By Pastor Jeff Jacobs
Unity Lutheran Parish –
St. Paul, Saetersdal and
St. Matthew’s, Granger
In this month of Martin Luther’s birth (November 10, 1483), I share from one of his important early works, “The Freedom of a Christian.” While his other writings in 1520 were quite polemical, this aimed to be more conciliatory amid growing tensions between Catholic hierarchy and Protestant reformers. It is over 30 pages, but I hope a few quotes will convey Luther’s thought on how Christians are freed by grace to serve in love.
“A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.
“These two theses seem to contradict each other… Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in I Cor. 9:19, ‘For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,’… So Christ, although he was Lord of all… was at the same time a free man and a servant, ‘in the form of God’ and ‘of a servant’ (Phil. 2:6-7)
“(A Christian) ought to think: ‘Although I am unworthy… God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness… without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy…. Why should I not therefore… with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing… to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with inestimable riches? I will therefore give myself… to my neighbor, just as Christ offered himself to me.
“(F)rom faith thus flow forth love and joy in the Lord, and from love a joyful… mind that serves one’s neighbor willingly and takes no account of gratitude or ingratitude… As his Father does, distributing all things… freely, making ‘his sun rise on the evil and on the good’ (Matt. 5:45), so also the son does… with that freely bestowing joy which… he sees in God, the dispenser of such benefits.
Therefore, if we recognized the… precious things which are given us,.. our hearts will be filled by the Holy Spirit with the love which makes us free… servants of our neighbors, and yet lords of all.”