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Read articles: “Together With All Creatures” and “Faith Active in Love.” attached in pdfs.

Watch Address the following questions:

The phrase “You are the light of the world” comes from the Sermon on the Mount of Jesus of
Nazareth in Matthew 5:14–16. In the first paragraph, summarize what you think Jesus means by
his statement “You are the light of the world.”
Then search for that phrase online (putting the phrase inside quotation marks). Find three
discussions of these words from reputable websites. In a second paragraph, detail what you have
learned about the text from your simple research. (Make sure you write your first paragraph
before you do this research.)
Finally, in the third paragraph, state briefly how you think a practicing Christian might use this
statement of Jesus as a guide and motivation for addressing the needs of the world.
Before participating in this thread, please read “Together With All Creatures” and “Faith Active
in Love.” (PDF ATTACHEMENTS) Both of these documents come from The Lutheran
Church—Missouri Synod. As they are church documents, they tend to use theological jargon and
may be at times a bit dense. So focus on what you can understand. I think you can draw enough
from them to address the following questions.
“Together With All Creatures” uses the Christian story to assert our common creatureliness and
our distinctive creatureliness. In your first paragraph, identify at least three elements of the
Christian story that lead Lutherans to assert a commonality with all creatures.
The document goes on to assert that the best way to care for the earth is to delight in the bond
that we share with our fellow creatures and to live in creaturely humility. While these two
actions could easily be embraced by other Christians and even those with no Christian
connection, in view of a recent report from the IPCC (https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/), do such
actions go far enough? Why? Or why not? Provide your analysis in a second paragraph.
“Faith Active in Love” is the more challenging document. It attempts to address the
misconception that the church is or should be only concerned about spiritual matters. Instead, it
calls for direct and intentional action on the part of the church to address the physical needs of
people and the world.
After you read the document, start by focusing on pages 18 to 23. These pages seek to find in the
New Testament and church history a basis for intentional action by the church to care for the
physical needs of others—i.e., faith active in love.
In your third paragraph, choose two of the examples cited and explain why you think they are
particularly persuasive in calling for faith to be active in love.
The document goes on to call for care for persons both within and outside the church and the
need to be flexible in doing so (pages 24 to 28). Within this discussion you will likely sense
some of the issues that the Lutheran church faces in actually being a place where faith is active in
love. In a fourth paragraph, discuss some of those impediments in your own life that arise when
you have a sense that you could do more to address a need of the world. While doing so, note
something from the document that you felt helpful in thinking through this challenge.
Identify a need of the world or of a group of people that is particularly pressing in your view
from concepts from PART ONE and PART TWO. What could you do about it personally? What
impedes you from taking action? What first steps will you take to use your gifts and talents to
address this need?
In an additional paragraph or two, write about your growing awareness of your purpose and
calling in life. To what role are you called in life? How might you overcome cultural limits that
impose expectations on you? How did the materials from PART ONE and PART TWO focus
your understanding? I ask you to be personal, since self-awareness is the first step toward
reflective practice.
PART FOUR: Rubric – In at least 300 words, reveals a solid understanding of the topic,
synthesizes ideas, includes examples from experience, research or media. Explanations are
thorough and clear, and evidence is used in thoughtfully reasoned arguments. Relevant and
accurate evidence is cited using APA style. Uses language and psychological terms precisely.
Address the following questions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHUMcxaqm9U
What is the premise behind “the Triple Package” TED Talk?
What is the Triple Package and how do they influence success?
Research either superiority complex, insecurity OR impulse control. How does the one you
picked impact development, in general, ALONE.
The combination of the three characteristics is responsible for the Triple Package. “Find one
original, scholarly research article that highlights one of the groups identified in the video and
how that group experiences academic success?” How was this study conducted? What did it
How does entitlement differ from these ideas of the Triple Package and how has American
culture suffered from this? How do we, as a culture, fix this?
A Report of the
Commission on Theology
and Church Relations
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
78777 06772
Printed in U.S.A.
A Report of the
Commission on Theology and Church Relations
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
This document was prepared by the
Commission on Theology and Church
Relations (CTCR) of The Lutheran
Church—Missouri Synod in response to
a request “to develop a biblical and
confessional report on responsible
Christian stewardship of the
environment” (2007 Res. 3-06). At its
April 2010 meeting the CTCR adopted
this document (CPH item 09-2621) and
also a longer, expanded version
of the same (CPH item 09-2622).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version,
copyrighted © 2001.
Quotations from Luther’s Small Catechism are from Lutheran Service Book
© 2006 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission.
This publication may be available in Braille, in large print, or on cassette tape
for the visually impaired. Please allow 8 to 10 weeks for delivery. Write to the
Library for the Blind, 7550 Watson Rd., St. Louis, MO 63119-4409; call toll-free
1-888-215-2455; or visit the Web site www.blindmission.org.
Cover: © Shutterstock, Inc.; istockPhoto.com
© Alexander Ryabintsev/Shutterstock, Inc.
Copyright © 2010 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
1333 South Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295
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Highlighting with red letters and a
larger font are used for key ideas
and for Scripture references in this
document to help the reader follow the
train of thought and to facilitate its
use as a Bible study.
Together with All Creatures:
Caring for God’s Living Earth
n the last two centuries, we have acquired a mastery over the
earth never before seen in human history. That mastery, fueled
by the scientific and technological revolutions, has brought about dramatic improvements in human health and well-being but has also come
with a heavy cost. The environmental movement has drawn attention
to the way in which our domination has diminished the beauty of God’s
earth, damaged the health of its ecosystems, and pushed many of our
fellow creatures to the brink of extinction. The environmental movement has also aroused people to take action by alarming them with
doom and gloom scenarios that would take place if we do not
act to avert them. But can the movement also shape long
term attitudes and behavior? For that, we need nothing
less than a fundamental reorientation in the way we see
ourselves and our relationship to the earth. And for this,
we need the Christian story.1
Two thousand years ago, Christianity gave western
society a vision of the earth, rooted in the Old Testament, as a good creation brought into existence by a
gracious God. In an age shaped by Greek philosophy,
many considered the earth to be a prison and our bodies to be tombs. But in the Apostles’ Creed Christians
confessed that God created the heavens and
the earth (Gen 1:1). This Creator sent His Son
into the world to become a human creature (John
1:1, 14) so that our bodies would be raised up on
the last day (1 Cor 15:51–57). Christians need to
reclaim the Creed’s vision for the twenty-first century.
Today we have come to see ourselves either as masters of the universe (given our technological powers)
or as the worst thing ever to happen to the universe
(given our ecological destructiveness). Instead we must
articulate a view of human creatureliness that identifies
where we fit within God’s living earth and how to live
generously with our fellow creatures.
Where Do We Fit
Within God’s Living Earth?
“God has made me together with all creatures . . .” — Martin Luther
he various ecological issues of our day raise more questions about
us than about the environment. How do we see ourselves and our
place within creation? The answer to that question will shape how we live
on God’s earth. For example, if we distinguish ourselves too sharply from
creation we might seek to free ourselves from the constraints of the earth
or to control it for purely self-centered purposes. If we identify ourselves
too closely with the earth we might lose our distinctive identity to the
point that we value nonhuman life above human life. The Christian story
common creatureliness as well as our distinctive creatureliness. Within this
avoids these two alternatives by affirming our
© Shutterstock, Inc.
story we confess that God has called us to care for His earth as creatures
among fellow creatures.
In the Company
of Fellow Creatures
“The whole creation, the entire cosmos,
is on tiptoe with expectation for God’s glory
to be revealed to his children.”
— N. T. Wright’s paraphrase of Romans 8:21
he way we tell the Christian story says something about
the way we see ourselves and our life on earth. Does that
story include or exclude our fellow creatures of the earth? Are
other creatures simply background scenery for our story or fellow
participants in that story? So how do we tell the story? Does it go
something like this?
God created us in His image, but Adam and Eve sinned and
brought God’s judgment upon the whole human race. God then
sent His Son Jesus to die for us so that when we die we will be
with Jesus in heaven.
This is certainly true as far as it goes. But there is more to the
story. The story continues and expands to include the resurrection
of our bodies and the renewal of God’s entire creation.
When God created us, He formed us and our fellow crea-
tures from the soil of the earth (Gen 1:24; 2:7; 3:19; Job
10:9). We are all made of the same “stuff,” as it were. We
share a bond with other creatures by way of the
earth. God provided all His creatures with food from the earth.
We share a common table. God blessed all His creatures and so
we share with our fellow creatures a common pattern of life. We
mate, procreate, and raise our young. God gave all His creatures
a place to live. We share the earth as a common home. God created all of His creatures for His delight and glory. He liked what He
made and declared that it was all good. With our fellow creatures
we praise God by living as the creatures God made us to be. While
we do not think of birds, animals, and fish as our brothers and
sisters, they are our fellow creatures and, in a certain sense,
our neighbors.
Not only do we share a common bond with other creatures by virtue of God’s creative act, our futures are linked
together as well. We see this in the sin of Adam and Eve.
Their rebellion reverberated across the earth and brought
down the judgment of God. Adam and Eve found themselves
subject to death and decay when God cursed the ground
(Gen 3:17–18). They would struggle to live, only to
return to the earth from which they had been made. The
earth and all of the creatures that live upon it now suffer
with us in bondage to corruption. The severed relationship between humans and God ripped apart the fabric of
creation. It pitted humans against each other and humans
against their nonhuman fellow creatures. Fear, suffering,
and violence replaced the peace and tranquility that had
characterized God’s creation.
