As some of you know who read the posts on this blog, I am a Lutheran Pastor. I have been at it for 40 years. One of my great joy within the Lutheran Church these days is the research that Finnish theologians have been engaged in as they present new insights into the theology of Martin Luther. The “Mannermaa school” of Finnish theology under the leadership of Tuomo Mannnermaa has created a lot of interest in rethinking how we have interpreted Luther. For example, Mannermaa maintains that love, not “faith alone” is the actual key to understanding Luther’s entire theology. “Faith without love remains an abstract principle principle in Luther’s thinking.”
I say all this to introduce a pharse from Luther from Mannermaa’s book, “Two kinds of love: Martin Luther’s religious world.” Listen to thes words from Luther. “Therefore sinners are beautiful because they are loved; they are not loved because they are beautiful.” What does this have to do with men and their spiritual life. A great deal. God love according to Luther, “does not find but creates that which is lovable to it, it is not determined by the attributes of its object.” In other words, God loves each of us in our sinful mess, just as we are. We can do nothing. We can only receive this love. We can do nothing to clean ourselves up. Rather the love of God does the cleaning up for us. Luther declares, “This is the love of the cross, born of the cross, which turns in the dirction where it does not find good which it may enjoy, but where it may confer good upon the bad and needy person.” Wow, isn’t that great.
Men, there is, of course, much that we need to do in cooperating with the grace of God in our lives. We need to practice the spiritual disciplines, we need to be servants in a dying work, we need to be spiritual leaders in our families, etc. But prior to all this and more then what we do, we need to receive the love of God into the inner recesses of our hearts. What a great thought. I am beautiful in God’s sight, because I have received his love. Yes, men you are beautiful. Just sit there, ponder this thought and simply receive it. Once a man trully realizes that God wants to be active in his life, no matter how messy it might seem, something happens to brakes the hold of shame and guilt that a man harbors in his heart. It is like the light goes on and he can see. It is like a veil is lifted
Listen to these words from the Message. “Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are — face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him’ (II Cor. 3:16-18) There you have it. As we turn to Jesus, His Spirit at work in our hearts makes us beautiful. Don’t try to figure it out. Just let it happen.