Lutheran Thought

Our Pets, the Law, and the Gospel

Metaphors lack significant explanation or comparison, however our pets demonstrate the need for Law and the Gospel. My husband and I recently rescued a 1-year-old pup, Highlander, and a young kitten, Valkyrie. These pets are absolutely crazy, but we love them.

Highlander and Valkyrie have demonstrated some behaviors that are less than desirable, we can call these “sins” However, when their “sinful” behavior becomes known to my husband and I, their responses are opposite of one another. Highlander will punish himself. When Highlander receives a look, a tone, or the evil words “bad boy”, he literally tucks the tail between the legs, puts the head down, and hides under the guest bed. However, Valkyrie will shake off punishment (i.e. the spray bottle), gives you the “I know I am not suppose to do this, but oh well” glare, and repeats the behavior again. These responses are similar to the human response to our own sinful behaviors.

At one end of the spectrum are the “Highlanders” who recognize their sin and punish themselves, especially through guilt. These individuals are burdened with the Law, or instruction. According to Martin Luther, the German reformer, there are three uses of the Law: (1) the civil law, (2) to recognize oneself as sinner, and (3) to reorient the sinner towards Christ. The first usage is the civil authorities, who are to discourage humanity from disrupting civil order and acting upon their darkest desires to harm/kill their neighbors. The second usage is to condemn the sinner as a sinner, which is basically the application of the Law in order that one may recognize sin as sin. The disputed third usage of the Law is to reorient the sinner towards Christ (Formula of Concord, Article VI), which includes the recognition that the merit of Christ and the grace of God justifies the sinner.

At the other end of the spectrum are the “Valkyries” who may or may not recognize their sin, yet are not concerned with the consequences. Traditionally, these individuals have basked in the Gospel without comprehension. According to Martin Luther, the Gospel is the pure, undeserved, unconditional grace of God which justifies the sinner (Formula of Concord, Article IV). Unfortunately, the Gospel has been interpreted as one’s behavior does not matter, i.e. the Law is of no significance.

Martin Luther argued that both the Law and the Gospel were to be preached. However, the challenge is to comfort the troubled “Highlanders” with the Gospel while enlightening the “Valkyries” with the Law.

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