In spite of human sin, God continued to care for all
of the creatures, both human and nonhuman, that made
up His living earth. He continued to bless them so that they
would procreate. He continued to provide them with food
and shelter (Psalms
65 and104; Ps 145:15).
the entire earth in His promise of the new age
to come! In language reminiscent of Genesis 1, God
And consistent with His work of creation, God
bound Himself to a covenant with every living creature that
flies, swims, or moves across the earth (Genesis 9;
Hos 2:18–22). The prophets describe the new creation
as a time when the wolf and the lamb will lie down together
(Is 11:6; Is 65:25) and rivers will water the parched
wilderness (Is 43:20). It will be a time when the mountains and the hills break out in singing and the trees clap
their hands (Isaiah
55). In brief, God will bring forth
(Is 65:17–25).
new heavens and a new earth
The promised messianic age dawned when the Son of
God became a human creature with the incarnation of Jesus
Christ. As a human creature, He shared the same DNA as His
mother Mary. This DNA reached back through His ancestors
to Adam and Eve, whose very bodies came from the soil of
the earth itself. In Jesus, the Creator bound Himself to His
© Shutterstock, Inc.
creation in a most intimate way. He drank the water, breathed the air,
and ate the food of the earth. When He embarked upon His messianic
work, He went out to be “with the wild animals” (Mark 1:13) which
did not harm Him during His forty days of fasting. The Messiah had come
to restore His creation (Is 43:20). That work would center on those
who had brought about its ruin—God’s human creatures. Jesus fed,
healed, and restored people in both body and soul. He died to reconcile
them to God, and together with them reconciled all things to Himself
(Eph 1:10; Col 1:15–20). When He rose from the dead,
He became the vanguard of the new creation.
As the Lord of creation, Jesus Christ now works through the Holy
Spirit to gather and renew His human community, to make them the children of God (Rom
8:16). God begins the renewal of creation at the
rest of creation groans and
sighs in the pains of childbirth as it eagerly longs for
the day when the children of God will be glorified. For
point where its ruin began. The
at that time the earth and its creatures will also be released from their
bondage to corruption. All of creation will then share in the glory of the
children of God. In the meantime, we too groan inwardly as we await
the redemption of our bodies (Rom 8:19–23). Until that day,
we live in an age of ambiguity. We see all around us a beautiful yet
frustrated creation. Its beauty and goodness hint at the glory to come
when creation is renewed. Yet we can hear its groaning in bondage to
corruption as it longs to be freed in the age to come.
When Christ returns He will raise up His human
creatures from the dead and will renew His entire creation. Just as Christ’s resurrected and glorified body was the same body
that He had assumed from His mother’s womb, so Paul states that our
resurrection bodies will be transformed and glorified (Phil 3:21). The
same appears to happen with the wider creation as it is freed from its
corruption, for “when humans are put right, creation will be put right.”2
The new creation will then come forth much as a butterfly from a chrysalis. Like Christ’s body, it will be the same creation but transformed and
glorified. The visions of the eschatological age described by Isaiah and the
prophets will be brought to their full manifestation when the new Jerusalem comes down to the new earth. God will wipe away every tear and
(Revelation 21).
© Noam Armonn/Shutterstock.Inc.
dwell with us here on the new earth
© iStockphoto.com
Caring for God’s Living Earth
“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy and,
after all, our most pleasing responsibility.” — Wendell Berry
o in light of Scripture’s story, in which God reclaims His
creation in Jesus, how do we live within this groaning creation?
On the one hand, the groaning of creation in bondage to corruption calls
us to repentance, for on account of us the earth suffers under the curse
and under human destructiveness. On the other hand, the groaning of
creation in anticipation of its renewal calls us to embrace the goodness
of creation and the goodness of our creatureliness. As new creatures
raised with Christ, we have been set free from the need to possess the
earth for our own selfish purposes. We are set free to recover our place
within creation as those whom God created to live in a unique relationship
with Him and with our fellow creatures.3
God called us to care for His living earth.
He made us unique creatures among all of the creatures
who share this earth. He made us in His image. God gave
Adam and Eve a commission that was equally unique among
all of His creatures (Psalm 8). He gave them the task
of looking after His creation. Genesis 1 describes this
responsibility in terms of subduing the earth and exercising
dominion over “the fish of the sea and over the birds of the
heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth”
(Gen 1:28). Genesis 2 describes the responsibility in
terms of tending or cultivating the earth and protecting or
preserving the earth. We might summarize these four related
tasks by saying that God gave man and woman the commission to care for His living earth. This calls upon us to make
room on God’s earth and in our lives for all of His creatures,
both human and nonhuman, so that they all may flourish
(Ps 72:16).4 What does this mean?
First, God calls us to care for His creation.
Yes, God gave the earth to His human creatures (Ps
115:16). But He did not give it to us in such a way that
He absented Himself from His creation or relinquished His
ownership of it. The earth and every creature within it still
belong to Him (Dt 10:14; Ps 24:1; Ps 95:4–5, 7),
including every wild animal of the forest (Ps 50:9–12).
Because this is His earth, it is a treasure to be cherished by
us. In addition, God affirms it to be “good” or “very good”
on six occasions. Scripture repeatedly declares that the
earth is filled with and declares the glory of God (Ps 72:19;
Psalm 19). We are responsible to God for the way we deal
with the earth and treat His creatures so as not to diminish
God’s delight in His creation or the glory of His work. “We
must not use the world as though we created it ourselves.”5
We do not have the right to do with it as we like.
Second, God
calls us to enter into His own
work of caring for and preserving the earth. God cares for
it and He has committed himself to it. At the same time,
God has enlisted us to serve as the gloves on His hands as He tends to His
creation. Our activity should reflect God’s own compassionate care for
© Chepko Danil Vitalevich/Shutterstock, Inc.
all creatures (Ps 145:9; Ps 36:6). Caring for the earth and our fellow
creatures requires commitment and sustained effort. To restore impoverished farmland back to health or bring whooping cranes back from the
brink of extinction may take decades. Such efforts require the sacrifice
of time, energy, and resources. This is not to say that we place the lives
of our nonhuman fellow creatures above the lives of humans. But it may
mean that we choose to live in ways that promote the health of the earth
or at the very least minimize the damage inflicted upon it.
God has not only called us to care for His earth, but He
has called
us to care for it as creatures among fellow creatures. We
care for the earth not as “outsiders” but as “insiders.” God did not give
this task of dominion to angels who are not made from the earth. He gave
it to creatures who themselves came from the earth and are thus members of the entire community of life that comprises creation. If we forget
this, dominion becomes domination. God gives us responsibility for the
well-being of creation as those who live within creation.6 Approaching our
care of the earth and its inhabitants by respecting them as “fellow creatures” can alter the way we regard them and feel connected to them.7
Francis Schaeffer, a strong advocate for the Christian faith, argues that we
need to relate to other creatures both intellectually and psychologically.
© Elanthawise/iStockphoto.com
Intellectually, “I can say, ‘Yes, the tree is a creature like myself.’” But psychologically, “I ought to feel” that “the tree has a real value in itself being
a creature made by God.”8 What does this mean?
First, as creatures among fellow creatures, we
best care for
creation by nurturing those webs of support that bind
us together with our fellow creatures as members of God’s living
earth. This feature of human existence accords well with the central
insight of ecology that nothing lives in isolation; everything is interconnected. On the one hand, we cannot care for each other apart from the
nonhuman creation upon which we depend. For through the earth God
provides us with “clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home.”9
Through creation He provides us with inspiration for our art, literature,
and music. On the other hand, our fellow nonhuman creatures cannot
flourish apart from the spaces, habitats, water, and food upon which they
depend. They cannot survive, much less thrive, apart from the deliberate
choices that we make regarding our use or non-use of the earth.
Second, as creatures among fellow creatures, we best care for the
earth by bringing our thinking and acting into harmony
with God’s ordering of creation. We do not manage the earth
so much as work with the earth by cooperating with God’s arrangement
and ordering of His creation. This suggests that we need to “humble ourselves before nature’s processes,”10 and attend to the neighborhoods and
particular places where we live alongside our fellow earth-born creatures
(Ex 23:10–11). In the process, we must learn how this community
of creatures can best live together in a groaning creation. As members
of that community of creatures, we need to wrestle with the complex
connections that exist between God’s human and non-human creatures, between culture and nature, forest and orchard, prairie and field,
between troublesome creatures and pleasant ones. “All neighbors are
So how do we see ourselves? Where do we fit within creation? We
neither separated from creation nor indistinguishable
from creation. We share a bond with God because we are made in His
image. We share a bond with all the creatures of the earth because we are
formed from the earth. These two features of our existence are brought
to fulfillment in the new creation ushered in by Christ’s resurrection.
As Christians we now carry out God’s commission to proclaim the Gospel
(Matt 28:19–20). We also carry out His commission to care for
creation (Gen 1:28; Gen 2:15), all the while longing for the renewal
© iStockphoto.com
of creation at Christ’s return.
© Mario Lopes/Shutterstock,Inc.
