Friday, January 19, 2007

Luther on Sanctifying the Ordinary

One of Luther’s great contributions to our view of the family involved the sanctification of the ordinary. Many sadly neglect their family and their friends because they are pouring all of their time into “ministry”—neglecting to see that all of life should be ministry and every sphere should be sanctified. We must have eyes to see that the ordinary duties of life contain great spiritual significance. Luther describes the message that the world whispers in our ear:
Now observe that when that clever harlot, our natural reason . . . , takes a look at married life, she turns up her nose and says, “Alas, must I rock the baby, wash its diapers, make its bed, smell its stench, stay up nights with it, take care of it when it cries, heal its rashes and sores. . . ?” [LW 45:39]
But into this context Luther breathes fresh gospel air:
What then does Christian faith say to this? It opens its eyes, looks upon all these insignificant, distasteful, and despised duties in the Spirit, and is aware that they are all adorned with divine approval as with the costliest gold and jewels. It says, O God, because I am certain that thou hast created me as a man and hast from my body begotten this child, I also know for a certainty that it meets with thy perfect pleasure. I confess to thee that I am not worthy to rock the little babe or wash its diapers, or to be entrusted with the care of the child and its mother. How is it that I, without any merit, have come to this distinction of being certain that I am serving thy creature and thy most precious will? O how gladly will I do so, though the duties should be even more insignificant and despised. Neither frost nor heat, neither drudgery nor labor, will distress or dissuade me, for I am certain that it is thus pleasing in thy sight. . . . God, with all his angels and creatures is smiling—not because the father is washing diapers, but because he is doing so in Christian faith.[LW 45:39-40]
We must put on the spectacles of faith and see all of life as infused with meaning and significance by our Creator. Set in this context, Luther greatly elevated the place of the family within the church of Christ.

Excerpted from "Martin Luther and Marriage," in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.