For my Christianity and World Politics class this week, I was assigned passages from some of Martin Luther's letters. Martin Luther being such an influential figure in the Protestant Reformation I assumed that most of his teachings would seem simple and familiar coming from a Protestant background. However, I found the readings to challenge this view to some degree. We read a letter that Martin Luther wrote to the Princes of Germany explaining how far Christian are to be obedient to secular authority. This letter came after Martin Luther has been excommunicated by Rome and already urged the German princes to help reform the Catholic church. Martin Luther explains in this letter that he has waited long enough for the princes to act against Rome and their oppression has caused him to decide to resist the German government. Here, one might question Luther with verses where Paul tells Christians to submit to all earthly authorities. Luther acknowledges this argument and gets around it in an interesting way.
Luther reveals that there are two types of people in the world: those of the kingdom of God and those of the kingdom of the World. Furthermore, there are two governments including the spiritual which strives to make people just (believers in Christ) and the secular government which creates outward peace and prevents evildoing. Luther then argues that the law and "Sword" (the Old Testament idea of "eye for and eye") are for the benefit of the unbelievers governed by the secular government. Luther seemed to contend that just Christians do not need the law or Sword and that is why Jesus taught so much against the Sword and violence. The reason then that Christians submit to their authorities of earth not because they need it but because they must serve their neighbors who still need this authority to help them avoid evil. Luther's position of resistance against the German government seems to be justified as a service to his unsaved Christians.
The part that really seemed strange to me was Luther's idea that the Old Testament laws of eye for an eye should still apply to non Christians and our dealings with them. Also, he seems to assert that Jesus' teachings of "turn the other cheek" is for Christians only who are already just and do not need the law for the correction. Perhaps I am alone in feeling that this is a new teaching, but I do not recall Pastor Edgecomb ever phrasing it quite like this. Well, it also could be that I am completely misinterpreting what Luther is saying here.