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“At the heart of our Lutheran ident ity is a


relationship with God—justif ication by faith,” Malpica Padilla said. Justif ication is a free gift of God’s grace apart from human works. But if just i f icat ion is nothing less than the total restoration of our personal relationship with God, it is also something more: a transformation of our relationships with others. For Lutherans, justification is “not only freedom


from” sin and brokenness, it is “also freedom for” a purpose, he added. Where Luther wrote that sin is being curved in


on the self, “justification means striving toward the other,” Malpica Padilla said. “It is lifting your chin up so you can see the other—and not just the other who looks like you, but especially the other who is different from you.” Love of God and neighbor, for Luther and for


Lutherans today, is a theological identity that guides our whole lives. As Lutherans in the ELCA and around the world reflect on the past 500 years, it’s worth considering how the Reformation roots of social action continue to guide Lutheran identity and calling—exploring how we stand not only before God, but also before our neighbors. What kind of Christians are we today? And what kind of church will we become?


Reformation roots: A holy calling and a Common Chest


WHAT KIND OF CHRISTIANS ARE WE TODAY? AND WHAT KIND OF CHURCH WILL WE BECOME?


In the 2016 collection The Forgotten Luther: Reclaiming the Social-Economic Dimension of the Reformation, Cynthia Moe-Lobeda wrote that Luther never wavered from his belief that “works do not cause salvation.” Still, “Luther also insisted that works are a vital part of life for people who are justified by Christ,” particularly “works that embody ‘love to our neighbor,’ ” she said. Moe-Lobeda found that “for Luther, that norm


of neighbor-love pertains to every aspect of life for the Christian.” Ryan Cumming, program director for hunger


education with ELCA World Hunger, notes that Luther’s opposition to indulgences stemmed in part from the fact that their sale created “opulence built on the backs of people who could barely afford to feed themselves.” This led Luther to write in his 95 theses that giving to the poor was “a better work” than purchasing indulgences, and that to buy an indulgence rather than help a neighbor in need was to purchase “the indignation of God.” In the Large Catechism, Luther argued that the


commandment against murder applies both to the taking of life and the failure to preserve it: “If you see anyone who is suffering from hunger and do not feed her, you have let her starve.” Ref lect ing on the commandment against stealing, Luther also boldly critiqued the “free


16 OCTOBER 2017


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