Archive for the ‘Mercy’ Category

Then Hess Quit Preaching

johann hess2 rvs 4A very intriguing history was recounted for us of the first establishment of the care of the poor in Breslau.[i]  Johann Hess, the first Lutheran preacher in Breslau (d. 1547) could no longer accept how beggars, crippled, and mentally ill people lay on the streets and in front of all the churches in Breslau.  He began to publicly admonish the governing authorities from the pulpit.  But from it came no establishment of means to care for the poor in the community.  Then Hess quit preaching.  This had a significant effect upon the magistrate and the congregation, because he very much enjoyed preaching and they knew it.  Finally they resolved to ask him why he stopped preaching.  The answer was this: “My Lord Jesus lay in His members at the doors of all the churches.  I can not simply step over Him.  If he is not cared for, neither will I preach.”  These words had a very significant influence.  Places to care for the poor were prepared.  Illegitimate beggars were dismissed and in one day 500 persons were brought to newly established hospitals.  Thus there arose gradually in all the cities and villages of Lutheran Germany a well-ordered and equipped way of caring for the poor and the sick, as we now see it everywhere. (p. 13)

From “Mercy and the Lutheran Congregation: A translation of the essay, ‘Intentional Care of the Poor and the Sick is Essential for the Well-Being of a Christian Congregation’ by Theodore Julius Brohm.”  Translated by Matthew Harrison.  LCMS World Relief and Human Care.  2006.

[i] Now Wroclaw, a town of around 630,000 people in Poland. (KH)


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Kebab, Compassion, and Christian Liberty


For freedom Christ has made us free; therefore stand firm, and do not again submit to a yoke of slavery.  Galatians 5:1

A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.  A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.

 These two theses seem to contradict each other…Both are Paul’s own statements, who says in 1 Cor. 9, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all,” and in Rom. 13, “Owe no one anything, except to love one another.”  Love by its very nature is ready to serve and be subject to him who is loved.  So Christ, although he was Lord of all, was “born of woman, born under the law”, and therefore was at the same time a free man and a servant, “in the form of God” and “of a servant.” [Philippians 2:6-7] 

Martin Luther, “The Freedom of a Christian”

If you don’t believe in your values enough to say “no” when other people try to insist that you give them up, you will lose them.  The only question should be whether your values are right.

It’s one thing to be sensitive and hospitable to Muslims who live as foreigners in your country.  But when they reject the law of your country and begin to implement their god’s laws in defiance of you, to continue to show kindness is to give in to them, and to allow yourself to be enslaved by them.

The same thing is true for Christians.  We should love and pray for the enemies of the church and also unbelievers, and make whatever concessions we can out of love for them.  We should bear with weaker Christians in the Church out of compassion for them.

But when enemies of the church, unbelievers, or people in the church who seem to be weak say that we can’t preach or practice some part of the word of God because it is offensive and unloving, we can’t submit to them.  To do that is to say that the Word of God can only speak as long as it does not violate human rules.

It’s a good thing, I think, that the Europeans wanted to welcome people from other countries and respect their traditions.  But it’s not a good thing to confuse the lawful use of authority with oppression.  It was a bad thing that the company sold meat labeled “Halal” even though it had traces of pork in it.  But in Denmark people are not summarily beaten or executed for eating pork or for selling it or for lying about selling it.

In the Church we have a similar problem.  In our society there are few things that will get people all riled up like it will rile observant Muslims if you mislead them to eat pork.  But among the few things that are likely to cause that kind of upset is to be “hateful,” which has become a very broad kind of crime.  It’s considered hateful, for the most part, to tell someone that they do or have done something that was not just “a bad choice” but actually evil–sin.

In the Church it is not hateful to tell someone they sinned.  We are commanded to do that, but to do it in love for the other person.  So if we let it stand that a person in the church is doing wrong when they rebuke another person we end up allowing it to happen that God’s Word is not allowed to be heard in the Church.  At least in some areas.

So as Christians we must be ready to sacrifice our own comfort for the sake of weaker Christians, the enemies of the Church, and the world outside.  We have to give up legitimate things that cause unnecessary offense, and we should spare ourselves no trouble to do so out of love.

We spare ourselves no trouble, but we also cannot permit the Word of God to be bound or limited, even if people accuse us of being proud, arrogant, loveless, etc.  That is because it is not our Word.  It is God’s.  To take anything away from it is to agree that it is not God’s Word; and to allow it to be silenced at all in the Church is to allow it to be taken away from us.