How Do We Best Care
for God’s Living Earth?
“Delight is the basis of right use.” — Joseph Sittler
aking care of God’s earth and our fellow creatures with whom
we share it involves more than following a list of do’s and don’ts.
Such an approach can too easily become legalistic and develop into a new
secular piety. One is then moved more by fear than joy. Instead, we need
a fundamental orientation to God’s creation that aligns us with His view
of things. God liked what He had made. He took pleasure in it. It was very
good (Gen 1:31). As His image-bearing co-workers, God invites us to
delight in His good work as well. God’s own pleasure in what He had made
as good provides an avenue for our proper use and enjoyment of all created things. Delight brings us into accord and harmony with God’s own
view of His living earth.
Delighting in the Bond We Share
with Our Fellow Creatures
“ . . . life itself, which is membership in the living world,
is already an abundance.” — Wendell Berry
any of us have lost touch with the land. We feel more at
home surrounded by television screens, computers, and
phones than we do in God’s creation. In order to delight in God’s earth
as a treasured gift, we need to reconnect with it by rediscovering it and
experiencing the wonder that comes from observing His handiwork
38–39; Psalm 8; Prov 6:4–8). We have assistance in science
and in field guides that help us develop an observant eye regarding the workings of creation. Nature writing and photography can help us experience
its subtle beauty. Literature, poetry, and history can show us the interaction
of creation and culture. Scripture and theology help open the eyes and ears
of faith to hear the groaning of creation even as we see in it the promise of
© Tina Rencelj/Shutterstock, Inc.
its renewal.12
We begin our exploration with the discovery of our own creaturely
bond to the earth. “God has made me . . . He has given me my body and
soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses.”13
Our body joins us completely to the earth. We inhale the air
© Juriah Mosin/Shutterstock, Inc.
that circulates around the earth. We drink the water that evaporates from
oceans and falls to the earth as rain. We consume the energy of the sun
that has been photosynthesized by plants. We ingest the minerals of the
soil in the foods we eat. Take these away and we die. Our senses interact
with the full range of phenomena in creation, thus connecting us more
closely to the earth. By means of our senses we hear the howling of wolves
in winter, smell the scent of lilacs in spring, feel a cool spring breeze on
our face, taste the sweetness of watermelon on a hot day, and watch
flocks of sand hill cranes coming in to roost for the night. We are attached
to the earth not only physically, but also emotionally, psychologically, and
even spiritually. Many of us find ourselves drawn to parks and beaches
where our troubles drift away. Others of us are drawn to forests and mountains where we experience inner healing, spiritual refreshment, and even
something of the presence of God. In some ways this should not surprise
us. God approaches us through His creation not only to feed
and shelter us, but to refresh and restore us, to humble and inspire us,
and to elicit thanks and praise (Psalm 148). Yet even as we are drawn
to God’s world, we can find it a troubling and frightening place. For we
also encounter hurricanes and tornadoes, tsunamis and
typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanoes. In all of this, we
can hear creation groaning beneath the corruption to which
it was subjected. So together with our fellow creatures we
are “prisoners of the splendor and travail” of creation.14
As we expand our exploration outward we quickly dis-
cover that we are not alone. We
are members of a
large community of creatures on the earth
that includes cranes and woodpeckers, snow leopards and
tigers, whales and dolphins, prairie dogs and raccoons,
and countless others. It is a world filled with a rich diversity
of creatures. Genesis describes this eloquently. During
the first three days of creation God carved out spaces for
His creatures. He made room in the air, land, and water.
During the next three days, He filled those spaces so that
they are “teeming” with creatures of every kind. The Bible
itself lists over a hundred different kinds of creatures
(e.g., Is 11:6–9; Job 39:19–27). Scientists today
estimate that between one million and ten million species
of creatures live on earth. Many of them have yet to be
discovered, and of those that have been named there is
so much more to learn.
As we find ourselves members of a larger living world,
we also realize that we are emotionally connected to our fellow creatures. There is something
about the sight of other creatures that lifts our spirits
(Prov 30:18–19). We find ourselves drawn to them
and take pleasure in them. Again, this should not surprise
us. God did not create us to live in a “mirror-lined box.”15
He created us to live in the company of other creatures.
God gave Adam the task of interacting with and naming his
fellow creatures. Yet as we find ourselves drawn to those
creatures we hear disharmony in creation. Some creatures
pose a threat to human life and livelihood as predators,
pests, and carriers of diseases. We in turn have responded
by making less and less room for them on God’s earth and
within our lives, thereby pushing some into extinction.
Finally, we can expand our discovery by exploring the wider ecology
of the home that we share. Here we learn that not only has God created
an amazing variety of different and beautiful creatures, He
has also
given each a place and purpose within creation. We might
think of the earth as a home we share with many different roommates. In
this home each creature has been given its own room in which to live out
God’s created purposes. Within the economy of the household each has
its assigned chores. Psalm 104 lyrically describes the ecology of our
shared home. God has arranged everything to work harmoniously. Some
animals come out by night to hunt for their food and the humans go in to
sleep. Then the humans go out by day to farm and harvest and the animals
go in to sleep (Ps 104:20–23). Each has its place. Each has its
purpose. Each is cared for by God.
© Anita Charlton/Shutterstock, Inc.
Of course, things did not turn out the way God intended. Violence and
suffering, death and decay fill His earth. Yet God continues to create life
in and through His earth and all its creatures. Despite the violence, pain,
and suffering that are everywhere evident throughout creation, God has
enabled His creatures to adjust and adapt and even to cooperate with
each other for their mutual benefit. God’s original word of blessing continues to nudge life into every nook and cranny of our world.16 Today we see
that the cycles of life in ecosystems work through death and decay. Death
and decay return a creature to the ground and the organic material from
which God which first created it. Out of that material God brings forth
new life, despite the destructiveness and wastefulness of human activity.
Living in Creaturely Humility
“Learning to be creatures may be the most important
work we have to do.” — Ellen Davis
nce we have rediscovered our bond with God’s creation
and embraced it as a delightful gift, we can begin to
consider how best to care for His living earth. When we embrace
our membership in God’s living world we can begin to learn how
to live as creatures within a community of creatures. We need
not rise above or seek to transcend our creatureliness to become
like God. Nor do we need to seek ways by which we can possess
and control creation. God is the Creator. We are His creatures.
As such, we need to recognize that we are dependent upon God’s
gifts and that life is best lived within the boundaries of our creatureliness as God designed it.
As creatures we are limited by our creaturely capacities
and by the needs of the other creatures who call this earth their
home. But as human creatures, God created us uniquely in that
He gave us the ability to make choices about the
way we live on the earth with our fellow creatures. Other creatures lack that capacity. They act out of
necessity and instinct. But we can moderate our freedom out of
respect for creation in the same way that family members voluntarily limit their freedom out of love for others. Unfortunately,
when we seek to overcome the limits of our creatureliness we
act in unrestrained ways. In so doing we repeat the original sin of
Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). Limits and boundaries are not bad.
God established those boundaries as something good in creation
(Job 38:8–11). The Son of God embraced those boundaries
when He became a human creature for us (Luke 2:51–52).
To live within our creaturely limits, then, means to live
responsibly with God’s gifts— such as technology—which
may help us to bear the burden of sin’s curse. But at times we
need to ask, “Just because we can do something does it mean
we should?” Our actions can exceed the boundaries of our vision
and cause unintended long term damage for short term gains.
To act responsibly, we need to act in ways that do not exceed our vision.17
The same applies to the way we consume, which can have as much of an
impact upon our fellow creatures as anything we do. Do we take care of
and repair what we have? Similarly, does it make sense to become a culture in which we value the disposable for the sake of convenience? What
can more dishonor God’s own work than to throw away what He has made?
Ultimately, we need to ask, how much is enough? What constitutes a life
God has not only given us the capacity to voluntarily restrain
ourselves, He has also given us the capacity to act kindly and
generously in our treatment of the earth so as to serve the
well-being of all God’s creatures. All creatures need food, water, habitat,
and space. We are called to reflect God’s own warm-hearted goodness
toward creation as He cares for seemingly worthless sparrows (Matt
© NNehring/iStockphoto.com
10:29–31; Luke 12:6–7) and unclean ravens (Luke 12:24).
This involves living in “practical harmony” with the way God designed His
creation to function.18 It means becoming better acquainted with its processes and rhythms, and more astute in observing its needs and capacities.
To be sure, in this age there will never be a time when we do not cause
some damage. But we can seek to limit that damage and patiently work to
heal that damage as we await the final renewal of all things.
In order to work in harmony with God’s earth we need to work with
the distinctive features and needs of the land (Dt
20:19–20; Lev
19:9–10; Lev 23:10–11). Do we adapt ourselves to creation’s
rhythms by respecting rivers and flood plains or do we try to control and
transform them? Do we exhaust water supplies in the dry southwest in
order to have verdant lawns? In many ways, we interact most directly with
creation through the act of eating. How we eat determines how our food
is raised and how the earth is treated. God has allowed us to eat animals.
But do we allow them to live their lives as God created them (Dt
Dt 22:4; Dt 25:4; Ex 23:5, 11–12; Prov 12:10)? How do we
live with wild creatures? God made space on His earth for all of His creatures to live. Do we transgress those boundaries when we crowd them
out until there is no longer any room for them to live or move along
their ancient migration routes
(Dt 22:6; Lev 25:7)?
