Martin Luther scares me.
No doubt, Martin Luther has played a very significant role in the history of Christianity. The “Ninety-Five Theses” written by him in 1517 are widely regarded as the initial catalyst of the Protestant Reformation.
After reading scriptures and spending time in prayer, Luther began to protest the practices within the Catholic Church regarding the validity of the sale of indulgences (remissions of temporal punishment due for sins that have already been forgiven). Though under heavy pressure and grave danger, he argued that salvation is based on faith alone, sola scriptura and sola fide. On “All Saints Day,” Oct. 31st, 1517, he posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Castle of Church in Wittenberg. From then on, Luther’s influence began to grow very rapidly.
Today, 33,000 Protestant denominations (Anglican, Baptist, Lutheranism, Methodism, Presbyterian, Reformed, Pentecostal) all look back to that day as the birth of Protestantism. In several years, the world will mark the 500 year anniversary of that movement.
My church & faith have certainly been impacted by the Protestant Reformation. But, what scares me is what happened about 25 years later in the life of Martin Luther.
In 1543 Luther published “On the Jews and Their Lies” in which he says that the Jews are a “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.” They are full of the “devil’s feces … which they wallow in like swine.” The synagogue was a “defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut …” He argues that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness, afforded no legal protection, and these “poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He also seems to advocate their murder, writing “we are at fault in not slaying them”.
Shortly before his death on February 18, 1546 Luther preached four sermons in Eisleben. To his second to last sermon he appended what he called his “final warning” against the Jews. The main point of this short work is that authorities who could expel the Jews from their lands should do so if they would not convert to Christianity.
Luther’s work acquired the status of Scripture within Germany, and he became the most widely read author of his generation, in part because of the coarse and passionate nature of the writing.
The prevailing view among historians is that Luther’s anti-Jewish rhetoric contributed significantly to the developmentof anti-semitism in Germany, and in the 1930s and 1940s provided an ideal foundation for the Nazi Party’s attacks on Jews. Reinhold Lewin writes that “whoever wrote against the Jews for whatever reason believed he had the right to justify himself by triumphantly referring to Luther.” Just about every anti-Jewish book printed in the “Third Reich” contained references to and quotations from Luther.
It was said, “On November 10, 1938, on Luther’s birthday, the synagogues are burning in Germany.”
On December 17, 1941, seven Lutheran regional church confederations issued a statement agreeing with the policy of forcing Jews to wear the yellow badge, “since after his bitter experience Luther had strongly suggested preventive measures against the Jews and their expulsion from German territory.”
Why does Luther scare me? His life and this example lead to me to my knees. I am human, can easily be led astray, & fall into sin. Martin Luther reminds me of myself, my constant need of Jesus, my need to stay teachable & under accountability.
Im reminded of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3).
To be “poor” is to be “aware of our own lack”. To be “poor in spirit” is to realize that we don’t “have it all” spiritually. We must be humble, open to change, to grow. We must stay TEACHABLE.
What does it mean to be TEACHABLE to me?
1. I realize that my knowledge is incomplete and therefore, when I am in a disagreement with someone – there is the slight possibility that I might be wrong. Having a teachable spirit is a freeing thing — it frees us from the overwhelming burden of always having to be right.
2. Being teachable means that we say things like, “Tell me more. I want to understand from your perspective.” “How do you see it?” ”What could we do differently?” “I might be wrong in my opinion.” In other words, we are fellow explorers of truth & life, and not just debaters of positions.
3. Being teachable means that we ask ourselves “what can each person I come into contact with teach me?” Even if I think they are crazy and don’t belong to our Christian tribe or denomination. What can I learn from this person? Every person that God ever created has something to teach us.
4. Being teachable also means that I truly believe that God isn’t finished with me yet. And therefore I offer myself to God in each and every circumstance, and ask to be taught and shaped more into the image of Christ, so that we may gain more of the mind of Christ, more of the life of Christ within us. I search scriptures daily, and allow them to influence me and my beliefs, and not try to find scriptures to justify my opinion.
If the great reformer, Martin Luther, could make mistakes, so can I. So can you.
Lord, help us.
Some of the above texts are taken from Wikipedia page of Martin Luther. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther)