In the United States of America we associate July with our declaration of independence and the freedom it symbolizes from the British across the pond in 1776. We celebrate each year with family, friends, cook outs, and of course fireworks.
Although Martin Luther was a German monk in 16th century Germany, his teachings and example can guide our faithful freedom and witness in 21st century America.
Martin Luther, rooted in scripture similar to our recent Galatians texts, taught about the freedom of a Christian. Luther argued that we have been released from the chains of sin and the shackles of obligation under the law, in order to boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises.
Luther taught that since we are released from said chains and shackles by God’s pure grace, we are enabled and empowered to respond to said grace by:
- proclaiming Christ in word and deed,
- seeking justice,
- acting with compassion and mercy,
- loving and serving all people but especially the vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.
Luther taught that we have duel citizenship in the Two Kingdoms:
Civil Kingdom and Kingdom of God.
- We are called to be involved in our civil, social world but not necessarily to conform to it.
- We are called to be involved in the political process for the sake of the gospel.
- We are called to hold governments and their leadership accountable.
- We are called to usher in the Kingdom of God in the here and now, through boldly living into and living out our baptismal promises.
- We are called to embody the mercy, compassion, grace, and presence of God to all people, but especially the most vulnerable and the ‘least of these’.
Luther, however, did not simply teach and preach these principles.
He embodied these in his life.
Luther served on the town council. He had a reputation of standing firm for the vulnerable.
- The town council, with the influence of Luther, established the first joint government-church operated community chest to provide resources to the most vulnerable.
- On another occasion, Luther feared a town council decision did not benefit the most vulnerable. He applied pressure for the council to reconsider and overturn the decision by resigning. Due to Luther’s popularity and influence, the council reversed their decision and Luther resumed his position.
During 1527, the plague swept through Wittenberg and Luther was questioned regarding who had the freedom to flee and who had the responsibility to remain caring for the ill. Luther argued that all Christians should accept the responsibility to care for the ill, but that government leaders, clergy, and those with medical knowledge had an obligation to care for the ill. Thus, Martin Luther and his wife, Katharina Von Bora, remained in Wittenberg providing medical and pastoral care to the ill in their home.
May we, freed from the chains of sin and the shackles of the law, boldly live into and live out our baptismal promises in the Two Kingdoms, for the sake of the gospel. Amen.