Since the Word of God is the only power on earth by which God gives us salvation and protects His Church, we can’t allow it to be silenced in any part or forced to follow the rules of human propriety or “political correctness”.  If we do that we trade in the righteousness of God, which God counts as ours through faith in the message of the cross, for the righteousness of the godless world, which consists in telling everybody that as long as it works for them, that’s good, no matter what they feel like doing.



Almsgiving, Charity–An Essential (Overlooked) Part of Christian Morality. C.S. Lewis

Illustration from below book

In the passage where the New Testament says that one must work, it gives as a reason “in order that he may have something to give to those in need.”  Charity—giving to the poor—is an essential part of Christian morality: in the frightening parable of the sheep and the goats it seems to be the point on which everything turns.  Some people nowadays say that charity ought to be unnecessary and that instead of giving to the poor we ought to produce the kind of society in which there were no poor to give to.  They may be quite right in saying we ought to produce that kind of society.  But if anyone thinks that, as a consequence, you can stop giving in the meantime, then he has parted company with all Christian morality.  I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give.  I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.  In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.   I am speaking now of “charities” in the common way.  Particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbors, or employees, which God, as it were, forces upon your notice, may demand much more: even to the crippling and endangering of your own position.  For many of us the great obstacle to charity lies not in our luxurious living or desire for more money, but in our fear—fear of insecurity.  This must often be recognized as a temptation.  Sometimes our pride also hinders our charity; we are tempted to spend more than we ought on the showy forms of generosity (tipping, hospitality) and less than we ought on those who really need our help.


CS Lewis

The Joyful Christian: 127 Readings.  New York: Touchstone, 1996.  pp. 143-144.

O Muslims! Teach not your children to say: “We love death”!

December 4, 2012 1 comment

child preacher martyrdom  (I thought the video was on here when I published this post! Sorry.  )

O Zionists, we love death for the sake of Allah just as much as you love life for the sake of Satan.  We long for martyrdom for the sake of Allah just as much as you hate death, O enemies of Allah….I am just a small child, but nevertheless…If it were up to me, I would come to you [Palestinians] and I would fight alongside you in the battlefield. –Wee Egyptian TV preacher Ibrahim Adham 

I heard a Lutheran 6 year old preach a sermon in response to this video.  Unfortunately I didn’t record it.  But below is the transcript.

“O Turks, why do you protest so loudly that you love death?  That is not something to brag about.  By saying this you show that you are Satan’s children, since he is a liar and a murderer from the beginning.

nea-molech-sacrificeO Mohammedans, the true God does not love death.  Idols love death, especially the death of children.  The Jews who did not know their God sacrificed their children to Moloch, and you, O Mohammedans, are the spiritual children of those unfaithful Jews who offered up their children to a bloodthirsty god.

O Saracens, the true God loves life and blesses little children.  This God Whom you do not know said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.  I tell you the truth, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child shall never enter it.’

O prisoners of the bloodthirsty idol Allah, the living and true God said, ‘Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven, for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and the unjust.’

cranach law's torment (2)O you who have been ensnared by the false prophet Muhammad!  The true God became man and died on the cross–not because He loves death, but because He loves human beings who are made slaves through the fear of death.  O deceived ones!  You may love death, but you are still slaves to its fear.  That the dead will rise is certain, but whether God will raise you to paradise or the fires of hell you do not know.  O false ones!  Your conscience does not let you rest.  You run toward death and push your children ahead of you because you seek to atone for your sins with your own blood!

O you who submit to the devil’s yoke!  O you among the Mohammedans whose consciences are not yet completely seared!  Your heart condemns you that you have done evil deeds which God must surely bring to justice.  Let the pain of your conscience remain as a witness to the truth that Islam cannot deliver you from your sins.  Do not believe the false hope that death for Allah will result in certain salvation for you.  If Allah could take away sins he would have done so for you already.

O you whom Christians should pity, even while you rape their daughters, bear false witness against their husbands, and steal their property!  The only Muslims who have relief from the accusations of their consciences are those who have destroyed their consciences and have lost the ability to see that ablutions and prayers and special diets do not erase sin or give the conscience rest.  Or else they are those who are convinced that “martyrdom” is an assured path to salvation.  But when a Mohammedan’s body falls to the ground while waging jihad, his soul is carried away by angels not to paradise but to the laughing mouth of Satan, who says, “Well done, my faithful martyr!”

cranach_law_gospelO Moors, Turks, and Saracens!  Christian martyrs die willingly for Christ because they have already died with Him.  O idolaters!  Christians wear crosses not because we love death and execution, but because by the true God’s death on the cross, death’s power and fear is taken away.

