A Reason to Celebrate October 31st
October 31st is a special day for many Christians. It is a day of reflection, remembering triumph and a time to embolden ourselves for the days ahead. No it is not Halloween, it's Reformation Day. Four hundred and ninety nine years ago, on Oct. 31, 1517, a German monk named Martin Luther, armed with righteous indignation, nailed 95 grievances against Roman Catholicism on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. At the last strike of the hammer, the fire of the Protestant Reformation had begun and would spread across 16th century Europe and would later deeply impact our own country. For many Christians like myself, the Reformation reminds us of the incredible privilege and responsibility of taking our faith seriously, the freedom to have a personal relationship with God and to search the Scriptures for ourselves to know God, and to love Him more. Yet there is another reason why Reformation Day is so special, and why a reflection upon that momentous day in history is worth undertaking. A few days ago as of writing this, the presidential debate smashed rating records and also revealed a very telling demonstration of where we are as a nation. Now, I hold my political cards close to my chest, and firstly consider myself a citizen of Heaven, as to give me liberty to judge both Democrats and Republicans according to a Biblical perspective, but regardless of your position, there must be an understanding that there is a higher authority that is beyond the D or R politics. Fast forward from 1517 to 1521, the once unknown Martin Luther has now earned a reputation for being a firebrand against Rome, an outlaw and a potential danger to European society. He stands on trial in the presence of the two highest authorities in land, the Church and the Emperor, both of which are furiously calling for Luther to take back what he had done in 1517, and what he had continued to do since, standing for the truth. After two days of non-stop accusation, they offer Luther one last chance to take back everything he had said and for him to return again to the good graces of the ruling authorities. Martin Luther responds; "Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason - I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other - my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen." How could Martin Luther stand in the face of certain death and be bold in proclaiming truth? The answer is that Luther saw a higher authority and felt obligation to take a stand for what was right, regardless of the contrary opinion that threatened his very life. When I look at the story of Martin Luther, I am reminded of the Biblical example found in Acts 5, where Peter and John were brought in before the ruling council and were threatened not to proclaim the Gospel. In turn Peter and John gave this response, "We must obey God rather than men."(Acts 5:29). The motivation for the early Apostles of the first century was the same for Luther in the 16th, and that was the fear of God over the fear of man. In our day, there is much to lament about, and some might say there is much to be angry about, however when a people fears God, in other words, has a reverence for God, there is steadfastness and a boldness that is undeniable. This boldness does not result in riots in the streets, damaging property or hurting people, rather it is the epitome of stability in the face of chaos. Now more than ever we need people that have conviction for the truth and are willing to stand for that truth in love, regardless of what may seem like overwhelming opposition and/or a culture of paralyzing complacency. What the Reformation reminds us, and why it is worth celebrating, is that it shows yet again that a small number, even if it is just one, can have such a dramatic impact in the world and be a catalyst for great change.