Home > The Ten Commandments > Do Real Christians Get Angry? Luther

Do Real Christians Get Angry? Luther

For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven. 

…Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment…St. Matthew 5:20-21

…For there is not a man on earth, so far as he is flesh and blood, that can help becoming angry and giving forth evil words and actions.  But if I abstain, it certainly is because I fear the sword or I seek a selfish end.  If I do not curse, if I do not calumniate, either the sword or hell deters me, the fear of death or of the devil; these I have in my mind and abstain, otherwise, I could not abstain. [Not only this, but] I would actually murder and massacre, wherever and whenever I could.  But nature I cannot produce a single kind word or action….Christ…so explains the law as to cause you to feel ashamed in your inner heart.  He would say: Thou art not sweet in heart, thine heart is full of hatred, full of murder and blood, and so thy hands and eyes would also gladly be full of the same; nor canst thou prevent it, any more than thou canst prevent the fire from burning, for it is its nature to burn. 


MartinLuther6.  A person might here say, What then am I to do?  I feel all that within me, but I cannot change conditions.  I reply, Flee to the Lord, thy God, lay thy complaint before him and say: Behold, Lord, my neighbor has injured me a little, has spoken a few words touching my honor, has caused some damage to my property, this I cannot suffer, therefore, I would cheerfully see him killed.  Oh my God, how gladly would I be amiable to him, but, alas, I cannot!  See how wholly cold, yea, dead I am!  O Lord, I cannot help myself, I must stand back.  Make thou me different, then I will be godly; if not, I will remain like I have been.  Here you must seek your help and at no other place; if you seek it in yourself, you will never find it.  Your heart perpetually bubbles and boils with anger, you cannot prevent it.


7.  Now, this is the sum of the law: You are to be kind, amiable and jesus mockerybenignant in heart, word and deed; and even though they take your life, still you are to suffer all in love, and render thanks to your Lord.  Behold, thus a great deal is included in the short sentence, “thou shalt not kill.”  Christ lived up to this; do the same, and you are a good Christian.  When nailed to the cross, his name, which was above every name, and his honor were profaned by the Jews, while they reviled him by words of the following and similar import: Well, what a nice God he has!  If he be God’s son, let him come down!  Let his God come now, in whom he banked and boasted so much, and help him!  Matt. 27:43, Mark 15:32, Luke 23:35.  Such words pierced his very heart, hurting him more than all his other sufferings; still, he suffered all this with patience; he wept over his enemies because they would have no part in the great benefit to be derived from his death; yea, he prayed for their sin.  And in the face of this we are ready to snarl and growl over the least trifle, when asked to yield a little to our neighbor.


8.  Here you see how far we are still from Christ.  It is indeed necessary to suffer with Christ, if we would enter with him into glory.  He has gone before, so we should follow, as St. Peter says, 1 Epistle 2:21f.: “For hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who when he suffered, threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”  Now see what kind of an example St. Peter places before us; truly we should emulate it, endeavoring to be and to act like him.  But this we cannot do by nature; it follows that we without exception are the devil’s own, there being not a man on earth that is found not guilty.  Hence the sentence holds good: You must be likewise skillful, namely, good at heart, or you belong to perdition. 


9.  What then must we do?  You must do as follows: You must acknowledge that you are condemned by the law, and the devil’s own property and that you are unable to rescue yourself by any power of your own.  Therefore you must flee to God, pray him to change you, or all is lost and ruined.  This was well understood and observed by those highly learned, but they argued thus: If we preach that the whole world is condemned and the devil’s own, what is to become of the sanctimonious priests and monks, for then they too would be condemned?   God forbid!  Wait wait…Why, God never meant it in that sense, for who could keep it?  He did not command it, but merely suggested it to such as wished to be perfect…


10.  We comfort consciences in a manner quite different, namely thus: Dear brother, all this is addressed not to the monks and priests only; Christ is not trifling with his words; it is a direct command, you must conform to it, or you are the devil’s property.  This is our way of comforting.  Alas!  Exclaims our nature, Do you call that comforting?  It is rather a transfer of souls to the devil.  True, friend, but I must first take you down to hell before taking you up to heaven, you must despair in the first place, then come to Christ, behold his example, how he conducted himself toward his enemies, in that he wept over them.  But the bare example alone …does not help to you any extent.


11.  In view of this lay hold of his word and promise, that he will change you; this only will help you.  Pray thus: Oh my God, thou hast placed Christ, thine only beloved Son, before me as an example, so that I might lead a like life; but I am not able to do this.  O my God, change me, grant me thy grace!  God then comes and says: Behold, since you know yourself and seek grace from me, I will change you and do as you desire.  And though you are not so perfect as Christ, as indeed you should be, I shall nevertheless have my Son’s life and perfection cover your imperfections.  So you see we must always have something to keep us in the right humility and fear.


Luther, Church Postil, Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2nd sermon (1523)  (Lenker, vol. 2, pp. 179-187)

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