O blind, most miserable Muslims, who intend to die for God but do not know Him!  The true God was crucified, dead, and buried, and rose again on the third day, and destroyed death.  O lost ones!  For Christians death is no longer death.  Christians have been born a second time.  They are sons of God, not His slaves.

nativity giotto 1311

O Mohammedans!  the true God was born a human being to live in the midst of His enemies.

O you lovers of violence! The true God died for His enemies.  Because all men were His enemies–Jews, Christians, Mohammedans.  But He had compassion on all the sons of Adam and gave Himself as a burnt offering to take away their sins.

O murderers of Christians, oppressors of the helpless!  You have blasphemed the true God and shed the blood of His saints! Yet He seeks your salvation.  His believers with whose blood you paint church walls seek your salvation.  They pray for you.  Even though you have made your children preachers of murder and worshippers of death, the living God suffered for you to rescue you from the eternal fire.

O Janissaries and Assasins, do not believe that God will receive you into Paradise when you embrace death for the sake of Allah and when you murder in the name of Allah.

O you who desire to be martyrs!  The true God only receives those who embrace His death in their place.  His true martyrs suffer or die not to earn something but because they have already been given everything in Jesus Christ crucified.

O Mohammedans, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and will come to judge the living and the dead.  This Jesus is the true God, and no one can know God unless they know Him.

crucifixion-1904 russian guyO Muslims!  If you would submit to God, you must know who He is.  He makes Himself known through the cross.  Through Jesus the true God is known–the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  They are not three gods, but one God; not one person but three.

O Mohammedans, do not think that you can philosophize with God.  Do not think that you will be able to present yourselves before God without shame for your sins on judgment day.   O Mohammedans! God does not judge like men.  He will not overlook sin or take a bribe, or accept suicide and murder as a ransom.  He will not accept your arguments that “God cannot have a son.”  God knows far better than you what He can and cannot do.

O blind-hearted Muslims, like all Adam’s race blind to God because of self-love!  The Trinity, the God you do not know, is love.  He loves you, O Arabs, O Mohammedans, and He seeks your blessing.  Wearing the scars from nails which pierced Him He loves you, even now.  Even though you have burned churches and blown His believers apart in the countries where they pay you tribute, Jesus the Lord God still loves you and wants you to live.  So he allows you to kill His people so that they may bear witness to you that He died to save the whole world.  He allows you to display your remarkable zeal for your idol and your false prophet by slaughtering Christians like lambs, spilling and spattering their blood on your streets and walls, thinking that in doing this you do God service.  He hears their blood crying out to Him, and yet He delays your punishment.  coptic-martyrs

Oh Mohammedans, listen to the true God.  You love death, but He loves you.  He wants you and your children to live.

‘So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.  All who came before me are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not heed them.  I am the door; if anyone enters by me, he will be saved, and will go in an dout and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me, as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.  And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.  So there shall be one flock, one shepherd.  For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.” ‘ (John 10:7-12, 14-18)

‘At this time Jesus declared, ‘”I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealeed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.  All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Fahter, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.  Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”‘ (Matthew 11:25-30)”

Joliet, Illinois. October 2012.

November 1, 2012 1 comment

Lutheran “Austerity” v. “Catholic” Profligacy?

August 17, 2012 4 comments

Maybe some of the characteristics of the old confessions still live on in the different parts of Christendom.  But I think it’s a stretch.  This is a worthwhile article, though, for pointing out the value Luther and Lutheran theology place on good works, though.

But rather than scour tarnished Weimar, we should read much deeper into Germany’s incomparably rich history, and in particular the indelible mark left by Martin Luther and the “mighty fortress” he built with his strain of Protestantism. Even today Germany, though religiously diverse and politically secular, defines itself and its mission through the writings and actions of the 16th century reformer, who left a succinct definition of Lutheran society in his treatise “The Freedom of a Christian,” which he summarized in two sentences: “A Christian is a perfectly free Lord of all, subject to none, and a Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all.”

Consider Luther’s view on charity and the poor. He made the care of the poor an organized, civic obligation by proposing that a common chest be put in every German town; rather than skimp along with the traditional practice of almsgiving to the needy and deserving native poor, Luther proposed that they receive grants, or loans, from the chest. Each recipient would pledge to repay the borrowed amount after a timely recovery and return to self-sufficiency, thereby taking responsibility for both his neighbors and himself. This was love of one’s neighbor through shared civic responsibility, what the Lutherans still call “faith begetting charity.”

