So for the past couple of weeks I have been blogging through Luther’s lesser known 97 Theses. Let’s finish them up and wrap up the series.
(93)-94. This holds true also of the saying that the love of God may continue alongside an intense love of the creature.
Luther refers to “a kind of subtle evil” in arguments that try to balance what he sees as mutually exclusive. In this case, he wants to push away from some kind of balancing of love for God and love for non-God.
95. To love God is at the same time to hate oneself and to know nothing but God.
Loving God is seen as the opposite of sin, which is self-love and hatred of God. When we reduce sin to misdemeanors and “sins” then we can easily lose sight of this. At the heart of the human problem is the human heart and the problem is profound! A lot of Christian preaching leaves listeners very content with their elevated view of themselves, and the teaching easily turns into top tips to be a better you. We must not let humans be the residual focus of our preaching.
(96-97). Luther ends with two theses that urge the reader to conform their desires, using the language of will, in every respect, to God. It is clear for him that Christianity cannot be about dutiful obedience running parallel to rebellious heart inclinations. If we are His, then our will really should desire what God does.
I hope these posts have been helpful. At the very least, may this nudge us to take a look at Luther’s 97 Theses and wrestle with what he was proposing for debate. Perhaps his poking at foundational questions will make a difference to us in our understanding of Christianity, of humanity and of ministry.
It isn’t enough to educate and encourage conformity of external behavior. That option may be tempting, but it isn’t what the Gospel is all about. Too much of Christianity is shaped as much by unquestioned assumptions as it is by Scripture itself. The devil would love to keep us thinking highly of ourselves and little of God. Sadly, as preachers we can so easily fall into serving that hellish agenda.
May our hearts be drawn to Christ, and may our preaching offer the radical balm of the gospel to a profoundly sinful humanity. People desperately need what they will never find in themselves or their own behavioural resolutions, but only in Christ himself.