‘Oh, faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good.’
Book of Concord, VIII Formula of Concord, II Solid Declaration, IV Good Works, paragraph 10
‘Where love comes to life’ was the theme of the 2013 LCA General Convention of Synod. Today it is our church’s ‘tagline’, repeated almost anywhere one sees the LCA logo.
I recently received a letter asking the church to do more to inspire its members to live God’s love and not let it be just a tagline.
God gives us the Holy Spirit to help us live fuller, more responsive lives, and we should not block that. ‘Good works’, as they are called in theological shorthand, are as much a part of the lives of baptised believers as the air we breathe. In his Preface to the Epistle of St Paul to the Romans, Martin Luther wrote, ‘It is … as impossible to separate works from faith as it is to separate heat and light from fire’.
The Formula of Concord, one of our confessional writings, drives the point home: ‘Faith alone is the mother and source of the truly good and God-pleasing works that God will reward both in this and in the next world’.
Luther wrote harshly about Christians who want the benefits of faith without the bother of living a Christian life. Again quoted in the Formula of Concord, he says: ‘Whoever does not perform … good works is a faithless man, blindly tapping around in search of faith and good works without knowing what either faith or good works are, and in the meantime he chatters and jabbers a great deal about faith and good works’. In other words, too much to say and not enough action!
The explanation of our tagline in part says, ‘Life in the church is really a preparation and empowerment for a life of love in the world. As we hear the good news of Jesus Christ, as we receive his body and blood, we become new people, with new potential for good, with new energy for a life of love wherever God gives us the opportunity. Our families and our communities, our workplaces and our cultural settings can experience God’s love as it comes to life again in us. That’s the plan.
‘The life of a Christian is a life of faith active in love (Galatians 5), empowered by the love of Christ himself (1 Corinthians 13). Indeed, we have no other obligation, except to participate in this world transforming gift of God’s love (Romans 13)’
‘Where love comes to life’ has become a very useful tagline. It points us to the love of Christ. It makes us reflect on how we live our lives. It reminds us that Jesus’ love is never far away no matter what our situation. It encourages us to do the good works God has prepared for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). And, with St Paul, we too believe that we can do all this through him who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).