In the world we live in Christianity is just another phrase, sentence or verb.
It is associated with people of certain characteristics and behavior.
In some countries, it may be associated with shame, in some with pride.
It is associated with a religion which is split into so many fragments that a new ‘believer’ has difficulty understanding it.
In this context, I read “Storm” by Reg Grant, a story about Martin Luther. The book is an attempt to bring to life a historical figure and portrays a man’s struggle against the most powerful authority of his time. It describes the formation of his ideology and his struggles in his quest for truth.
Martin Luther lived from 1483 to 1546 AD in Germany. He is known for his role in the Reformation in the church. The Reformation was a movement that caused the split in the Roman Catholic Church led by the pope and the formation of the protestant church. Martin Luther is famous for translating the New Testament into the German language in a way that was easily comprehensible to the common man and for introducing hymns and singing in the churches, which was then a privilege of priests.
At the time of his struggle, the Catholic Church issued ‘indulgences’ which could be purchased for money, the amount depending on the number or enormity of sins you had committed. The purchase of these would save you from ‘hell’ or the eternal fire, the sure punishment of sinners. The church used this money for building projects and for a comfortable life of those in superior positions at the cost of the poor man’s hard earned wages. In his 95 theses, he posed questions about the practices of the church and the pope to the academic community of his time, using the bible as his sole reference.
“Sola Gratia – We are saved by the grace of God alone.”
This phase became the center of his discussion.
His teachings caused the poor local community to rebel against the aristocracy which had been exploiting them for centuries causing civil wars. This movement soon spread to other countries including Austria, Czech lands, Bohemia, Slovakia, and Switzerland. This finally culminated in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, after 30 years of war.
He caused a scandal by marrying Katherina von Bora, a former nun, breaking the rule that church leaders/ pastors should not marry.
Martin Luther is known today as one of the most influential figures in the history of the world. But he was more than just a leader of a historical revolt, he was a man of God. A man who stood firm for what he believed in even when he stood alone. A man of vision, who stood for what was right in the face of threat to life. An exemplary life lead with determination and passion.
Moreover, we owe to him that we know that there is a God who loves and cares for us.
A God who is merciful. Grace.
Christianity is more than looking smug and pretending to be good.
It is more than singing songs and donating to organizations.
Martin Luther demonstrated that being Christian is often standing alone, getting out of your comfort zone and persecution.
It is holding on to the only thing that really matters in life.
Picture credit: http://www.crosswalk.com