A couple centuries ago a very momentous event occurred, one that has shaped some Christian doctrines. During the Reformation, men considered leaders of the Faith sought to reform church doctrines and practices believed to be inconsistent with sacred scripture.
This time period has fascinated me for some time partly because of the poetic chronicling of this time period by some authors, but also because of the doctrines that emerged. These doctrines have formed much of Protestantism, namely "being justified (declared right) by faith alone, and not your works before God".
As much as I love this period, it is not the Reformation itself that has moved my pen to write. A particular event or catalyst occurred during this time period and I believe as Christians, we would do well to pay attention to and inculcate or continue to inculcate.
In 1521, in Worms Germany, an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther travelled to the spot where the Imperial Diet was called, under agreement of safe passage. He was considered a heretic. His views were held to be subversive and inconsistent with Orthodox teaching at that time. After nailing 95 theses on the church doors of Wittenberg and the circulation of polemical works against papal abuse and what he believed to be doctrines inconsistent with the scriptures, Luther faced a council of leading men at the Diet where it was hoped that he would recant views that led to much theological division.
It was at this Imperial Diet that he uttered immortal words which have proven to be as timeless as the truths they speak of, words that I believe we may look to. When asked to recant, Luther simply said "I can't recant, for my conscience is held captive by the words of God and to act contrary to conscience is neither right nor safe, here I stand, I can do no more, God help me".
Every time I read these words, I am reminded of what is needed today and always, because as long as there exists men who do not and will not bow their knees to Christ, we will have opposition. In light of this we need like Luther, to have a resolve to stand, with consciences formed by scripture, a steely determination and resolve to weather the storm.
I say this because it is easy to speak of standing for Christ when we have peace and tranquillity but what do we say when hostility comes? In the preface of Augustine's City of God published by Hendrickson, the publisher makes a comment of note "...The Donatist Christian sect was particularly influential in Northern Africa. Going so far as to require rebaptism and consecrate their own bishops, Donatists were intent on creating a pure church, one that admitted only those Christians who had not forsaken their faith under persecution".
This comment is of note, because it shows people are human, and will make decisions out of fear and self-preservation. Luther was no different. Initially when asked to recant at the Diet he asked for time to think through it, he returned the following day after being in much prayer because he was distressed and fearful and gave his response before these men.
To run to God
It is not impossible to stand with a resolve that says "whatever the cost". What he did which was no different from men in the Bible, was to run to God, to entrust himself to God. The other state that can and does befall us is not to have conviction, to be indifferent.
We are called as Christians to stand for Christ. In 1 Corinthians 16 verse 13 we are exhorted to "Stand firm in the faith" and in Ephesians 6:11 "Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil". (emphasis added)
I am convinced, that in order to stand we need less dependence on our own strength, and more dependence and knowledge of God who fights for us. Luther I believe paints this well as he celebrates the might of a God who stands with his people. In his hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God he declares, "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing... did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing; were not the right man on our side, the Man of God's own choosing".
As time progresses, let us continue to stand for God in our respective contexts, being comforted by this promise of God: "Be strong and very courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you". Deuteronomy 31 verse 6 (English Standard Version)
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Inter School's Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian Apologist and he loves reading especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci
Paul Lewis' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/paul-lewis.html