Yes, I Am A Lazy Christian! How About You?

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Several years ago I received the criticism from a parishioner that I was a ‘Lazy Christian.’  They gave me this label in regards to my views on the doctrine of sanctification, the living out of this Christian life.  At first this stung my deeply rooted ambition of workaholism, however, as I gave it some thought I can recall sitting back in my chair and a small smile came over me as I said to myself, “Thank you for the compliment!”

Lutherans are often accused of being weak on sanctification, being weak on their focus of living out the Christian life.  Lutherans have also been accused throughout the ages of not even having a doctrine of sanctification.  I believe the reason for these criticisms is pretty simple.  Lutheran Christians tend to center robustly on justification, what God has done for us in Christ.  As continually struggling sinners, Lutherans constantly focus on the need to hear the external Word of God’s justifying grace in Christ; that we are declared righteous for Christ’s sake.

The sad reality is that all too often we would rather put the spotlight on what we do rather than what Christ has already done, which results in putting the cart before the horse.  Many fail to realize that sanctification is a fruit that flows out of justification.  Good works always flow out of what Christ has done for us and are never a cause of Christ’s accomplishment at Calvary.  Anytime we overemphasize sanctification and deemphasize justification we put the focus back onto self.  Furthermore, when we speak of sanctification before or apart from the context of justification we also put the focus back onto self.  Both of these previous scenarios lead to spiritual bondage and promote an environment of man-centered theology.    

Because sanctification and good works are the fruit of Christ’s justifying grace and forgiveness, we get to look to Christ rather than ourselves and what we are doing.  The reason being, if we look to our good works to spur on more good works, our endeavor will prove to be futile at best and frankly downright foolish.  It is foolish because Jesus, not us, is the author and the perfecter of faith; may we run this race by fixing our eyes on Jesus and His power. (Hebrews 12:1b-2a) 

Mike Mercer commenting on the perception of Lutherans being weak on sanctification says, “I prefer to say we are strong on Jesus, whose sanctifying work in our lives is the fruit of the gospel all along our lifelong journey. I would much rather focus on what he has done than on anything I might do.[1]” 

If being a Lazy Christian means that we are weak or place a secondary focus on ‘what we should do’ and primarily strong on ‘what Jesus has already done,’ then by all means let us acknowledge and embrace the label that we are lazy Christians!  If being a Lazy Christian means that we trust Jesus to do the sanctifying work in our lives as a fruit of the gospel then by all means let us wear this stigma with honor!

Yes, I am a Lazy Christian for in the words of Martin Luther, "He is not righteous who does much, but he who, without work, believes much in Christ.[2]” 

[2] Thesis 25 of the 1518 Heidelberg Disputation

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Tom Moeller said…
Sanctification is not found to be weak or strong. It is God's work in progress behind the curtain of flesh. The progress is hinted at but not revealed in this life.