton.