Marriage and family continued

Last month I shared some of Luther’s teachings in respect to marriage and the family. Today I write more about that and I want to emphasize that his ideas were not just his invention. He based them on God’s Word. His ideas did not merely influence church members, but also communities and ultimately the world.

In regards to the Reformation movement within the church, we readily note his worldwide influence. Yet his influence touched many other areas of life and are still with us today. Some of the things he promoted may have been hindered by some because of sinful traditions and human foibles, yet much of what he taught, especially regarding women, are returning to the forefront today in a variety of ways.

When talking about marriage and the family, Luther showed a high respect for women and their importance. He wrote, “The home, cities, economic life and government would virtually disappear. Men can’t do without women. Even if it were possible for men to beget and bear children, they still couldn’t do it without women.” He also wrote, “All baptized women are the spiritual sisters of all baptized men by virtue of their common baptism, sacrament, faith, Spirit, Lord, God, and eternal heritage.”

In upholding women he had to fight against how men often held some form of contempt of women, or at least looked on them as second rate. Luther does not distinguish between father and mother in relation to the authority and power of parenthood. Both are worthy of love, respect, and obedience in the same measure. Concerning the blessing of marriage he wrote, “that husband and wife cherish one another, become one, [and] serve one another.” Luther also spoke a revolutionary idea that persons could serve God in marriage. He wrote, “No one can ever have real happiness in marriage who does not recognize in firm faith that this estate together with all its works, however insignificant, is pleasing to God and precious in his sight.”

Luther’s views on women, marriage and the family were all a part of his theology of human relations which came out of his marriage experience. It is expressed in terms of the mutuality and reciprocity of love, and contributed to new perspectives on the dignity and responsibility of women. This part of his theology was based on the scriptural truth that human righteousness before God is a gift. Luther viewed marriage and family as he did everything else – from the perspective that human righteousness before God is a gift rather than an achievement. That is, righteousness is received, not achieved. Salvation is the source of life rather than the goal of life.

Luther’s teachings on marriage and the family have reformed these institutions almost as much as he influenced the reformation of the church. Adolf von Harnack wrote, “The evangelical parsonage, founded by Luther, became the model and blessing for the entire German nation, a nursery of piety and education, a place of social welfare and social equality. Without the German parsonage the history of Germany since the sixteenth century is inconceivable.”

Contact or visit: St. Paul Lutheran Church, Fredonia (672-6731), Immanuel Lutheran Church, Gowanda (532-4342), or Trinity Lutheran Church, Silver Creek (934-2002).