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Martin Luther on General Love: Some Relevant Citations

February 15, 2008

God Loves men:

1) Therefore when the text says: “And God saw that it was very good,” it refers to the preservation itself, because the creature could not continue in existence unless the Holy Spirit delighted in it and preserved the work through this delight of God in His work. God did not create things with the idea of abandoning them after they had been created, but He loves them and expresses His approval of them. Therefore He is together with them. He sets in motion, He moves, and He preserves each according to its own manner. I thought that this should be mentioned in brief words. It is worthwhile to learn these pious thoughts of those who have preceded us on the same course we are running now. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis: Chapters,” in Luther’s Works, 1:50.

2) This was a sure proof for Noah that God actually loves man, is well disposed toward him, and has now put away all wrath. He wants human beings to be propagated through the union of a man and a woman. He could have brought them into being from stones, as in the poet’s fable about Deucalion, if He had not approved of this lawful union. This passage, therefore, deals with the honorableness of marriage, which is the source of both the family and the state, and the nursery of the church. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:131.

3) Hence this, too, is a proof of the supreme love of God toward man, no less than is His promise that the Flood would no longer rage and His permission to use meat for sustenance. “For God made man in His own image.” This is the outstanding reason why He does not want a human being killed on the strength of individual discretion: man is the noblest creature, not created like the rest of the animals but according to God’s image. Even though man has lost this image through sin, as we stated above, his condition is nevertheless such that it can be restored through the Word and the Holy Spirit. God wants us to show respect for this image in one another; He does not want us to shed blood in a tyrannical manner. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:141. [C.f., Calvin on Genesis 9:5.]

4) These examples are the sources on the basis of which laws, ordinances, and decrees ought to be drawn up. For God gave this age a man of unqualified rectitude, in comparison with whom Aeneas, Achilles, Agamemnon, etc., those heroes to whom the heathen give much praise, are nothing. Here you see an inimitable example of great faith toward God and of perfect justice and love toward men. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:399.

God Loves the whole human race:

1) His way of speaking with the serpent is far different from His way of speaking with Adam and Eve, whom He affectionately calls back. “Where are you? Who told you that you are naked?” These words reveal God’s love toward the whole human race; even after sin the human being is sought and called, and God converses with him and hears him. This is a sure indication of His mercy. Although these are words which deal with Law and judgment, they nevertheless indicate a clear hope that Adam and Eve were not to be condemned eternally. Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 1:186.

2) Hence the Holy Scriptures declare, in the first place, that we should love all human beings equally and that we should do good to all, not only to the good and to those whom we consider worthy because of their conduct but also to the evil. For this is God’s way; He pours out His benefits without distinction, and Christ Himself refers us to this example (Matt. 5:45). Martin Luther, “Lectures on Genesis,” in Luther’s Works, 2:299.

3) But the consoling of hearts is also related to this idea. For the conscience certainly grows white and quakes with fear at the name of God. It truly recognizes its sins and fears His wrath. For this reason it shudders at the voice of God and prefers to hear the Turk or Satan. For example, this very feeling is beautifully portrayed in the history of the giving of the Law, when the people exclaimed: “You speak to us, but let not the Lord speak to us, lest we die” (Ex. 20:19). For just as the Divine Majesty cannot be seen with the eyes of man, so our ears cannot hear His voice. Christ sees this and hence always refers whatever He says and whatever He does to God the Father, so as to drive out this terror from our hearts and remove from our eyes this sad picture which we ourselves have created. For what is there in Christ that is not full of consolation, lovable, and delightful? When you see Him hanging on the cross, dripping with blood, and when you refer these things, according to His own words, to the will of God, will not this make the name of God sweet instead of horrible? Not only will you fear no evil from God, who sends His own Son for this purpose; but will you not also be filled with a sure hope of His mercy and love toward you and the whole human race? This passage is useful and serviceable toward this end. The Holy Spirit attributes this voice to the Father: “You are My Son.” Christ Himself refers everywhere to the authority and will of the Father, not for His own sake, as if it were necessary for Him to speak that way, but on account of our conscience, in order that we may believe that we have a Mediator who places Himself between us and God, who as intermediary intercedes for us, who loves us, who dies for us?and all this according to the will of His eternal Father. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:50.

