Faith in Action: Grace's Story

I grew up in the Lutheran church in Pennsylvania, which probably accounts for a good 40% of my personality. The church of my childhood was and is one that gets things done. No one was all that concerned about what you actually believed, so long as it was adjacent to the Nicene Creed and wasn’t going to cause problems for anyone else. But if you weren’t stepping up to teach Sunday School or make quilts for Lutheran World Relief or help out at the food bank, that bothered people. For me, this was a world of family and community and more than anything, work.  

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the denomination I’m part of, has a sort of slogan of ‘God’s work, our hands.’ It’s a reminder that the kingdom of God is not a floating castle in the sky, it’s something we build together. Our job as Christians is not to just glide through life, acting faithful and pious and avoiding sin, feeling that we are untouchable because we are special and saved. Our job is doing the work. God’s work. With our hands and hearts and minds and voices, we do the work of building the kingdom of God.  

In this light, the concept of faith in action felt natural and inevitable. What other kind of faith could you have? When I started reading Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, his declaration that ‘Faith without works is not faith at all,’ didn’t feel radical, but rather a clear, simple explanation of something I had been unconsciously taught my entire life. The Christianity I grew up with was very informed by this concept; I was surrounded by people who were moved by their faith to work in their community (parents, grandparents, people in my church), and this extended to my own growing consciousness around social justice issues.  

I wish I had some sort of exciting story about reaching realising the concept of faith in action as the one true way to do Christianity, but much like my faith, it’s something that’s just always been there. This is the way things are done. This is your mission, you have no choice but to accept it. God will love you and lead you and work through you whether you like it or not, so you may as well do it voluntarily. As Lutheran theologian Nadia Bolz-Weber explains it in her biography Pastrix, ‘God indeed enters into our messy lives and loves us through them, whether we want God’s help or not.’