Finally, we best take care of God’s living earth when we do so to the
glory of God. It would seem that our
work of caring for creation
should be aimed at highlighting the beauty of God’s own
work. After all, with our work we enter into His own work. G. K. Chesterton noted that His is a work that brings all things into existence out of
nothing.19 Our work involves taking God’s created things and refashioning them into art, music, architecture, technology, and culture. But the
things of creation that we refashion still belong to Him. Everything we do
involves in some way a reworking of God’s own creaturely works. Our work
should be aimed at shedding light on God’s own good work (like polishing granite or staining wood in order to bring out their hidden beauty). It
should include producing things of both beauty and function that endure.
All that we do culminates in the sabbath restful delight. God finished
His work on the seventh day, blessed the day, and sanctified it. Later,
Exodus 31:17 describes that day as a time when God rested and was
“refreshed” or “inspired.” We might say that God found delight in what
He had made. The Jewish rabbis thus said that God created the Sabbath
as a day of shalom, delight, joy, tranquility, and harmony. This reflects the
sense of walking by the “still waters” of Psalm 23. Our work should
also culminate in restful delight in what God has made, as well as in what
we have made from His work (Ex 20:11). Times of rest and refreshment provide opportunity to give “thanks and praise” for all that God has
made. In that regard, God has given us the honor of leading creation in
that praise much as a conductor leads a symphony orchestra. All
creation praises God by being what it is, His good creation.
he Christian story provides a compelling—and much needed—vision
for how we see our place and purpose within creation. God has
called us to care for His earth as creatures among fellow creatures. Having made us new creatures and adopting us as His children in Jesus Christ,
He has set us free to care once again for His creation as He first intended.
But we care for a very different creation today. It is a creation that groans
under the curse imposed on
account of human sin and
beneath the weight of human
abuse. It is a creation that longs
for its complete renewal when
we, God’s children, are revealed
in glory. In the meantime the
Gospel has set us free to embrace
our human creatureliness, and
with it, our care for all of our
fellow creatures, both human
and nonhuman. “Our faith should
be at home with this earth, which
after all is the realm of the new
creation through Christ’s work
of redemption.”20
© Francesco Ridolfi/Shutterstock, Inc.
So Where Do We Begin?
n his explanation of the first article of the Apostles’
Creed, Martin Luther leads us by the hand outward in
a series of concentric circles, like ripples in a pond. He first
helps us discover our own bodies as gifts from God. Then He
leads us to discover the basic necessities of life, and finally
the wider world. We might follow that same movement here
as well. We begin with our bodies and their connection to the
earth. Then we move to our homes. We expand our concern
and action to church and community and from there out
into the wider creation. Each of these widening circles
will provide opportunities to reconnect with God’s creation
and to live as responsible creatures within creation.
© Steve Cole/Shutterstock, Inc.
1. Our Body: Food and Drink.
• Learn about the ways in which our food is currently raised and
produced. Few activities connect us to nature as does eating. How and
what we eat affects our health and shapes the way food is produced.
• Learn about the foods, fruits, and vegetables native to
your area and when different foods come into season by shopping
at local farmers’ markets.
• Learn about the genetic engineering of plants and what effect
that might have on ecosystems, the diversity of flora and fauna, and
on food.
• Purchase and eat a diversity of foods (grains, fruits, vegetables).
These products will encourage the production of different varieties.
• Consider purchasing some certified, organically raised dairy
products, eggs, cereals, fruit, and vegetables or range-fed beef, pork, and
• Purchase shade-grown coffee to help preserve the natural canopy
of rain-forests for migratory birds.
• When you eat, pause and reflect on where your food came from
and how long it took to grow. Give thanks.
2. House and Home.
• Choose to live within or even below your means.
Distinguish between needs and wants. Ask yourself, “What constitutes a
life well-lived?”
• Replace clothes, furniture, televisions, and computers, etc., only
when they are worn out and beyond repair.
• Purchase fewer but higher quality items that last a lifetime, rather
than things that need to be thrown away within months, only to end up
in our landfills.
• Choose energy efficient appliances (refrigerators, ovens, washing
machines, etc.) and home heating/air-conditioning systems.
• Purchase products, whenever possible, from recycled
materials. Recycled milk jugs have been transformed into materials
for decks, bird feeders, and other items.
• Purchase recycled paper products, such as towels, toilet paper, and
writing paper to support the preservation of the boreal forests of the
• Learn and be careful
about what you might unsuspectingly be putting into the
water supply from pharmaceuticals, detergents, and lawn
• Take one trip instead
of several a week to the
supermarket. Carpool to
work, use public transportation, or when possible ride
your bike to work or to run
© iStockphoto.com
3. Garden and Yard.
• Learn how all the local organisms (plants, insects, birds,
animals) interact with each other and with the inorganic environment
(soil, weather, seasons).
• Learn how yard “waste” can be turned into compost
to improve the composition and nutrients of the soil and thus the health
of your plants.
• Learn how to fit in with nature and patiently work with the
conditions and schedules of nature rather than your own.
• Grow varieties of delicious heirloom vegetables and fruits that are
not found in the supermarket.
• Make room in your yard for other creatures by planting native
flowers, shrubs, and trees to provide shelter and food for migratory
birds and butterflies.
• Reduce or eliminate the use of herbicides and pesticides on
lawns and gardens as these affect the biotic life of your yard and the
waterways into which they are washed.
• Exercise caution when buying invasive plants.
4. Church and School21
• Design your worship and classroom spaces to look out upon
God’s creation. Are the buildings cut off from creation or do they open
up to it? Plant trees and shrubs and put up bird feeders.
• Integrate elements of God’s creation in the interior design as
Solomon did. Use live plants in the worship space and classrooms.
Pattern designs from creation into the walls, pillars, and banners.
• Incorporate creation themes into prayers, hymns, and sermons
in worship and chapel services, especially at the traditional times of
planting, rogation tide, and harvest.22
• Celebrate Earth day during the Easter season in order to draw
attention to the new creation ushered in by Christ’s resurrection.
• Plant a memorial garden where people can plant trees or shrubs
in honor of marriage, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one.
• Replace landscaping shrubs with native shrubs and plants. How
can one maximize the green space? Replace the grass and create a little
garden sanctuary.
• Plant a community garden. Invite the neighborhood to partici-
© iStockphoto.com
pate in the planting and harvest. Take excess produce from the harvest
to food pantries and homeless organizations.
• Celebrate the harvest with a meal/festival. In the Bible festivals
and communities were built around the raising, preparation, and eating
of foods.
• Participate in local or community cleanups. Participate in
local park gatherings. Adopt a river or pond for cleanup.
• Conduct an energy audit. Become more energy efficient, recycle
service folders, and avoid the use of Styrofoam.
• Connect with the community by cleaning the city’s green spaces.
Partner with other organizations in your area that work for the wellbeing of creation.
© iStockphoto.com
• Include creation care in mission programs here and overseas.
5. Neighborhood and Community.
• Use all your senses when you walk outside. Listen to birds singing,
feel the wind on your face, smell the scents of the air, and feel the rise
and fall of the ground.
• Identify and learn the names of the trees, plants, birds, and
other animals that live in your area. Which are native? Which are invasive?
• Learn about the natural and cultural history of your
community, state, and region.
• Participate in citizen science projects such as Feederwatch
(Cornell Lab of Ornithology).
• Seek out a local garden club or wildlife conservation organization
(e.g., Audubon Society).
• Volunteer your time at a local Humane Society or other pet and
wildlife rescue groups within your area.
• Explore the kind of ecosystem in which your region resides: grasslands?
wetlands? mountains? What is your watershed?
• How has land use where you live (agriculture, forestry, suburban
development, etc.) disrupted or restored the area’s ecosystems?
• Listen to the “groaning” of creation as you become more aware
of the violence, suffering, and death found throughout the natural world.
6. The Whole of Creation
• Learn about the needs, habitats, and threats to various creatures
around the country due to over-harvesting, invasive species, and
habitat loss.
• Learn about the rich diversity of life on God’s earth. It will
teach you about different species, their lives, and the various habitats
in which they live.
• Think about the beauty of nature in broader terms than the grand
vistas of national parks. Think of it in the structure and functioning of
ecosystems. You will then discover beauty even in grasslands, marshes,
and swamps.
• Learn about the threats to our ecosystems from invasive species
(e.g., the Purple Loosestrife, Kudzu, Zebra Mussell, Carp, etc.)
• Take a course or read a textbook on environmental science or
conservation biology. You will learn about ecosystems (forests, rivers,
oceans) and ecosystem services (food, medicine, soil stabilization,
flood mitigation, etc.).
• Study and learn about both sides of the climate change debate.
• Become an advocate or supporter for one particular species,
bird, marine creature, land animal, tree, or plant.
• Contribute to the Humane Society of the United States or other
organizations that offer protection to animals.
• Purchase Migratory Bird Stamps (Duck stamps). They provide
a good way to support one our best kept secrets, namely, the National
Wildlife Refuge System.
• Identify and select a conservation organization to support
such as the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, the American Bird
Conservancy, etc. Check CharityNavigator.org to see how they spend
their money.
