When we think of the Protestant Reformation, we might think primarily of the bombastic, outspoken personality of Martin Luther. But some of the other reformers made equally valuable (albeit very different) contributions. John Calvin was born in France to an affluent family in 1509. He left France as a young man due to religious persecution. He would have his greatest influence in Geneva, Switzerland.
While Luther seemed to thrive on confrontation, Calvin preferred a quiet life. He had intended to move to Strasbourg, where he could study in peace and live a secluded life as a scholar. In a rare moment of public self-analysis, Calvin wrote, “Being of a disposition somewhat unpolished and bashful, which led me always to love the shade and retirement, I then began to seek some secluded corner where I might be withdrawn from the public view…” But it was not to be.
Calvin was challenged with the unique need for spiritual instruction in the bustling city of Geneva. Geneva was a melting pot. Nearly half the population of the city was made up of refugees – individuals fleeing religious persecution. Geneva was going to a play a crucial role and needed a strong leader. And Calvin was compelled to serve Christ’s church where needed.
Calvin was twenty-six years younger than Luther. While the two never met, Calvin had been influenced by Luther’s writings and respected him greatly. Luther had put forward a great many important, but undeveloped ideas. Calvin had a strong mind for theology and was able to bring definition and clarity to these important issues.
We can be thankful that both Luther and Calvin used their unique gifts for the preservation of the gospel. And we should strive to use our unique gifts as well. It is easy to look with envy upon another believer and to minimize what we perceive to be our lesser gifts. But every contribution is important. God has designed us to be interdependent – complementing one another for the building up of the church.
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