Friday, October 22, 2010

Martin Luther on 'Loving Our Neighbors'

Yesterday's installment of Faith Alone: A Daily Devotional, extracted from many of Martin Luther's sermons, essays, and table talks, struck me both personally and as a commentary on trends in both the Church and in society:
"The entire law is summed up in a single command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"
Galatians 5:14

After having heard and accepted the true teaching about faith, the apostle Paul seriously admonishes Christians to practice genuine good works. This is because remnants of sin remain in those who are justified. These remnants resist faith and divert us from doing true good works. Human reason and the sinful nature resist the Spirit in believers and control unbelievers. Reason is naturally inclined toward hypocritical superstition. It wants to measure God according to its own thoughts rather than according to his Word. It does works of its own choosing more enthusiastically than the ones God commanded. That's why faithful teachers must teach and impress on people true love and true good works just as much as they teach faith.

No one should think they fully understand this command: "Love your neighbor." Certainly this command is very short and very easy as far as the words are concerned. But where are the teachers and learners who actually practice this in life? These words, "Serve one another humbly in love," and "Love your neighbor as yourself," are eternal words. No one can think about, urge, and practice them enough.

It's remarkable that believers will immediately have troubled consciences if they fail to do something trivial. But these same people feel nothing at all when they neglect love and when their hearts aren't sincere and affectionate toward their neighbor. Unfortunately, this happens every day. For they don't regard God's command to love as highly as their own superstitions.*
*Clearly, Luther, in agreement with the Scriptures sees that anything that we put our trust in more than we do in the God revealed in the Bible, is a superstition. This includes our own tainted reason.

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