© Shutterstock, Inc.
n the end, do what you can. No individual and no
one congregation or school can single-handedly
take on all the challenges facing us. Explore the possibilities and select a project or a cause that fits your
interests and abilities. Then go for it! It may not seem
like much. But as in baseball, the little things count.
God has not called us to save the world. He has called
us to tend our “little patch of earth” in accordance
with the gifts and wisdom He has given us.
1 Max Oelschlaeger contends, “There are no solutions for the systemic causes of ecocrisis,
at least in democratic societies, apart from religious narrative.” Caring for Creation:
An Ecumenical Approach to the Environmental Crisis (New Haven: Yale University Press,
1994), 5. Al Gore has acknowledged this as well in Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the
Climate Crisis (Emmaeus, Pa.: Rodale Press, 2009), 305–10.
2 N. T. Wright, “Jesus is Coming—Plant a Tree!” in The Green Bible (San Francisco:
HarperOne, 2008), I-75.
3 “Not only our relationship to God and ourselves is made new through justification by
faith but at the same time our relationship with ‘all creatures’ is renewed.” Oswald
Bayer, “Justification as Basis and Boundary of Theology,” Lutheran Quarterly 15
(2001): 274.
4 See Norman Wirzba, The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).
5 Wendell Berry, “The Gift of Good Land,” in The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian
Essays of Wendell Berry, ed. Norman Wirzba (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2002), 296.
6 Richard Bauckham, “Human Authority in Creation,” in God and the Crisis of Freedom:
Biblical and Contemporary Perspectives (London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002),
7 Francis A. Schaeffer and Udo Middelmann, Pollution and the Death of Man (Wheaton,
Ill.: Crossway Books, 1970), 53.
8 Schaeffer and Middelmann, 78.
`9 Martin Luther, The Small Catechism, Lutheran Service Book (St. Louis: Concordia
Publishing House, 2006), 322.
10 Norman Wirzba, The Paradise of God: Renewing Religion in an Ecological Age (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2003), 138.
11 Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community: Eight Essays (New York:
Pantheon Books, 1993), 15 (emphasis original).
12 Martin Luther points out that faith enables us to see creation as “our Bible in the fullest
sense, this our house, home, field, garden and all things where God does not only preach
by using his wonderful work, but also taps on our eyes, stirs up our senses, and enlightens our heart at the same time.” Quoted in Oswald Bayer, Martin Luther’s Theology:
A Contemporary Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008), 111.
13 Luther, The Small Catechism, LSB, 322.
14 Elizabeth Coatsworth, ed., The Best of Beston: A Selection from the Natural World
of Henry Beston from Cape Cod to the St. Lawrence (Boston: David Godine, 2000), 18.
15 David Midgley, ed., The Essential Mary Midgley (New York: Routledge, 2005), 377, cf.
16 Coatsworth, 18.
17 Wendell Berry, “The Use of Energy,” in The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), 83–84.
18 Wendell Berry, “A Practical Harmony,” in What Are People For? (New York: North Point
Press, 1990), 103–108.
19 G. K. Chesterton, What’s Wrong with the World (Peru, Ill.: Sherwood, Sugden and
Company, 1942), 35.
20 Joel Kurz, “A Few Words on Behalf of Creation,” The Cresset (Easter I, 2007): 59.
21 See Edward R. Brown, Our Father’s House: Mobilizing the Church to Care for Creation
2nd ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008).
22 Rogationtide (days of prayer) refers to those days just prior to the Ascension when
the congregation would process through the fields around the church and pray that
God would bless the fields and crops, send good weather and rain, and protect all
from pestilence and disaster. See for example, one of Luther’s rogationtide prayers in
Luther’s Works, Devotional Writings I vol. 42 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press 1969), 87–93.
A Report of the
Commission on Theology
and Church Relations
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod

78777 06772
Printed in U.S.A.
Faith Active in Love
Human Care in the Church’s Life
A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations
of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
February 1999
Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyrighted 1946,
1952, © 1971, 1973. Used by permission.
The quotations from the Lutheran Confessions in this publication are from The Book of Concord:
The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, edited by Theodore G. Tappert, copyright
© 1959 Fortress Press. Used by permission of Augsburg Fortress.
Copyright © 1999 The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
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Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Two Contrasting Lines of Thought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Some Scenarios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
1. A Parish Nurse Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
2. A Day Care Center Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
3. A Food Pantry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
4. Faith and Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
5. A Low-Income Housing Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
6. Serve God at the Homeless Shelter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
7. Allocating the Congregational Budget . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
A Theological Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
The Vocational Dimension of the Church’s Life:
Daily Work of All Believers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Indirect and Unintentional Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Indirect and Intentional Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
The Central Concern of the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16
The Communal Dimension of the Church’s Life:
Organizing for Loving Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Christian Care in the New Testament . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Christian Care in Church History . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Care for Persons Both Within and
Outside of the Church . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Organizing for Christian Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
The Need for Flexibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
The Term “Social Ministry” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
The Contrasting Lines of Thought:
Response and Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Discussion of the Scenarios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
1. A Parish Nurse Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
2. A Day Care Center Program . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3. A Food Pantry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
4. Faith and Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
5. A Low-Income Housing Project . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
6. Serve God at the Homeless Shelter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
7. Allocating the Congregational Budget . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
A Concluding Prayer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
Faith Active in Love
Human Care in the Church’s Life
The proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments create faith and thereby constitute and continually reconstitute the
church, the body of Christ. The central task of the church, therefore, is to
proclaim that Gospel by which it lives and through which the Holy Spirit
seeks to draw all people into Christ’s body.
Faith created by the means of grace is always active in love. “After a
person has been justified by faith, a true living faith becomes ‘active
through love’ (Gal. 5:6). Thus good works always follow justifying faith
and are certainly to be found with it, since such faith is never alone but is
always accompanied by love and hope” (FC Ep, III, 11). The Formula of
Concord also cites Luther’s vivid formulation in his introduction to
Romans (1522):
Faith kills the Old Adam, makes us entirely different people in
heart, spirit, mind, and all our powers, and brings the Holy Spirit
with it. Oh, faith is a living, busy, active, mighty thing, so that it is
impossible for it not to be constantly doing what is good. Likewise,
faith does not ask if good works are to be done, but before one can
ask, faith has already done them and is constantly active (FC SD,
IV, 10–11).1
See Martin Luther, “Prefaces to the New Testament” (1546[1522]), Luther’s Works
(hereafter LW), American Edition (Philadelphia: Fortress Press and St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1960), 35:370.
The Board for Human Care Ministries of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has asked the Commission on Theology and Church Relations
(CTCR) to “reflect on the role of Christian care in the overall life of the
Christian community.” Because the central task of the church is the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments, distinctively Christian care is likewise always centered in this task. But because
faith is always active through love, questions about Christian care also lead
us to ask how a Christian congregation organizes to help its members
express the energetic love and hope that accompany a true living faith.
From the beginning we must guard against a nonbiblical soul/body
dualism that sometimes infects our reflections on this question. Many religions and philosophies, both Eastern and Western, teach a radical distinction between a material, bodily life and a nonmaterial, soul or spiritual life in
which the soul is viewed as good and the body as evil. In opposition to this
view, the Bible teaches in the doctrine of creation and in the doctrine of
redemption that God addresses us all as whole persons, both body and soul.
Because of sin, the whole person is under God’s judgment. Because of Christ,
the whole baptized person can confess faith in “the forgiveness of sins, the
resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting” (Apostles’ Creed).
The ministry of Word and sacraments, therefore, is addressed to the
whole person, not merely to body or to soul. The forgiveness won by
Christ and offered in the Gospel saves the whole person, body as well as
soul. Consider, for example, Mark 2:2–12 which instructively links our
Lord’s proclamation of forgiveness with the healing of the body, an anticipation of the resurrection.2 Matthew 8:17 interprets Jesus’ healing ministry in the light of Isaiah 53: “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the
prophet Isaiah, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our diseases’” (see also
Matt. 11:1–6 and Isaiah 35). Christian care is finally and always addressed
to the whole person redeemed by Christ.
Thus, the question we are to examine—how a Christian congregation
organizes to help its members express the love and hope that accompany a
true living faith—is not about caring only for bodily life. Persons who
expect the resurrection of the body do not stop simply with meeting current
bodily needs. Living faith, active in love, addresses the needs of whole persons, persons loved by those who know themselves loved by God in Christ.
A further focusing of the question before us requires that we examine
how, in the presence of the church-constituting proclamation of forgiveness in Christ, believers (both individually and corporately) integrate their
loving concern for the neighbor into the life of faith. It is in this sense that
we speak of “human care” and “Christian care” in the church’s life and
2 To be sure, God in His wisdom does not always remove the cross of physical suffering from His children in this life. Thus, the salvation of the body may not be apparent until
the resurrection and renewal of the body (cf. 1 Cor. 15:47-49). The thief on the cross was
saved though his body expired on the cross (Luke 23:43). Nevertheless, the account of Jesus’
saving activity shows that both body and soul are objects of salvation.
examine the necessary connections between this care and the church’s
Word and sacrament ministry.
Questions about Christian care in the Christian community are closely
related to how a congregation organizes to help its members speak on
issues of social concern. The Synod in 1983 3 raised this question, and the
CTCR’s 1995 report Render Unto Caesar . . . and Unto God: A Lutheran View of
Church and State addressed the question in detail. This new report reflects
on “the role of Christian care in the overall life of the Christian community”
in the light of the 1995 report.
