But how could Luther maintain this? How could he who more than anybody else has emphasized love as the ultimate principle: of morals, accept the despotic power of the states of his time? Now he had an answer to this and this answer is very much full of spirit. He says that God does two kinds of works, the one is His own, his proper, work, as he calls it namely the work of love, which is mercy, grace, always giving. And then is “strange” work, which also is the work of love, but it is strange; it works through punishment, through threat, through the compulsory power of the state, through all kinds of harshness, as the law demands. Now people say this is against love, and then ask the question: How can compulsory power and love be united with each other? And they derive from this a kind of anarchism, which we find so often in ideas of Christian pacifists and others. The situation formulated by Luther seems to me to be the true one. I believe that he has seen, profounder than anybody whom I know, the possibility of uniting the power element and the love element in terms of this doctrine of God’s “strange work” and God’s “proper work.” The power of the state which makes it possible that we are sitting here, or that works of charity are done, is a work of God’s love. The state has to suppress the aggression of the evil man, of those who are against love, and the strange work of love is to destroy what is against love.
Now if you call this a strange work, you are right, but it is a work of love, namely, without destroying that which is against love, love would cease to be a power on earth. Now this is the deepest form of the relationship of power and love which I know. This whole positivistic doctrine of the state makes it impossible for Lutheranism to accept revolution, from a theological point of view. Revolution is the production of chaos and even if it tries to produce order, it first produces chaos, and then the disorder is even greater. Therefore Luther was unambiguously against revolution. He accepted the positive given as a gift of destiny.