“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” C.S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
Luther had tried very hard to “be good.” He tried to please his father by going to law school. When the lightning storm was raging about him, he vowed to God he’d be the best version of “good” he knew – a monk! While a monk, he studied very long hours, he scrubbed the monastery floors very vigorously, and when his conscience told him it wasn’t enough he may have resorted to the medieval practice of flagellants (inflicting pain on oneself). And in all of his efforts to be “very good” – to attain to the righteousness of God – Luther found what Lewis voices: just how bad he is. This notion of the righteousness of God “aroused a secret hate of God” within Luther (LW 5, 594). Think of a son who tries incessantly to please an always-disapproving father.
“Finally,” says Luther, “God had mercy on me” (LW 14, 446). In reading Romans 1:17, the warm chord finally struck Luther: In [the Gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed (Romans 1:17). The righteousness Luther was trying to manufacture by “being good,” God was donating to Him freely through faith in Christ! The righteousness of God – at one time the most hated phrase in all the Bible for Luther – became to him “the portal of Paradise” (LW 14, 447).
But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ. (Romans 3:21).
Reverend Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Divine Mercy Lutheran Church
Hudson Oaks, TX