03 September 2008

Stray Thought on Sanctification

I was speaking to some friends today about how often sanctification is viewed in moral terms (doing "better") rather than ontological terms (becoming one with Christ). It led me though to wonder if love were not the nexus of the two? The very nature of the Divine Logos in the flesh was love, "for God is love" as St. John teaches us. As we are united to Him, we are united to Love Enfleshed. Was it not Love precisely which worked all the miracles, most especially the miracle of the Cross and Resurrection? To be held by that Burning Love which destroys in us all that is NOT love is indeed to be made "better" - to be healed, if you will. But the being made better is not the content of the sanctifying love, but the result of that Love's presence. "We love because He first loved us." He doesn't love us because we first love. Producing a crop of good works (a wholly desirable thing!) comes not merely, then, from exhortations to good works - which surely have their place - but above all from union with Christ, which union we must seek always to guard. Well did Martin Chemnitz hold these together, then, when he wrote: "Men are to be admonished that they should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the flesh and firmly adhere to Christ by faith and through the use of the Word and the Sacraments become more and more united with Him and seek from God the gift of perseverance, and wrestle, lest the wantonness of the flesh drive out the gift of perseverance." Examen I:607 And running through my mind the new Christmas hymn by Schalk:

Can I, will I forget how Love was born,
And burned Its way into my heart -
Unasked, unsought, unearned,
To die, to live, and not alone for me,
To die, to live and not alone for me? LSB 369:3


Susan said...

It didn't make it into LSB:
Still let Thy love point out my way;
What wondrous things Thy love hath wrought!
Still lead me lest I go astray;
Direct my work, inspire my thought;
And if I fall, soon may I hear
Thy voice and know that love is near!

P Gerhardt (TLH 349:6)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

The thing is, for most folks, if you asked them what "being better" meant, they wouldn't answer with "loving more." Being "better" implies toeing the line, following rules, knowing more answers - "being better" is fundamentally a matter of self-evaluation - it looks at the self. It doesn't (in the general mindset) look at being more "self-less" - doesn't look at the concept of loving.

We always forget that the heart of the law isn't "obey" but "love". Love needs no checklist to obey, love simply acts. That's why we don't make the connection.

Anonymous said...

"But the being made better is not the content of the sanctifying love, but the result of that Love's presence." Well said

Anonymous said...

Johan Arndt, a close friend of theologian Johan Gerhard, is a good resource for this mystical union. Some modern Lutherans despise Arndt as a pietist because of the use Spenar put to Arndt's writings. In his day though he was regarded by Gerhard and his contemporaries as throughly orthodox. A recovery of the orthodox sprituality of Arndt and Gerhard would go along way toward healing modern Lutheranism's wounds in the area of sanctification. Great post!

Frank Sonnek said...

wow. this is most profound and clears so very much up for me.

often doctrine is presented as either/or (eg faith or works...) . usually I am seeing these represent false choice. Love is about us AND neigbor. being better is ALL about US. spiritual navel gazing with no practical use. and to connect this to Christ, to his word and sacraments...

To distinguish without separating is the work of a good theologian. You have the marks of a good theologian. You connect ALL to christ.

Frank Sonnek said...

rev brown....

great response.

and Love is law. not gospel. but true love can come only in response to the holy gospel.

we MUST obey, we SHOULD love. We confess that we never truly obey out of love. So we are driven to the love of Christ which is sure and certain. and from that stirs, in us, a desire to obey out of love. The love of Christ.

sometimes, in forcing and bending our fallen selves and wills to obey, we then learn what it means to love. there is a profound interplay going on here....