Luther on Manhood

In Luther’s lecture on Romans, taught between 1515-1516, we are given a helpful description of a true man. In a discussion on the command to love God with one’s entire being Luther says. “Therefore I say, come on! Now, please do your very best! By all your strength see that these desires be not in you. Substantiate what you say: God can be loved, ‘with all our strength,’ by nature, without grace. If you will be without desires, we shall believe you, but if you live with them, then you are not fulfilling the law.” Karl Heim summarizes what Luther is saying: “According to Luther therefore it is a matter of manliness, that we should here not dodge in a cowardly manner but have the courage to admit honestly that we cannot really even fulfill the most elementary commandment of God. Absolute honesty in the question of guilt therefore is the decisive proof of manly courage.”

According to Luther, a true man takes ownership of his guilt and sin while refusing to skirt his responsibility or justify himself. The real man agrees with God about his beggarly state and leans his full weight on the grace of justification. A true man does not cover his shame with futile fig leaves but stands naked before his God and begs for grace and clothing. This is the posture of humility and dependence. This is the appropriate posture of a man. We stand completely dependent upon God for our existence and our salvation.

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