Two Contrasting Lines of Thought
The question before us is not whether Christian care, the active love and
hope that accompany a true living faith, will characterize the Christian
community. Such love simply does accompany faith. Rather, the issue is
this: to what extent and on what basis will the church, organized corporately in congregations and in regional, national and international church
structures, help its members express the love and hope that accompany a
true living faith.
As a matter of fact, the church has in a variety of ways organized corporately to facilitate active expression of Christian care. The book of Acts
and New Testament reports of Paul’s collection for the poor in the
Jerusalem church demonstrate that the church has cared for its widows
and orphans and the poor from the beginning. Over the centuries churches have established great institutions of human care: hospitals, retirement
homes, agencies of local and world relief, etc. As we have noted, the Synod
currently maintains a Board for Human Care Ministries to assist all its
members in the organized expression of Christian love.
The facts are plain. Not only have individual Christians been energetic
in love that serves the neighbor, but the church has organized corporately
to help its members express the active love and hope that accompany a true
living faith. Two contrasting lines of thought in the Synod, however, challenge us concerning the way in which churches organize for Christian care.
1. One line of thought argues that the church should much more
systematically organize itself for the provision of Christian care.
This thinking urges
a. that Christians be much more systematically instructed in
how to show Christian care as individuals, and
b. that the corporate life of congregations, Districts, and the
Synod be more energetically organized to provide Christian
1983 Res. 3-06A “To Encourage Peacemaking and the Study of Problems Concerning
the Church and Nuclear Arms,” Convention Proceedings, 155-56.
2. The other line of thought argues that the church acting corporately has no specific mandate and often lacks the competence
to organize for the provision of Christian care. This thinking
a. that the Christian care lived out by Christian individuals in
their diverse callings in home, career, and community, is
often minimized or overlooked by people who criticize the
church for failing to instruct its members in Christian care,
b. that pastors—called to proclaim the Gospel and administer
the sacraments— and other church leaders have not been
summoned by God also to organize institutional efforts to
address social concerns. Indeed, even if pastors have wisdom for such efforts, they owe to their calling devotion “to
prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).
What are we to make of these contrasting lines of thought as we
“reflect on the role of Christian care in the overall life of the Christian community”?
Some Scenarios
The following scenarios are described to help people reading and
studying this report to think about the issues in a concrete way.4 The goal
is that, on the basis of the biblical, theological reflection offered in this
report, pastors and members of congregations will be able to assess the
questions raised by the scenarios in a helpful way. At the end of this document the scenarios are once again presented along with further discussion questions and references to previous relevant sections.
1. A Parish Nurse Program
A group of congregations is deliberating whether to make funds available to hire a full-time registered nurse to implement health-related programs in the congregations. The proposed plan is that this person would
do the following: keep tabs on members of the congregations whose health
The scenarios are more or less artificial, because they are designed to encourage discussion of key questions that arise around the topic of “Faith Active in Love.” Study of this
report, however, also provides a good occasion for congregations to become informed about
and review the actual human care initiatives undertaken by their own and other congregations. The Synod’s Board for Human Care Ministries exists to help congregations reflect on
and organize human care initiatives. The Board compiles descriptions of current congregational and other cooperative programs and is happy to share those descriptions with congregations and pastors. Reflection on such examples provides another way for congregations to consider what might be appropriate for faith active in love in their time and place.
needs are perhaps not being met in a satisfactory way; conduct wellness
classes for interested members; help members interact effectively with
their physicians and hospitals; and in a limited way, make available some
basic health care to people in need who live in range of the participating
Some persons in the congregations welcome this proposal as a sign
that the church will finally be living the Gospel in a concrete and visible
way. Others are critical of the proposal because they fear that it will
obscure the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the life, death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ. They also assert that the money involved
would be better spent to support missionary proclamation, either locally
or in a part of the world little touched by the Christian Gospel.
How should we think about these reactions to this proposal?
2. A Day Care Center Program
A medium-sized congregation is considering whether to establish and
staff a day care center for preschool children. Many families both inside
and outside the congregation need day care. Members are suggesting that
the proposed center would meet a genuine human need, put children in a
better environment than might be found in some secular centers, and provide a way that unbelievers would become better acquainted with the
Christian community.
Many in the congregation are enthusiastic about the plan, but some are
worried that people might become confused about the essentials of the
Christian mission.
What do you think? How is this proposal similar to or different from a
proposal to establish a Lutheran elementary or high school?
3. A Food Pantry
A small congregation maintains a food pantry for people unable to
secure sufficient resources for their own or their families’ meals. Since the
pastor is the only person present at the church on a regular basis, he is the
primary contact person for people bringing food and for those who volunteer to staff the pantry at designated hours. He also usually receives food
pantry inquiries outside the designated hours. Since most members of the
congregation work full-time, getting sufficient volunteers for the program
is an ongoing challenge.
For the most part, the congregation is glad to sponsor this program,
but some complain that it takes too much of the pastor’s time away from
his other tasks.
You have been asked to meet with the congregation and the pastor to
discuss the project. What will you bring to the discussion?
4. Faith and Works
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod has brought together persons
committed to human care ministries from all of its Districts. At the meeting
one presenter offers some comments in light of James 2:17—“So faith by
itself, if it has no works, is dead.”
The speaker reports: “A year-long study conducted by Search Institute
on ‘Congregations at Crossroads: A National study of Adults and Youth in
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’ concluded that our church ‘needs
to increase its efforts to help members make the connection between the
church’s teachings and the way Lutherans live out their daily lives’
(Reporter, October 1995). Out of approximately 1800 adults and 500 teens
from 163 congregations, the majority of those surveyed felt their congregations did not show love and concern for people in their community.
Only 22% of the adults and 19% of the youth believed that their congregations demonstrated this Christian care. More believed their churches
helped their own members, 36% of adults and 35% of youth, but these
numbers reflect the sense that congregations are not living out the call to
‘bear one another’s burdens’ (Galatians 6:2). Dr. Peter Benson of the Search
Institute reported that ‘cerebral faith in the LCMS strongly wins out over
the faith of the heart… those studied were strongest in trusting and believing, weak in acting, serving, experiencing the fruits of faith’ (Reporter,
March 1996). He says further that most survey respondents indicate that
their congregations do not exhibit the characteristics that distinguish the
‘faith-enhancing congregation’ (Reporter, October 1995).”
The speaker concludes: “America’s secular welfare system is collapsing, religious sponsorship of institutions is declining exponentially, trust
in the decisions of the political process is nearly non-existent, the fastest
growing industry is crime and crime control, family life has disintegrated,
and poverty and hopelessness exist in the midst of abundance. Ours is a
world groaning for a uniquely Christian response that incorporates the
words of Christ into tangible Christian care.”
You are one of the participants and are now in a small group in which
the speaker’s presentation is to be discussed. What would you think
important to bring to the discussion?
5. A Low-Income Housing Project
Several congregations in the heart of a large urban center are proposing to work together with the federal government to build and administer
a system of housing aimed to encourage low-income, but self-sufficient
people in the city to take on the challenges of home ownership. The congregations will not be undertaking large financial obligations, but they are
proposing that the pastors of the several congregations work together with
government officials to administer the program.
Many in the congregations are delighted to see the church addressing
a significant social need, but some are warning that pastors ought not be
distracted from their central calling of preaching the Gospel.
How should we think about this proposal?
6. Serve God at the Homeless Shelter
Several members of a congregation are vocal in their criticism that the
members are “too focused on themselves” and “not sufficiently committed
to addressing human need.” They propose that one Sunday each month
the congregation should suspend usual worship and gather instead to staff
the Sunday meals program at the local homeless shelter.
How would you respond to these members’ concerns and proposal?
7. Allocating the Congregational Budget
Several influential members of a congregation have agreed together to
propose that, from now on, fifty percent of the congregation’s budget
should be devoted to activities that demonstrate “faith working in love.”
They argue that too large a percentage of the congregation’s resources are
going simply to the provision of ministry to the members. They want to see
vigorous attention paid to local social concerns and to LCMS World Relief.
Others in the congregation argue that, if the congregation can afford to
free up half of its financial resources, the money would be better spent on
direct support of mission activities such as the theological education of
indigenous pastors in developing countries and support of ministry in the
military and on college campuses.
What do you think?
These seven scenarios illustrate the kinds of questions that tend to
arise when Christians “reflect on the role of Christian care in the overall life
of the Christian community.” At the end of this report we return to the scenarios. At this point we turn to detailed theological reflection as a basis for
further discussion.
The 1995 CTCR report Render Unto Caesar . . . and Unto God: A Lutheran
View of Church and State alerts us to a “fundamental ambiguity in the term
‘church’” (65). We find in this observation the helpful insight that the one
church can be seen from several different vantage points.
