Fabulously flawed people, as Lutheran Christians, we are:
Simultaneously Sinner and Saint
We believe that humanity was made in God’s image, but because we sin (or “miss the mark”), we fall out of communion with the perfect God and become subject to death and the devil, who hates God. We are sinners. Christ did not come to improve people who are already basically good or are even falling grievously short; God sent Jesus to raise those who are as good as dead because of their sins.
Because we are now claimed by Christ, we have the beginnings of that new eternal life and are therefore saints, not on the basis of our merit, but on the basis of Jesus’. This doesn’t mean we don’t sin any more, it just means we are claimed by Jesus Christ to be His holy people. To grow into this, our new destiny, is the journey of a lifetime that Christians have usually referred to as “sanctification,” or “growth in holiness.” Such growth is a struggle, but one worth engaging in because it gives us real life!
Much used and abused, the word evangelical simply means “focused on the good news (or evangel).” Martin Luther did not want the church he helped form to be known by his name. He wanted it to be known as the evangelical church, for it placed at the center of its worship, proclamation, and life the good news of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ. As you can see from the above statements, the focus is totally on Jesus and what He does for us, not our own paltry efforts; this is what it means to be evangelical.
Also much abused, this word really means “universal.” Lutheran Christians have no desire to innovate on the Apostles’ teaching about Jesus, recorded most fully for us in the Bible. As Vincent of Lerins said in 434 A.D., “Now in the Church catholic itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” Lutherans see the reforms that have been engaged in throughout church history (including those begun in the 1500’s) as attempts to return the Christian church to its evangelical, that is to say, truly catholic roots. To say it another way, what is most evangelical is most truly catholic.