Lutherans like to emphasize that we love and serve God by loving and serving our neighbor. In short, it is we, not He, that need our good works. This is indeed an excellent Scriptural truth to emphasize.
That said, there is no doubt that there are many congregations – Lutheran and otherwise – who might find it convenient to insist on such a truth at the expense of other truths. “Social justice” without a whisper of cross-proclamation is not an uncommon thing. All manner of innovations in worship are justified out of a “passion for the lost” that we sometimes might be inclined to doubt.
Meanwhile, what is often lost is this: what your neighbor needs from you more than anything else – whether they know it or not – is that you would love God above all things. That you would grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that your love for Him and His life-giving words would abound more and more.
This is an especially important truth for Christians in this day and age. I was struck by a quotation from a Catholic convert from 1951 on Rod Drehers’ blog the other day in post titled ‘The Moment When One Hand Will Have To Let Go’
We are appalled at the wholesale killing of the mentally-afflicted in Nazi countries, at the experiments carried out in mental hospitals, but it happened not infrequently to me later, in a different cultural environment, that I heard similar desires expressed by people who believed whole-heartedly in Democracy and even fought for it. In mental hospitals you pass rows and rows, hundred and hundreds of chronically demented men and women, drooling, staring into empty space, crouched motionless or rocking incessantly. In many cases their condition goes on for decades before they die a spontaneous death. Suddenly someone next to you is heard muttering out of the corner of his mouth: “At times I often ask myself, why don’t we really let them die a peaceful death, at least the hopeless ones, would it not be so much more humane?” It really does not make much difference whether the thought is spoken out loud by someone else, or passes as a faint shadow in the depths of one’s own heart, or appears as a fact reported from a faraway country. From a strictly pragmatic point of view, lacking a metaphysical concept of Man, there is no reason at all against such a step. We, in a non-dictatorial environment, are clinging to many patterns because of a Christian heritage, of which we are no longer conscious of vicarious suffering, or the Hindu teaching of karma, or simply in man’s immortal soul. In fact, most of us do not believe in any of these things. Thus, we cling with one hand to modern pragmatism, and with the other to the Hebrew-Christian philosophy. But the gap is widening all the time, and there will be a moment when one hand will have to let go.
– Karl Stern, Pillar Of Fire (1951)
How easy it has been, is, and will be to slide into the world’s definition of what love is.
But Christ has overcome the world. You to, to be zealous for His House above all.
UPDATE: Sliding into the world’s definition of love is really easy to do: http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/03/25/pointing-to-disaster-the-flawed-moral-vision-of-world-vision/