The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, spoke about grace and service at the opening of Concordia’s Faith, Reason and World Affairs Symposium.
The symposium, titled “Reformation: Transforming the World One Door at a Time,” caused Eaton to focus on what Luther had to say about grace, which we cannot earn, and neighbor, whom we should love.
“Luther contends that this gift of grace is a freedom for service,” Eaton said. She noted we need not worry about judging because grace “sets us free in service for and love for our neighbor.”
She also noted the word “neighbor” needs to be used broadly, taking in people both near and far.
“We are to speak well of our neighbor, and Luther contends you can only do this if you know who our neighbor is,” Eaton said, reminding us of our need to be engaged with people we don’t necessarily know or understand.
Eaton believes that reforming – the process of changing in this world – is vital, as is being active in the deep issues that present themselves today. While many ask the church to stay out of political topics, the bishop said Luther was clear that we cannot withdraw from the world or the public square.
“God came and shared our lives in the person Jesus Christ. If the material world is sacred to God, it follows that we are to care for creation,” Eaton said. “It’s extremely important to stand up and say anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are just not allowed. And we have to be bold about it.”
Eaton challenged listeners to be bold in service to others, recognize the vitality of Christians around the world, and remember God is still active in this world.
“The work of God continues through us.”