Love – the basis for faith in public life

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:10)

We begin a 5-week series on faith and civics this week – a journey into what it means to be a Christian and participate in public life. In our baptism we are joined to Jesus and called to continue the ministry of Christ in the world. This work is called “the vocation of the baptized.” It is the way we live out our identity and the body of Christ in daily life.

We begin this series with Romans 13 because it is a place where Paul talks about living in a world governed by others. How are Christians to function? What guides our choices and behaviors? He eventually lands on the 10 Commandments and reminds people that these aren’t just about rules – they are about love. It is love that stands at the center of our identity as Christ’s people and it is love that will fulfill the law.

This simple principle becomes the basis for how Luther understands and explains the second table of the 10 Commandments – the ones that call for us to point our love toward our neighbors. It is not enough, Martin Luther reminds us, to just avoid doing bad things. We are called to work for good things and go the extra mile to be people who help our neighbors and make their lives better.

This is the underlying principle for Lutheran Christians way of engaging public life. We are loved by God in Christ. We then become a vehicle for that love as we act as God’s agents in the world. Love is the starting point for faith in public life. Love is the outcome when it goes well, too. We ask a simple question, “Which thing will produce the most loving outcome, not only or even primarily for me, but for my neighbors who need it most?”

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