…But if their Lutheran heritage of sacrificing for their neighbors makes Germans choose austerity, it also leads them to social engagement. In classic Lutheran teaching, the salvation of the believer “by faith alone” does not curtail the need for constant charitable good works, as ill-informed critics allege. Faith, rather, empowers the believer to act in the world by taking the worry out of his present and future religious life.

Not Very Good At Being Christians

August 6, 2012 12 comments


When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No. But I am the commander of the armies of the Lord.” Joshua 5:13-14

Ouch.  This picture stings. 

It’s easy to start thinking of all kinds of probably valid rebuttals.  People always think Christians should just feed the hungry and be nice and not stir up trouble.  Especially people who aren’t Christians think that.  And a lot of Christians think it too.  They forget some of Jesus’ other words, like, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on the earth.  I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”  (Matt. 10:34)  Whenever conflict arises because of theology or for the sake of the confession of the Gospel, there are lots of Christians who think you shouldn’t get into fights if you are a Christian.  Such Christians become a great source of pain for their brothers who stand up and bear the hatred of the world.  Then the world accuses them, and meanwhile brothers in the church also say, “You’re not really confessing Jesus.  You’re just being a jerk.”

I’m assuming Jack is not a Christian.  I haven’t read the rest of the blog.  But Jesus didn’t say, specifically, that Christians should serve at soup kitchens or homeless shelters.  He did say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  And, “If someone takes your cloak, offer your tunic also,” and, “give to the one who asks of you, and the one who would borrow from you do not turn away.”

But then again, it was Judas who was annoyed when a lady poured expensive perfume on Jesus; he said, “Why wasn’t that sold and given to the poor?”  And Jesus said, “You will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have Me.

But here’s the thing, even though you could argue with this meme and get annoyed with it, it really should provoke our repentance.

The folks who went to Chik-fil-a and stood in long lines—isn’t it fair to assume that most of them were Christians?  And isn’t it fair to assume that most of them are probably committed and  conservative Christians, or more committed than many?  It takes some commitment to stand up and be counted in the culture war, not to mention spending an hour in a line in order to protest something.

What made all these committed Christians come out?  A business owner says that he opposes homosexual marriage and that he considers his company a Christian company.  Then he is boycotted and picketed by homosexual activists. 

In order to show the world how many conservative Christians there are who agree with the owner of Chik-fil-a, we have this massive turnout of people to spend their dollars in the store.  “We’re not going to be intimidated.  We’re going to let business owners who are vocal about their Christianity and their opposition to gay marriage know that they can continue to be so and they will still continue to be able to run a profitable business.”  That seems to be the message, or at least some of the message.

I have no problem with the owner of Chik-fil-a saying what he said.  Christians should vocally oppose homosexual marriage.  I’ve done the same, and every time I do something painful happens.  I keep doing it not to bash homosexuals but so there are still some voices telling kids, “No, not everyone agrees that homosexual marriage is right, and they aren’t all stupid, or Nazis.”  So that Christians will not be intimidated into denying the truth or believing lies.  So that there will still be space in public discussion for those who dissent from what is being rammed down our throats by the media.

I think Christians must do this.  But the problem is that if all we do is oppose moral drift in our society, that isn’t Christianity yet. 

Christians aren’t supposed to be known simply for rigor.  The light that is supposed to shine in us is not simply defining the moral law or preaching the law’s condemnation, or voting to uphold the moral law.  The light of Christ is not “family values,” even though it’s vitally important for our country and our churches to see “family values” come back, because our country and our churches are falling apart due to the decline of the family.

But Jesus didn’t come to preach the law of God.  He did preach it, but that’s not why He came.  Family values refers to the law of God concerning marriage and sexuality. 

What Jesus came to preach is the Gospel.  The good news.  What is the good news?  That because “there is no one righteous, no, not even one” (Rom. 3), God has provided a righteousness accomplished by Him on behalf of the unrighteous.  God assumed our human nature in the womb of the virgin Mary, assumed responsibility for the sin of Adam and all his children, and received the wrath of God against sin in our place on the cross.  Therefore everyone who believes that Jesus paid for sins with His suffering and death is counted righteous; God counts this faith that He receives us for Jesus’ sake as righteousness.

