Passive to be Active

Martin Luther lived an intensely spiritual life.  That in itself sounds like a good thing but for Luther’s early life that meant anything but fulfillment or happiness.  Every good deed was weighed in the balance of how it mattered to God as was stated in the article The Genius of Luther’s Thinking, “Instead, he was always calculating how his helping others might make him look good to God.” (>>article)  Luther was intensely spiritual because he believed that God was constantly watching Luther, criticizing his choices and waiting for the opportunity to punish Luther.


Luther saw every consequence, every negative event as a judgment from God, even a lightning bolt that threatened his life became the finger of God that pointed Luther to the monastery.  In Luther’s mind there was no better way to make the most of his choices and actions than in the monastery where the most holy living happened.  And yet Luther still found no satisfaction.


Luther lived under the expectation that if God acted it was for his punishment.  Perhaps this picture of God is not so foreign to our perception of events in our lives.  When bad things happen do we then only start to ask, “Why did God do that?” or “What is God trying to tell me?”


It was not until Luther’s contact with the Bible revealed to him that God gives righteousness as a gift.  Choices, consequences and his concern were replaced with a faith focused fully on the cross of Jesus Christ.  This was the action of God for our sake, made right by God’s action.  Jesus took on the consequence of our sinful choices. 


Since Luther had nothing to do with this righteousness and its source was in God, Luther could trust that it had God’s full approval.  Luther called this kind of righteousness, passive righteousness since it can only be received not created by our own actions.  Luther found great joy in this gift because now he was free to pursue an active righteousness of good deeds for others.  No longer measuring his actions for others based on how much affect it would have on God but now as a joyful response and mirror to the gift of God’s love for us.



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