Sometimes we Lutherans are just a little bit chary of looking like extremists. We play into Garrison Keillor’s stereotypes about Lake Woebegone Lutherans, who are safe, staid, and studiously avoid conflict or raised voices. Even if we feel very strongly attached to our church and our way of following the Lord, we may still be anxious not to make too many waves — not to care too much (or to appear like we do), lest we lose our heads or our cool. We may fear being labeled extremists, or worse (like being equated with militant Muslims or irritating Jehovah’s Witnesses), so that even the thought of a sideways look (not even an actual sideways look) is enough to root us to our seats and seal our lips. We know too well, from watching the evening news, listening to talk radio, and interacting with our neighbors and coworkers, that the only unforgiveable sin in the eyes of the world nowadays is to declare that you, personally, are in possession of the truth. For too many, that implies, if not outright states, that they do not therefore know the truth — and the one thing just about anybody knows for sure nowadays is that no one person can know what the truth is. That being the case, if you speak up about the truth of God’s Word, you know good and well that you’ll get pegged, pigeonholed, and labeled for it — so the temptation to just sit down and be quiet about God’s truth. Because, after all, who wants to be labeled an extremist.
We should be less bothered by that. I keep coming back to this one phrase in my mind: if it matters. If it matters that those who do not trust in Christ don’t make it to heaven, why would we be kind and respectful of someone else’s false religion? If it matters that denying infants Holy Baptism is a serious matter, so serious that it puts the salvation of their souls in jeopardy, why would we make nice with those who deny the Savior’s Word on that score, and who overturn the historic practice of the Church? If it matters whether or not our Lord is present in, with, and under the bread and wine that are consecrated and consumed in the Sacrament, how can we be indifferent to someone else’s fanatical insistence that Jesus didn’t mean what He said when He declared, “This is My Body – this is My Blood?” If “the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes,” why would we not speak up when we hear someone confuse or mix law and gospel, or pervert the gospel of Christ into merely a higher form of works? If God’s Word alone creates and sustains faith, why in the world would we sit back idly when people actively promote and encourage worship forms and practices that are drawn from the exact opposite teaching? IF IT MATTERS, WHY DON’T WE SAY SOMETHING?
The Lutheran Church has historically been predicated on “saying something” — as indeed has the Christian Church herself. It is the confession of the unconditional gospel of Jesus Christ that saves and creates alive, and it is that same gospel that is therefore worth dying for. If you really believe it to be true, the way you confessed you did on your confirmation day and the way you do every Sunday since then, then why not act like it matters? Why not live it? The Church today, more than ever, needs those who will live their faith in their lives, not just make the motions with their lips — if they even go that far. Christ has redeemed you body, soul, and spirit. You are His through Holy Baptism. Why not speak up like it, live like it; be willing to depart this life and suffer all, even death, rather than be parted from Him?
Today is the anniversary of the Presentation of the Augsburg Confession. If the Christian Church is to endure on earth, she needs faithful confessors — not just the people with the titles or the initials behind their names, but ordinary laypeople whose faith is founded in Christ and His Word. Being Lutheran, truly, authentically Lutheran, really matters — because Christ and His Word matter. They are the only thing that bridge the gap between earth and heaven. Nothing else endures, except for what Christ gives. Let’s not be afraid to look like extremists — let’s live like our Lutheranism matters. Because it does.
The Presentation of the Augsburg Confession — where Lutherans first stood up as an identifiable group and confessed the faith entrusted once for all to the saints. Will we do as well as they in our own day?