Article VII of the Augsburg Confession teaches that the church is created by the Word and sacraments. This article, therefore, describes the
church as “the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is
preached in its purity and the holy sacraments are administered according
to the Gospel” (AC VII, 1). The church is here defined theologically according to its central and constitutive dimension. We recognize without compromise that “the primary concern of the church must always be the Gospel
of the forgiveness of sins, for Christ’s sake, through faith alone” (Render,
The church, thus defined, organizes itself for service in a variety of
ways. Its primary focus is on Word and sacrament ministry, but the faith
of the members manifests itself both in a diversity of social structures and
in a diversity of daily vocations of the believers. As emphasized earlier, the
question we are addressing concerns how a Christian congregation organizes to help its members express the energetic love and hope that accompany a true living faith. This requires that we reflect both on the daily lives
of believers and on the variety of social structures that foster Christian service. Two related, but distinguishable, aspects of the church’s life are identified:
1. From one vantage point we can speak of a vocational dimension of
the church’s life, the daily work of all believers. “The church, as
body of Christ, involves the daily work of all believers as they
engage in the many occupations that, together, constitute
human communities and meet human needs. The church reaches out with the love of God for a suffering world primarily
through the words and deeds of its members” (Render, 91).
2. From another vantage point we can speak of a communal dimension of the church’s life: organizing for loving service. The pri-
mary ministry of Word and sacraments inevitably involves the
gathering of a community of two or more in Christ’s name
(Matt. 18:20). Communities brought together by Word and
sacrament can also be instruments for facilitating ways that
Christians express the love and hope that accompany a true living faith. In this way the church appears to the rest of the world
as one more “institution of the society in which it exists” (Render, 92). For example, “it has a legal existence and is directly
affected by a wide variety of civil legislation” (Render, 92). This
community has always organized first for the central task of
Word and sacrament ministry. Still, as organized social structures churches facilitate a wide variety of serving activities that
flow from the proclamation of the Gospel. (Consider the picture
of the early church provided by Acts 6 as discussed below on
page 19)
Recognition of the vocational and communal dimensions of the
church’s life can help us better “reflect on the role of Christian care in the
overall life of the Christian community.”
The Vocational Dimension of the Church’s Life:
Daily Work of All Believers
We begin with the vocational dimension of the church’s life. All agree
that the active love and hope that accompany a true living faith will appear
in the daily life and work of all believers. Lutherans are well taught by their
tradition to recognize that this is the primary way the church reaches out
with the love of God for a suffering world.
Lutherans understand Christian vocation or calling to indicate the
places where God has located the Christian for living out his or her faith.
God has placed Christians into families of origin with parents, siblings,
and others. He has situated them in jobs and careers with fellow workers,
employers and employees. They live in specific neighborhoods and communities with identifiable neighbors. They owe earthly obedience to particular governments. They create new families in marriage and through the
procreation of children. In all of these callings Christians live out the active
love that flows from living faith.
In each of these situations God has given Christians different assignments or responsibilities. For instance, the home is the place in which
spouses care for each other and their children. Occupational situations are
the settings for the exercise of economic responsibilities for other people.
Through government God arranges for the maintenance of human justice
by punishing evildoers and by promoting the good.
When God’s Word guides us to pay special attention to the humble,
daily round of duties, we will not give in to the temptation to sacrifice the
needs of neighbors near at hand to grand causes that appear to the world
to be more worthy. When our understanding of Christian callings is rooted in Scripture, we are protected against narrow worldly definitions of
what “real care” would mean. The Apology of the Augsburg Confession
alerts us to the temptation to substitute human works for Scripture’s
account of our callings and says: “The commandments of God are
obscured; for when men regard these works as perfect and spiritual, they
will vastly prefer them to the works that God commands, like the tasks of
one’s calling, the administration of public affairs, the administration of the
household, married life, and the rearing of children” (Ap XV, 25).
In our own time the Cambridge historian Edward Norman illuminates
the same temptation to denigrate simple everyday works while pursuing
worldly ideals of generosity. He argues that some Christian leaders are
“liable to absorb seemingly any account of world conditions which
exploits their generosity,” and he asks “what will happen to Christianity
as its content is drained away into the great pool of secular idealism.”5
The following poem vividly captures the significance of the believer’s
daily work:
Lord of all pots and pans and things, since I’ve no time to be
A saint by doing lovely things, or watching late with Thee,
Or dreaming in the dawn-light, or storming Heaven’s gates,
Make me a saint by getting meals and washing up the plates.
Although I must have Martha’s hands, I have a Mary mind,
And when I black the boots and shoes, Thy sandals, Lord, I find.
I think of how they trod the earth, what time I scrub the floor:
Accept this meditation, Lord, I haven’t time for more.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy love, and light it with Thy peace;
Forgive me all my worrying, and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food, in room or by the sea,
Accept this service that I do — I do it unto Thee.6
The 1995 report Render Unto Caesar focused on how the church speaks
to or influences government. Noting the crucial daily work of believers in
their various callings, the report speaks of “indirect and unintentional
5 Edward Norman, Christianity and the World Order (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1979), 18-19; 13.
Cecily Halleck, Christian Quotation of the Day, December 26, 1997, http://www.gospelcom.net/cqod.
influence” and “indirect and intentional influence” that the church might
have on society through the daily work of individual Christians.7 We can
use similar language to discuss how Christian care characterizes the Christian community through the daily life of the believers.
Indirect and Unintentional Care
When the church is engaged in its central task of proclaiming the
Gospel and administering the sacraments, faith is engendered in the members and love follows—often without explicit instruction. In many cases
the spontaneous—indirect and unintended—result is active love in the daily
life of believers. The terms “indirect and unintended” indicate that love
flows from faith in the Gospel apart from any specific or organized plan or
“intention” on the church’s part, while at the same time suggesting that the
church serves society “indirectly” by helping individuals who are in need.
Indirect and Intentional Care
As part of its proclamation, however, the church does also intentionally speak of the works that characterize the lives of believers. Our justification before God is without works by faith, but “good works should be
done because God has commanded them and in order to exercise our faith,
to give testimony, and to render thanks” (Ap IV, 189). The Formula of Concord advises that “it is just as necessary to exhort people to Christian discipline and good works, and to remind them how necessary it is that they
exercise themselves in good works as an evidence of their faith and their
gratitude toward God, as it is to warn against mingling good works in the
article of justification” (FC Ep, V, 18).
Thus, when the church is engaged in its central task of proclaiming the
Gospel and administering the sacraments, an indirect yet intended result
will be the active love seen in the daily life of believers. The church will in
fact instruct the believers in God’s Word “so that they will not be thrown
back on their own holiness and piety and under the pretext of the Holy
Spirit’s guidance set up a self-elected service of God without his Word and
command, . . .” (FC SD, VI, 20).
Believers also struggle daily with the Old Adam, and the preaching of
the Law alerts us to the pernicious effects of the Old Adam’s struggle
against faith.
In this life Christians are not renewed perfectly and completely.
For although their sins are covered up through the perfect obedience of Christ, so that they are not reckoned to believers for damna-
See pages 67-90 of the report. The report draws on work by Robert Benne in “The
Church and Politics: Four Possible Connections,” This World 25 (Spring 1989) and in his The
Paradoxical Vision: A Public Theology for the Twenty-first Century (Minneapolis: Fortress
Press, 1995).
tion, and although the Holy Spirit has begun the mortification of the
Old Adam and their renewal in the spirit of their minds, nevertheless the Old Adam still clings to their nature and to all its internal
and external powers . . . . Hence, because of the desires of the flesh
the truly believing, elect, and reborn children of God require in this
life not only the daily preaching and admonition, warning and
threatening of the law, but frequently the punishment of the law as
well, to egg them on so that they follow the Spirit of God, . . . (FC
SD, VI, 7–9).
Francis Pieper summarizes this feature of the church’s work as follows:
The Church must demand of its members that they prove the
faith of the heart by good works. The Church insists on a justification by works [not before God but before men]. The further a Christian congregation departs from this practice, the more will license
abound in her midst, the less will she fulfill her calling of being a
light to the world and a salt of the earth. Let her never forget that
Scripture calls for this justification by works. John 13:35: “By this
shall all men know that ye are My disciples if ye have love one to
The church will not shy away from instructing the believers in the
good works that characterize daily life on the basis of God’s Word. In the
words of the Epistle of James, we will teach that “religion that is pure and
undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows
in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:27).
In this way an indirect but intended effect of the church’s work will be the
shaping of the love that is shown in the daily lives of the believers.
The Central Concern of the Church
In the preceding section on “The Vocational Dimension of the
Church’s Life: Daily Work of All Believers,” we examined a crucial dimension of the church’s life as regards faith active in love. This is one of the
dimensions discussed in the CTCR’s 1995 report Render Unto Caesar.9 The
Commission stated:
The church, as body of Christ, involves the daily work of all
believers as they engage in the many occupations that, together,
constitute human communities and meet human needs. The
Francis Pieper, Christian Dogmatics (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1951),
Further reflection on these matters can be found in C.F.W. Walther’s The True Visible
Church, The Form of a Christian Congregation, and Church and Ministry.
church reaches out with the love of God for a suffering world primarily through the words and deeds of its members (Render, 91).
In the daily work of believers we have located the primary way Christian care, the active love and hope that accompany a true living faith,
reaches out with the love of God for a suffering world. This way of locating Christian care in the vocations of Christians assumes that the church is
“the assembly of all believers among whom the Gospel is preached in its
purity and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel”
(AC VII, 1). Therefore, the central concern of the church “must always be
the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins, for Christ’s sake, through faith alone”
(Render, 91).
