October 31 marks Reformation Day. It was on this day in 1517 that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany. It signaled an urgent call for reform. Luther fiercely defended any perversion of this biblical truth. And this ultimately led him to confront the Roman church. In 1520 at the Diet of Worms, Luther was asked to recant his writings. He responded, “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.”
Erasmus was a contemporary of Luther. He too saw the corruptions in the Roman church. But he valued peace at all costs. And he was unwilling to side with Luther. He wrote, “I for my part would prefer to be deceived in a good many things rather than to fight for the truth in so great a universal tumult.”
Our contemporary culture values tolerance above all else. Not only are we expected to affirm people but we are expected to affirm their ideas and philosophies. And in that spirit, it seems that a great many believers in our time have come to embrace the philosophy of Erasmus. They have come to believe that the gospel can be lived out and proclaimed without making waves, hurting feelings or bringing offense. They think they can follow Jesus and live in harmony with the culture.
But Luther rightly understood that there was no softening of the gospel. It brought division. It forced a decision. It separated even close family members (Matthew 10:34- 36). Luther wrote, “Do not think that the Gospel can be advanced without tumult, trouble and uproar. You cannot make a pen of a sword; and the Word of God is a sword.” Let’s be clear—the gospel is not politically correct.
Now this doesn’t give us an excuse to be insensitive jerks. We ought to be marked by compassion and grace. We ought to love and respect people unconditionally–regardless of their lifestyle or beliefs. But we have been entrusted with a message from God himself. And we must declare that good news faithfully—regardless of whether it is popular or not.
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