For my Christian History course, this week we are reading Martin Luther's letter to Pope Leo X in which he provides a powerful discussion of Christian Liberty. The timing of this assignment is significant and has incited many follow up thoughts for me from Saturday.
This past Saturday, I was called out of the bullpen to teach at our church's large group meeting on the University of Illinois campus - Saturday Night Grace. My assignment: take week two in a three part series taken from Prophet Isaiah's words in 49:6, where he shares a word from the LORD:
“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”
Israel's vision of God was and is doing in the world was too small and the people of God today are prone to similar small-mindedness. Specifically, we chose to highlight three ways in which God is sending Illini Life students: to campus (it is where we are, after all), to the urban poor and to all nations on earth.
For me, I spoke on the ever-light subject of the poor. Specifically, we talked about
Why are we concerned about the "urban" poor?
Who are the poor?
Who cares about them?
What are our emotions and motivations?
What can we do in response and how do we choose?
You can find the audio of my message at illinilife.org/#/media
So, what's the Luther connection?
As we discussed on Saturday, faith in Christ alone is the necessary foundation and only enduring motivation for caring for those under the weight of poverty and injustice.
Luther says: "Good works do not make a good man, but a good man does good works. Bad works do not make a bad man, but a bad man does bad works. Thus it is always necessary that the substance or person should be good before any good works can be done, and that good works should follow and proceed from a good person."
Who is this "good man"? Only the person who has realized there is nothing from within of his own substance or merit that would make him whole, holy and at peace before our perfect, beautiful, supreme, Creator God, who has then accepted the free gift of adoption, forgiveness and wholeness that comes through faith alone in the crucified and risen Christ Jesus.
Then, and only then, is a man or woman established as a new tree which can bear good fruit. The good tree must come before good and enduring fruit can be born!