Our vocational activity must be directed toward all men, in other words, toward the people of “this world.” We serve them in the love of Christ, and are rewarded with the same ingratitude that he received. But this is the only form in which the love of Christ can be real, for as soon as we limit our service to those who are in some way saintlier than the rest we narrow the circle of love and shut out the effective operation of Christ’s love. Thus in the cloister it is impossible to serve all men, for here the very purpose of works is changed; they are done in order to make oneself holy, and hence become acts of worship directed toward God rather than men. But, says Luther, faith alone is to be directed toward God; a fundamental error has occurred. Luther feels constrained to say that when God wants to save a monk he compels him to occupy himself with earthly things. Furthermore, in attaining to the duties of marriage and many other temporal tasks man becomes uncertain and helpless. Thus the way is paved for faith, for one is compelled to believe and trust in God.
In his vocation a person is active in behalf of his fellow men. Through such activity man distributes gifts of God’s love to others for their welfare. Thus vocation compels man to look to God and to take hold of his promises, and trains him in both love and faith.
The cross and the law collaborate to crucify man; the gospel gives him power to arise and live. Works are directed toward fellow men; faith is directed toward God. With faith thus directed from earth upward, why does love, which is part and parcel of faith, direct itself horizontally to fellow men? Some have attempted to show how love is born of faith. [Gustaf] Wingren states that Luther purposely never gives such an explanation. After all, we cannot say why God became man, and died on the cross. Just as all this is inexplicable, so is the fact that faith gives birth to love. God became man; that is the nature of God’s love. And faith becomes love; that is the nature of faith. Man receives the Holy Spirit when he believes the gospel of Christ, and in the power of the Spirit he loves his fellow men without duplicity and guile, and willingly shares their burdens. Love keeps no record of its works for it thinks only about the fellow man, and when it does good its deed appears as a gift and not a work. Love looks upon service to others as a privilege, not a duty. A person possessed by such love does not direct his attention to the love itself but to his fellow man. To be preserved, such love must constantly be given new life by faith. Without Christ and the Spirit man is under the law, and under the law vocation is enforced labor completely lacking in joy. The old man in us tries to be perfect and righteous in all that he does. The new man knows only on righteousness, the forgiveness of sins. The old man is under the law, the new man is in faith.
When the fellow man is again made central in ethics, the gospel of Jesus is revitalized. We recall what Jesus said about the separation on the Last Day. The righteous will ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty…?” They had paid no attention to their works. They could not even remember having met a fellow man in distress. They had rejoiced in others and had helped them without being aware of having done so.
Lennart Pinomaa, “Faith Victorious”, pages 169-170