January was a really bad month for Protestant reformer Martin Luther, 500 years ago in 1521. In fact, the entire year was the wurst. (He was German you know.)
First, he was excommunicated from the Roman Catholic Church by Pope Leo X after refusing to recant his writings. That was January 3.
Then a few weeks later on the 23rd, the RCC held a meeting at The Diet of Worms in Germany, which was the worst name for a meeting or place ever. Luther was branded a heretic, and his writings were banned.
Still, it took until April for everything to be final. In the end, Luther stated,
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.
Most sources agree there is no evidence Luther said, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise.”
I think it is good timing that we are allowed to ponder a 500-year anniversary of event in 2021. More than the pandemic, we are in a global crisis of faith: whether to stand strong and communicate the truth of Jesus Christ or submit to the forces who desire to stifle the truth.
The vast majority of Christian books in the world are written in English by people in the United States. While the United States is not the epicenter of Christianity in the world, it is most certainly the greatest provider of Christian reading material to the global church.
If you read about Luther after his dust-up with the Roman Catholic Church, you’ll discover some friends arranged his “kidnapping” since there was an order from the emperor that allowed anyone to kill Luther and not be prosecuted. So he spent the next weeks in Wartburg Castle, regaining his strength, writing, and working on the German translation of the Bible.
For writers of books with a Christian worldview and for those of us who work with them, the story of Luther has numerous lessons.
- Be direct. Just because Luther never said, “Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise,” doesn’t mean these words can’t be the mission statement for the rest of us. The world does not need veiled illusions of God. They need to be told clearly.
- Be courageous. If you get some pushback and resistance, remind yourself that the Spirit of God lives in you and you are not fighting alone.
- Be an encourager. Just as Luther survived because God placed various friends and supporters around him, you can be that type of person in another person’s life. I will always believe the best way to be encouraged is to encourage someone else.
- Be immovable. Maybe we need to remind ourselves regularly of the solas that characterized the Reformation: Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone), Sola fide (by faith alone), Sola gratia (by grace alone), and also a couple more added later, Solus Christus (Christ alone) and Soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone).
Anniversaries of important events and the events that make up the church calendar are there to remind us of what happened hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Without them, we would likely forget what God has done; and our lives would wither and blow here and there by the wind.