When a Christian is not Called a Christian

Epiphany 7 Tuesday

Matthew 5:38-41

“You have heard that it is said: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you that you should not resist the evil. But if anyone strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other as well. And if anyone wants to sue you to take your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

It is impossible that a Christian should not be person of the world because at least his body and possessions must be subject to the emperor. But for his own person, according to the Christian life, he is only subject to Christ and not to the emperor or any other person. But outwardly, he is subject to others and tied to them insofar as he is in a particular office or station in life or has a house or farm, wife and child. For all those belong to the emperor. There he should and must do
what the emperor commands and what such outward life demands. It would be wrong if he had house, wife, child, and servants and would not feed or protect them where necessary. And it would be invalid if he claimed to be a Christian who has to leave everything behind or let everything be taken from him. Rather, this is the word: You are now in the emperor’s government where you are not called a Christian, but a father, lord, prince, etc. You are a Christian for your own person, but in relation to you child, servants, subjects you are a different person. You owe it to them to protect them. See, we are now talking about a Christian in a relationship, that is, not about a Christian by himself, but about him as he is joined to this or another person in this life who is below him, above him, or beside him, as lord, lady, wife, child,
neighbor where one owes it to the other to defend, protect, and guard him where possible. This is why it would not be right to teach here to turn the other cheek and to throw the coat after the shirt. For this would be as foolish as what is said about some mad saint who let himself be bitten by lice and did not want to kill any because of this text, claiming that one had to suffer and not resist the evil. Thus, if you are a prince, judge, lord, lady, etc. and have people under you and if you want to know what pertains to your office, you must not ask Christ, but the emperor or the laws in your land. They will teach you how you should act toward your subjects and that you should protect them. For you have the power and the right to defend and punish within the scope of your government or office and order–not as a Christian, but as subject of the emperor…This is why you should learn this distinction between the two persons whom a Christian on earth must wear at the same time because he lives among other people and must use the goods of the world and of the emperor as much as the Gentiles. For he has the same blood and flesh that he must sustain, not from the spiritual realm, but from the fields and land that belongs to the emperor until his body also leaves this life for another life. Therefore, where the scope of a Christian and that of a worldly person are well distinguished, you can nicely investigate such verses and apply them where they belong lest the two be brewed and mixed together, as the pope has done with his teaching and government.

St. Louis ed., 7:468-470.

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