From the Editor

“Brother … sister, are you saved?”

Salvation is as salvation does.

Professor Bradley Hanson of Luther College has done Lutheranism and the wider Christian community a real favor by writing a book for the “Traditions of Christian Spirituality Series,” a project of Orbis Books. Hanson’s volume, Grace That Frees: The Lutheran Tradition explains how Lutherans understand “spirituality.”

It’s a commonplace these days to declare, “I’m not religious but I’m spiritual.” Some have put it this way: “I’m not into organized religion, but I dig spirituality.” Hanson will have none of that. Lutherans affirm the value of the church, scars and all. He expands the idea of spirituality from “what I do” (prayer, worship, meditation) to “who I am” (a baptized child of God, wonderfully burdened with a gift I can’t earn or deserve, who behaves “spiritually” in response).
Grace That Frees is also a fine summary of what it means to be Lutheran, with special attention to ways Lutherans are not to be confused with all other Christians. It’s worth reading.

To be spiritual in the Lutheran sense means to expand the idea of “being saved” from a private relationship with God that guarantees safe entry into heaven, to an understanding that I am “loved into the possibility of loving others” (to use a phrase coined by the late great Lutheran theologian Joseph Sittler).

That means Lutherans have a unique way of answering the question, “Are you saved?” The Lutheran answer is, “Yes. God decided in favor of me. My baptism is the guarantee.” If someone persists, asking, “But are you sure your baptism really makes a difference?” the best answer might be that given by an old German gentleman. Confronted at a train station with the question, “Brother, are you saved?”, he replied, “My answer might be prejudiced. I suggest you go ask my wife, my children and my neighbors. I’ll be ready to let their answers stand as my own.”

In other words, “Salvation is as salvation does.” If God has saved us, we’ll look like it. We’ll “act saved.” (Read the quote from Martin Luther at the bottom left corner of page 1 this month.)

But it’s faith in God that makes salvation complete, isn’t it? (“What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” says the writer of Acts.) Martin Luther reminds us that faith is a gift of the Spirit. “I cannot by my own understanding or effort believe … but God calls me.”

Are you saved? Hooray! Now, act like it.