What makes a “saint?” Rome says:
- Two verifiable postmortem (after death) miracles and
- One of the following:
- Evidence of having led an exemplary life…worthy of imitation,
- having died a heroic death (martyrdom),
- having undergone a major conversion of heart where a previous immoral life is abandoned and replaced by one of outstanding holiness.
Sidewalk survey says: “the mother who patiently birthed, nourished, and nurtured nine children” or “the 85 year-old woman whose never smoked a cigarette, never tasted alcohol and has prayed 3 times a day since she was 12 years old.” You could no doubt come up with many other examples, too.
The first avenue is formal. The second is more subjective. Both, however, lean on the virtuous life (and afterlife) of the person. But the Scriptural use of “saint” takes a wholly different route.
- To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints… (Romans 1:7)
- To those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints… (1 Corinthians 1:2)
- To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi… (Philippians 1:1)
Saint is a passive – a gifted – status, born out of the love of God (Romans 1) as the person is called and sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1). This means the patient, baptized mother of nine and the penitent and absolved mother who had an abortion are both properly called “saint.”
The “exemplary, worthy-of-imitation life” of this man or that woman never a saint has made. But the selfless living and the sacrificial dying of The Man, Christ Jesus, gifted by the Gospel to the sinner and received by faith… THAT is saint status for our living and our dying!
To all you who are in Christ Jesus, beloved of God, called to be saints…
Reverend Kyle Madson
Editor, The Lutheran Sentinel
Norseland Lutheran Church, St. Peter, MN
Norwegian Grove Lutheran Church, Gaylord, MN