“How does one come to love? The heart of man is so base that it cannot love unless it has first seen the benefit of loving… God took His Son and sent Him into our mire, sin, and misery and poured forth the entire story of His mercy that we might boast of all His goods as though they were our own.
He made Himself a beloved Father and He gave us His Son, poured out His great treasure most generously and sank and drowned all our sins and filth in the vast sea of His great goodness so that the heart cannot but let this great love and blessing draw it to love in return and then be prepared willingly to fulfill the divine commandments.
Otherwise the heart cannot love. It must find that it has been loved first. One cannot love first. Therefore God comes, takes hold of the heart, and says: Learn to know Me.– Why, who are you?– I am Christ. I have plunged into your wretchedness. I have drowned your sin in My righteousness.
This knowledge softens your heart. Therefore you cannot but turn to Him. In this way– when one learns what Christ is– love is taught.”
–Martin Luther, What Luther Says: An Anthology, comp. Ewald M. Plass (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), entry no. 2564, 825.