Monday, February 27, 2012

Servants of a present Christ, not vicars of an absent Christ

I was reading Luther's 1520 treatise The Freedom of a Christian for bible class yesterday, and this passage from his dedication to Pope Leo X struck me.

"Believe none who exalt you, believe those who humble you.  This is the judgment of God, that '...He has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree.' [Luke 1:52] See how different Christ is from His successors, although they all would wish to be His vicars.  I fear that most of them have been to literally His vicars.  A man is a vicar only when his superior is absent.  If the pope rules, while Christ is absent...what else is he but a vicar of Christ?  what is the church indeed under such a vicar but a mass of people without Christ?  Indeed, what is such a vicar but an antichrist and an idol?  How much more properly did the apostles call themselves servants of the present Christ and not vicars of an absent Christ."

This statement, though directed at the pope, has application to all who serve in the Office of the Holy Ministry.  Pride is always lurking, seeking to consume pastors, and many can unfortunately recount the devestating effects when it takes hold.   Luther insists that when we wallow in our pride and status, we end up pointing only to ourselves.  This can happen to the country pastor the same as the TV evangelist; in short, all pastors are suceptible to making their Office all about themselves rather than about Christ.

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