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In his work, Freedom of a Christian, Luther writes, "Although I am an unworthy and condemned man, my God has given me in Christ all the riches of righteousness and salvation without any merit on my part, out of pure, free mercy, so that from now on I need nothing except faith which believes that this is true. Why should I not therefore freely, joyfully, with all my heart, and with an eager will do all things which I know are pleasing and acceptable to such a Father who has overwhelmed me with His inestimable riches? I will therefore give myself as a Christ to my neighbor, just as Christ offered Himself to me; I will do nothing in this life except what I see is necessary, profitable, and salutary to my neighbor, since through faith I have an abundance of all good things in Christ" (Luther's Works 31:367-368). This same theology of justification and the baptismal life is strengthened in the Catechisms that Luther would write almost ten years later. Luther makes the point that we are freely forgiven and loved; therefore, we joyfully freely forgive and love all those who hate us and persecute us. As our Lord says, "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you" (Luke 6:27-28).
Because we are the baptized, we live a different life than those who are outside of the faith. We live as those who are freed from the guilt of sin, the pleasures of the world, the will of the Old Adam, and the shame of the devil. We live as those who are dead to this world and alive to God in Christ Jesus. What does this life look like? Well, there isn't one picture of this life. There are pictures of what this life doesn't look like. It doesn't look like lashing out on your family, holding a grudge, lusting after every woman that walks past you, desires the things your neighbor has and not being content with what God has given to you, being lazy, overeating, habitual drunkenness, and the like. We know, because the conscience and the law reveals it, what is wrong and how we shouldn't live. How we should live though is not something we can receive on a piece of paper and then say to people, "Sorry, helping you isn't on my to do list today." No, the Law is fulfilled in love toward God and our neighbor. We fail at this love daily and habitually. Let us repent then. Let us not pretend or justify our failure, nor despair because of it. Jesus died, loved those who hated Him, blessed those who cursed Him, gave to those who took away from Him, and prayed for those who abused Him. In short, while we were still sinners Christ died for us. We are loved, forgiven, and rescued, not based on our merit or love, but because Jesus loves us and has mercy on us.
We the baptized live our lives out in faith toward God and in fervent love toward our neighbor. We live lives of joyful service and sacrifice for our family, friends, fellow church members, next door neighbor, old enemies, and new competitors. We live out in love for all. Why? Because it merits us salvation? NO. Because we enter heaven by our ladder of righteousness? NO. No, we live out lives of love because Christ first and always loves us. He loved us in His death on the cross, His descent into hell, His resurrection from the dead, and His ascension into Heaven. He loves us still as He baptizes us, absolves us, forgives us in the preaching of the Gospel, feeds us in the sacrament of the altar, and He loves us as He is present in the face of our neighbor. May this ring in our ears all our days as we strive to love perfectly, but fail in our daily attempts. May despair and self-righteous ne gone, that we may hear only the Words of Jesus that say that the work of salvation is finished and accomplished for us. Jesus has done all the work. When we sin, He forgives us. When we fail, He absolves us. May this peace and freedom comfort you as you live our your life in faith toward God and in fervent love toward all God has placed into your life. Know always though that you have a merciful and forgiving Lord who knows your weaknesses, your failures, and habitual sins, and still loves you and forgives you.
Peace be with you. May the devil be silenced, the world be hushed, and the Old Adam be drowned anew so that you hear only the voice of your Savior Jesus who says, "Take heart my child. Yes, you have sinned, but I forgive you and love you. Listen not to your own thoughts or those of the world. Listen to me. I say to you, arise and have no fear, Heaven waits for you," Amen.