4) In this way the Holy Spirit with one word gathers up the whole world with all its wisdom, righteousness, merits, services, adorations, and chastisements, and transposes it all into the Sons kiss. “If you kiss the Son, good. If not, you will perish in the way. For it will come to pass,” He says, “that the Son will at last be angry. Now He offers you a kiss so that He may receive your kiss in turn. Truly He embraces the whole human race with extraordinary love. For He comes in our flesh not to judge or condemn, but in order to kiss us and show us the love with which He surrounds us. If, then, you will not kiss Him in return, no religion, no righteousness, no wisdom will save you. You will simply remain under His wrath and perish in His anger.” But the world is not concerned with these threats. It imagines that things will turn out quite differently. It hopes for God’s grace through its own works and righteousness. Certainly the judgment is definite: “He who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:89.

5) This is the first sweet and delightful thing in this lyric, which sings about and promises a kingdom with such a King. There will be no imperfections in Him, but a will full of virtues and a mind full of wisdom, with glowing love toward all miserable, damned, and sorrowful sinners. Moses is not such a king. He is a tormentor and cruel executioner and torturer, who torments us and troubles us with his terrors, threatenings, and displays of wrath. He forces us to do good outwardly; or, if we do our best, he inwardly humbles us and makes us long for grace. But our King, who is celebrated here, is full of mercy, grace, and truth. In Him love for mankind is to be found and the greatest sweetness; a person who, as we find in Isaiah 42:2, does not cry in the streets,” is not austere and rough, but patient and long-suffering. He exercises judgment against the wicked and blasphemers, and shows mercy toward sinners. Therefore He is a most pleasant and fair King, and there is no one like Him in the whole world. In Him is to be found the highest virtue and the highest love toward God and men. It is with these adornments that His person is decorated, so that there is no overweening pride, desire, lust, or any other base affection in Him. We see Him described this way in the Gospels, and the facts themselves point to His having been so. He did not keep company with the holy, powerful, and wise, but with despicable and miserable sinners, with those ruined by misfortune, with men weighed down by painful and incurable diseases; these He healed, comforted, raised up, helped. And at last He even died for sinners. He did not frighten, and He did not kill, as Moses did, but He drew, gladdened, comforted, cured, and aided all who came to Him. He is therefore the King of kings, without equal. Yet this is true only if you look at the spirit and not at the external appearance of the flesh. This is simply one aspect of the description of His person, pointed out briefly and with few words. The holy Evangelists and St. Paul in his Epistles describe it more fully and enlarge upon it; they paint this King in His true colors and point out what kind of person He is, and these things are most helpful for those of us who find ourselves in difficulties and vexations of conscience. Martin Luther, “Selected Psalms,” in Luther’s Works, 12:207.

6) No. 5497: The Love of Parents for Their Children

September, 1542

Often he [Martin Luther] repeated the words given above: “I’d like to keep my dear daughter because I love her very much, if only our Lord God would let me. However, his will be done! Truly nothing better can happen to her, nothing better.” While she was still living he often said to her, “Dear daughter, you have another Father in heaven. You are going to go to him.” Philip Melanchthon said, “The feelings of parents are a likeness of divinity impressed upon the human character. If the love of God for the human race is as great as the love of parents for their children, then it is truly great and ardent.” Martin Luther, “Table Talk,” in Luther’s Works, 54:432.

Love to the whole human race implied:

1) The whole human race was worthy of hatred, and yet Christ loved us. For if he had not loved us, he would not have descended from heaven. For the prophet says in the psalm: “There is none that does good,” except one; “they have all become corrupt and sinners” [cf. Ps. 14:3] except Christ alone. So Christ loves the sinner at the command of the Father, who sent Him for our comfort. So the Father wills that we should look to Christ’s humanity and love him in return, but yet in such a way as to remember that he did all this at the bidding of Father’s supreme good pleasure. Otherwise it is terrifying to think of Christ. For to the Father is ascribed power, to the Son, wisdom, and to the Holy Spirit goodness, which we can never attain and of which we must despair. Martin Luther, “Sermons,” in Luther’s Works, 51:46.

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