This good news means that all who believe in Christ are no longer condemned, even though sin still lives in them.  And if they are not condemned, they can live in this world without fearing their enemies—they can even love those enemies—because their enemies cannot harm them.  If you hate my guts because I’m a Christian, all you can do is cause me pain temporarily.  But Jesus will be with me and will enable me to bear it and to rejoice in it, because just as He was in this world, so am I.  And then, when I die, I really have lost nothing but gained everything, because Jesus rose from the dead after bearing my sin; and if He has borne my sin and it has died, then God no longer counts my sin against me and will raise me too.

Christians fight, but they fight a different kind of battle with different enemies.  The world fights with those who oppose their interests.  Homosexual activists fight those who oppose their agenda.  Lobbyists fight for their interests in congress. 

Christians’ enemies are God’s enemies—namely, the devil and demons.  But human adversaries?  God will ultimately decide who is to be cast away forever.  We may note when someone is not a Christian, but they don’t become our enemies even though they may hate us and Christ.  Jesus judged no one, but entrusted Himself into His Father’s hands.  He took no vengeance on earth, but only did good to His enemies.

Christians should be known for the gospel.  And even if the world doesn’t understand the gospel (which is likely), or if they slander us, Christians should have lives that reflect this love of God toward His enemies, which caused Him to humble Himself and die on their behalf, even while they fought Him, dishonored Him, or denied Him. 

Thank God that He did that toward His enemies?  Because in the flesh I am His enemy.  And my flesh has dishonored and hated Christ all my life.  I would not believe in Him now unless He was willing to endure abuse from His enemies.

In the verse I quoted way up at the top of this post, Joshua goes over and says, “Are you for us or our adversaries?”  And the guy with the sword says (by the way, that guy is the Son of God before the incarnation, I’m pretty sure)—“No.”  No, the Lord when He was about to go in with Joshua and slaughter the idolaters in Canaan and put the Israelites in that land—He was not fighting on the side of the Canaanites or the Israelites.  He was doing what He was doing for His own Name.

God is on the side of Christians when Christians are on His side.  God is on the side of repentant sinners.  God is for me in Christ, but that doesn’t mean God is on my side in the culture wars. 

He wishes to save sinners, whether the sinners are clinging to very ugly sins, or whether they are repentant and have the Holy Spirit beginning to destroy the old man within them.  Either way, we do not fulfill the law of God.  So Jesus seeks both.

He seeks to bring the unbelievers to repentance and faith in Him, so that they begin to keep His law.

He seeks to bring the true Christians again and again to faith in Him, so that they grow in holiness.

Our critic is right.  How much we lack in holiness, that you can find conservative, consciously committed Christians waiting in long lines to do what—stand with a man who confessed that homosexual marriage is wrong.

Good!  But even the pagans know that.  Muslims know it.  Hindus know it.  People who worship their ancestors also know it.

Where Christians should be conspicuous is in their pity toward the wretched, helpless, damned.  And toward their enemies.

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?  Do not even the publicans the same?  And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?  Do not even the publicans so?  Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”  [St. Matthew 5:43-48]

Yes, if only we were as eager to pray for our enemies and to bear the suffering of the poor or endure the pain of trying to help a person caught in sin get free from it as we are to buy fast food in the name of Jesus, or condemn homosexual marriage in the name of Jesus!

Don’t misunderstand; it is necessary to say it clearly.  But at the same time the mercy of Christ that extends to us in the black hole, the depths of hell in which we were born in Adam, ought to move us to show the same compassion to those who are no different than we are by nature. 

If I hurt sound critical of anyone who was at Chik-fil-a, I promise you, all these things are preached to myself too. 

You are doing right to uphold the Law of God which worketh death.  It is necessary.  But when I hear it from someone who I cannot believe has struggled with sin and hopelessness in the way that I have, I am crushed into despair.  That’s what the Pharisees did to the sinners. 

I’ve been a Pharisee.  So was St. Paul.  St. Paul found—and so–that when we put all we have into serving God and are zealous and rigorous in the name of God–it’s then that we commit the greatest sins.  Unless the Spirit converts us, we can only do evil.  And even after we are converted, even when it is the Spirit who does the works in us, even then our works could not stand before God apart from His gracious covering of the sin in them.

That is how helpless we are in the flesh to please God.  And the worst is that after a person believes in Christ, our flesh and the devil often trick us into doing worse than we ever did apart from Christ–because now, so easily, the evil in our flesh is cloaked by the name of Christ.

let the recognition of every such attempt in the flesh which we have committed pierce our hearts, so that we are constantly driven to the pure mercy of God to us in Christ, for there is truly nothing good in us.  May Christians in this country carry weight in our society not so much for their capacity to buy things, but for their wealth of compassion, grace, and love for their enemies.

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