Over the last 6 months, we have taken a journey through the 'Characters of The Reformation', looking at those who God used to bring about a dramatic change in the Church and throughout all western society. As we approach the 500th anniversary of the unofficial launch of this Reformation we look back and give thanks to God.
Learning From History
When I imagine life 500 years ago, I am immediately thrust into images of a terrible Shakespearean reproduction I was forced to watch on an old rear projection television in ninth grade English class. Too specific? Well, that is my reaction, yours may be different. The point is, the period of the late middle ages has been somewhat obscured by my own pre-conceptions.
As I have studied the work of the Protestant Reformation over the past few years, what I found more and more fascinating is the utter enormity of what God did through a handful of his chosen men and women standing for the Truth of the Gospel in a world that had long gone wrong.
The men and women of the Reformation changed the course of entire empires. They brought down the most powerful organization in the Western world and ushered in a wave of independence that the lowest on the social pecking order felt.
There is no way to adequately capture every ripple of effect the Reformation had on modern society and the Church today. But we need to know that it is vast and has changed so much of how we understand things in our church.
We must be grateful for the legacy of the Reformers: Hus’ boldness, Tyndale’s courage, Luther’s wit and stubbornness, Von Bora’s femininity and strength, Calvin’s theological brilliance, Beza’s steadfastness, Zwingli’s insight and leadership, Cranmer’s political shrewdness, Knox’s bravado, and Wycliffe’s commitment all have affected us.
These men and women leave us with the expectation that we would stand with them in courage, remembering the promises of Jesus to build his Church, and to never leave nor forsake us.
A Great Rescue
The language of rescuing the gospel is often used to describe the Reformation, and traditionally I have pressed against it. But as I think of this period in history, I remember it is only through the comfort of the modern day that I can scoff at the choice of words. If I were to stand in the place of Hus, Luther, or Knox, I could only hope to be as utterly sold out for the gospel as those men, who saw such deep injustice in the handling of the freely proclaimed Word of God, that they were willing to give their very lives and stand against the most powerful people in the world (Eph 6:13).
God used his chosen to rescue his gospel and share it freely with all once again.
A Parting Thought
The Reformers stood against what must have seemed like a universal power system in which the salvation of all was unbreakably tied and to part from it meant that you were ostracized, cast out, shunned, and ridiculed.
This is not unlike the far less organized culture we face today. To stand against the value systems, the pressures to conform, and the belief that acceptance can only be found in full support of society's beliefs is in fact very much like the attitudes of the Reformers' day. Much of this has crept into the church and into our communities.
What might it take for us men and women of the Word to stand together in opposition to the abuses of the church and modern society on the Truth of the Gospel, holding it dear, moved by a passion for God’s glory to be revealed to a lost and dying world, and like Luther say, "Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me."