If an assembly of people is to be and to live as church, then its central
mission must be nothing other than to preach the Gospel and administer
the holy sacraments. When this mission is lost, then faith is lost; and when
faith is lost, salvation is lost and with it the energetic love and hope that
accompany a true living faith. Fallen children of earth can create assemblies that, to outward appearance, do great deeds of love. But when deeds
of love flow from something other than faith created by the Gospel, they
are, before God, sinful (Rom. 14:23). The Formula of Concord states:
[Works] which unbelievers and the unconverted are also able
and required to perform, are indeed praiseworthy in the sight of
the world, and even God will reward them with temporal blessings
in this world, but since they do not flow from true faith, they are
sinful (that is, spattered with sins in the sight of God), and God
regards them as sin and as impure because of our corrupted nature
and because the person is not reconciled with God. A bad tree cannot bear good fruit [Matt. 7:18], and “whatsoever does not proceed
from faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23) (FC SD, IV, 8).
The central concern of the assembly of believers is to preach the Gospel
and administer the holy sacraments that faith, salvation and eternal life
may abound. “In the sight of God it is really faith that makes a person holy;
faith alone serves him, while our works serve the people” (LC I, 147).
Observe how biblical faith frees the Christian for service that is in no
way self-serving. We serve God only by faith’s receiving the forgiveness of
our sins won by Christ. Thus, nothing but Christ’s work is required to put
us right with God, so “Christians are free to serve their neighbors in the
countless ways which love discerns but law can never specify.”10 Christians
“are free to love their neighbor without any thought for themselves or their
own fulfillment of the law.”11 Because we are justified by grace through
10 Abortion in Perspective, A Report of the Commission on Theology and Church Relations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, as prepared by its Social Concerns Committee, May 1984, 33.
11 Leif Grane, The Augsburg Confession: A Commentary, trans. John H. Rasmussen (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1959), 87.
faith, we are free simply to see needs and meet them in loving care.
Matthew 25:31–46 is instructive in this regard. When the Son of Man
comes, Jesus teaches, He [“the King”] will say to those on His right hand:
“‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you
from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed
me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was
in prison and you came to me’” (vv. 34–36). In order to lead us away from
the self-serving notion that we should serve the poor and hurting as a way
of gaining eternal merit with God, Jesus stresses the perplexity of those
who served the poor and hurting: “‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry
and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a
stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we
see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’” (vv. 37–39). The focus here is how
those who are truly right with God by grace through faith serve others
without any further thought of how it may serve them. So it is that one of
the church’s post-communion prayers asks that God would strengthen us
“in faith toward you and in fervent love toward one another” (Lutheran
Worship, 174).
The Communal Dimension of the Church’s Life:
Organizing for Loving Service
We have now examined the vocational dimension as a manifestation
of the church’s Christian care in the world, and we have reviewed how the
church by its very nature focuses on Word and sacrament ministry as its
central concern. Both of these aspects of the church’s life are discussed also
in the 1995 report Render Unto Caesar.12
We turn now to the communal dimension of the church’s Christian
care in the world. The CTCR’s 1995 report speaks of how the “church par-
12 Helpful here by way of summary is Henry Hamann’s assertion that “the most significant contribution of the church to the welfare of society and the world is by way of its
members, as each in his own niche in life and in accordance with his own special capabilities works for and serves his fellow-men, activity which includes also doing what is expected of conscientious citizens. The church makes part of its task the training and education of
its members in just this attitude of responsibility for society. Theologically speaking, we have
here faith working by love, and the church’s task of education here is its use of the Law in
its role as rule and standard of a godly life.” Hamann goes on to say, with comments that
are pertinent to our discussion in this section: “Part of this life of love and service of the
neighbour is the collective activity of Christians through the church to do the work of the
state vicariously where society is too weak, too primitive, too lacking in organization to be
able to carry out its proper functions.” Henry Hamann, “The Church’s Responsibility for the
World: A Study in Law and Gospel,” in Theologia Crucis: Studies in honour of Hermann Sasse,
ed. Henry P. Hamann (Adelaide: Lutheran Publishing House, 1975), 86.
ticipates as an institution of the society in which it exists” (Render, 92). We
must now explore what this means for reflecting “on the role of Christian
care in the overall life of the Christian community.” Adapting the language
of the 1995 report, we will discover a place for direct and intentional communal action on the part of the church in faithful service.13
We first examine some examples from Scripture and from church history, and then we will reflect on what this means in our contemporary setting.
Christian Care in the New Testament
In Acts 6 we see the apostles guiding the church to organize itself for
the Christian care of its members.
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their
widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve
summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that
we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables.
Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good
repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to
this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy
Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and
Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set
before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon
them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the
priests were obedient to the faith (Acts 6:1–7).
The apostles know they must stay focused on the church’s central concern to preach the Gospel that creates faith in the hearers. But they also
show that as a social organization the church can organize to help its members effectively express the energetic love and hope that accompany a true
living faith.
Perhaps the most powerful articulation in the New Testament of how
the Spirit can energize the church’s Christian care is found in 2 Corinthians 8.
We want you to know, brethren, about the grace of God which
has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test
of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have
overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave
See pages 82-90 of Render Unto Caesar.
according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means,
of their own free will, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking
part in the relief of the saints—and this, not as we expected, but
first they gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.
Accordingly we have urged Titus that as he had already made a
beginning, he should also complete among you this gracious work.
Now as you excel in everything—in faith, in utterance, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in your love for us—see that you excel
in this gracious work also.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of
others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he
became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And
in this matter I give my advice: it is best for you now to complete
what a year ago you began not only to do but to desire, so that your
readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out
of what you have. For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable
according to what a man has, not according to what he has not. I
do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but
that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time
should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply
your want, that there may be equality. As it is written, “He who
gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had
no lack.”
But thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you
into the heart of Titus. For he not only accepted our appeal, but
being himself very earnest he is going to you of his own accord.
With him we are sending the brother who is famous among all the
churches for his preaching of the gospel; and not only that, but he
has been appointed by the churches to travel with us in this gracious work which we are carrying on, for the glory of the Lord and
to show our good will. We intend that no one should blame us
about this liberal gift which we are administering, for we aim at
what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight
of men. And with them we are sending our brother whom we have
often tested and found earnest in many matters, but who is now
more earnest than ever because of his great confidence in you. As
for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker in your service; and
as for our brethren, they are messengers of the churches, the glory
of Christ. So give proof, before the churches, of your love and of
our boasting about you to these men (2 Cor. 8:1–24).
Here St. Paul encourages the Corinthians to participate generously in
the offering that he is gathering for relief of the poor in the Jerusalem
church. The motivation for such giving is clear: “For you know the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became
poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
An equality should be established within the church, though not necessarily an equality based on common ownership or equal sharing. The
goal is not merely sharing but giving and receiving:
I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened,
but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time
should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply
your want, that there may be equality (2 Cor. 8:13–14).
C. S. Lewis offers a captivating image of such giving and receiving
while commenting on the Arthurian poems of Charles Williams: “The
courtesy of the Emperor has absolutely decreed that no man can paddle his
own canoe and every man can paddle his fellow’s . . . .”14
A life marked by giving and receiving, by countless exchanges and
burdens borne—“We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear” (Lutheran Worship,
295)—is a life lived on the basis of the example of the great exchange by
which Christ takes the sinner’s place: “He serves that I a lord may be; A
great exchange indeed!” (The Lutheran Hymnal, 105). The life of the Triune
God is one of giving. From eternity the Father gives His all to the Son in
the generation of the Word; from eternity the Son offers himself back to the
Father, and this exchange takes place through the bond of the Spirit. We
see this giving above all in that gift which is the great exchange of our sinfulness for Christ’s righteousness (Jn. 3:16; 2 Cor. 5:21).15
The life that the church as Christ’s body seeks to live and is called to live
resembles this giving and exchanging that we see in Christ. A believer’s giving does not atone for sin. Our exchanging does not create new life. But in
assuming the burdens of others and exchanging our comfort for their affliction, we live out a life under the cross to which Christ has called us—a life
marked by giving and receiving, by the inner reciprocities of love.
14 Charles Williams, Arthurian Torso: Containing the Posthumous Figure of Arthur (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1948), 123.
In his “Confession Concerning Christ’s Supper” (1528), Martin Luther writes: “The
Father gives himself to us, with heaven and earth and all the creatures, in order that they
may serve us and benefit us . . . the Son himself subsequently gave himself and bestowed all
his works, sufferings, wisdom, and righteousness, and reconciled us to the Father, in order
that restored to life and righteousness, we might also know and have the Father and his gifts
. . . the Holy Spirit comes and gives himself to us also, wholly and completely” (LW 37:366).
For the idea of the “great exchange,” see Luther’s Lectures on Galatians 1535, where he comments on Gal. 3:13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become for us a
curse” (LW 26:276ff).
Christian Care in Church History
The church’s organization for Christian care is clearly witnessed in a
scene from the life of the early Church: the martyrdom of St. Laurence at
Rome in the third century. The Christian congregation at Rome had
appointed seven deacons, among whom Laurence was chief. Hearing
rumors that the church was receiving generous offerings, the pagan prefect ordered Laurence, chief custodian of these offerings, to produce “the
treasures of the church.” Laurence promised to have them …
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