“For in Christ Jesus… the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” – Galatians 5:6
Dear Flock of the Shepherd of the Valley,
Although I’m a Lutheran pastor, I must confess that I have not read all that much of Martin Luther’s writings. With the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation, whose beginning is marked by the nailing of the 95 Theses on the doors of the church at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, there’s been a flurry of activity around learning more than usual about these and following events. Even at SOV we are planning to kick off the year leading up to the anniversary by watching a movie together after worship on October 30 depicting the life of Martin Luther. There are also plans in development to mark this occasion by learning and worshipping with our Roman Catholic neighbors and friends.
One work I have read and led discussion on is called “The Freedom of a Christian” or “On Christian Liberty.” Luther explores the proposition that a Christian is both “a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none” and “a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” I propose that our lives as Christians are always working this out: how indeed does Christ free us through grace? Do we live as if we believe it? And because of this freedom are we fully living in to our faith as seen in our love and service to others?
Luther draws on Paul’s words to the Galatian church in a letter devoted to the freedom as well as challenges of the Christian life. After defending himself from critics, he has to argue that the whole point of the freedom offered in Christ through grace is not for us to just go around doing whatever we want. Instead, the freedom is to use the gift of faith given to us for others through acts of love. We don’t have to worry any more about not measuring up or not following the rules perfectly. We are declared to be enough just because we are.
When we are in a period of life when we need help we can rely upon the freedom of others to support and help us. And in loving and serving others, our own need to express our faith through love might be met. Our culture’s tendency is to motivate others to act out of obligation rather than freedom. This can translate into a reluctance to seek love and service from others as well as judgment of those who seek help.
If you are a person who feels grounded in your faith, may you seek out ways to work it out through love. If faith is something with which you struggle, may Christ, through the Holy Spirit, seep into your life as you (in the words of our affirmation of faith)
– live among God’s faithful people,
– heard God’s word and share in the Lord’s supper,
– proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
– serve all people following the example of our Lord Jesus and
– strive for justice and peace in all the earth.