Why I Have A Love/Hate Relationship With The Protestant Reformation
October 31st marks the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. Many churches, my own included, will host a special service commemorating the delivery of Martin Luther’s famous Ninety-five Theses. We will rejoice in the five solas of the Protestant Reformation and will celebrate.
While there are certainly aspects of the Reformation that I greatly cherish, I must admit that I walk into this day with mixed feelings. The weight of the break of unity with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ crushes me. My conscience tingles with alarm and I wonder if we should be celebrating or mourning and praying. I wonder, if Christ was walking among us today, how He would treat celebrations of the Reformation.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” -John 17:20-21, ESV
In the final moments before His betrayal and crucifixion, this was Jesus’s prayer. He didn’t pray for Himself. He didn’t pray for our theological understanding. He prayed for our unity. Our unity as the Body of Christ is supposed to mirror the unity of the Trinity. He called us to be one as They are One.
We are no longer united.
There were things that needed to be addressed. I don’t pretend to stand here with the privilege of 500 years of history and say that I would have done differently than Martin Luther. I’m not even saying that I think what he did was wrong. I’m just saying that the lack of unity amongst believers breaks my heart, and I think it breaks the heart of Jesus as well.
So when it comes to celebrating the Reformation, I tend to take a backseat. I think we can learn from the Reformation and commend the bravery of those who were willing to sacrifice so much for their faith. But I think when we learn about the bravery, we also need to acknowledge that there is an element of heartache and that something broke on that day and the wound is still left weeping.
On October 31st, if you are a Protestant, I encourage you to remember and talk about this part of our history. But don’t stop there.
Learn about the entire history, not just the last 500 years, of the Christian faith. Study the saints who have died before. Reach out to your believing friends in different denominations and promote unity within your circle. Extend grace to those who believe differently than you do and pray, no beg, the Father to unite us.
Ask for a heart that pursues unity, not rightness, among believers. Pray for a spirit that is gracious in the non-essentials of our faith and understanding of those who choose to worship differently than you do. Earnestly desire that God grant you wisdom in honoring the faith that has been handed down through the generations with us.
Lack of unity when it comes to the Christian faith as a whole is something that I have struggled with for a long time now, unless two or three WITH ONE HEART pray, it is bound to ruin the faith. thanks for sharing
Unity is so important to Jesus. That’s been on my heart a lot too over the past several months. But how do you create unity with a group that doesn’t want to be united? When greed and selfishness are put above God, people don’t think straight and they don’t think about walking in godly ways. It’s difficult to be united with a group that wants absolutely nothing to do with you. So yes it is most definitely a time to grieve the loss of unity but also a time to think about how to stand up for the poor, needy, and the truth of what God has freely given.
I, too, have the same struggles. Uniting for the sake of unity is not what He intended if we are compromising His Word. That being said, the way we respond to adversity speaks volumes…disrespect, hate, etc. is not how Christ wants us to behave. Sometimes, Christians are our own worst enemy! I pray that He gives me the strength each day to respond in love…even when tough love is required!
All of this!! Yes.
There can’t be unity if truth isn’t the foundation.There were so many non truths taught by the catholic church. I would rather have someone stand up for whats true and fight for that truth that continue to be united to a people who don’t believe in the basic principles of the gospel. I believe God longs for people to be united but he wont sacrifice truth for it. This is anything but a heart breaking holiday. The boldness of Martin Luther and many others helped preserve gospel truth for our generation and we should be nothing but grateful for this day in history.
This is where I am. We must worship in spirit AND in truth. 500 years ago, there was a lot of falsity that had crept into the church. Martin Luther did not set out to divide – he set out, with fierce conviction, to purify the church. In fact, Luther wrote that he did not think, when he wrote the 95 theses, that he stood outside the realm of Catholic doctrine. He was excommunicated in 1521…perhaps that is the event that should be remembered as causing disunity. Until then, Luther’s hope still was a return to Scriptural authority. In any case, unity around falsity is false unity.
Blessings – we do pray for unity among believers – in both spirit AND in truth!
Ruth van den Brink
Bailey, I believe you are right to mourn but I wonder if you are mourning over the full picture. When Jesus mourned over Jerusalem He mourned because they refused to accept the salvation they were offered. He mourned because they rejected the message God sent through the prophets and ultimately through His Son. He did not call on His church to stay united with those who rejected Him. True Unity can only come as we are united IN CHRIST. While we can have unity with individuals within the Catholic Church who have believed in spite of the official teaching through the ages, we can only grieve that the Catholic Church has rejected the true gospel message. For this reason I am thankful that the reformation happened, in the same way I am thankful that Christ came and established His church, even though the general rejection by the Jews meant it has been separate from them for so long. May your grief encourage you to pray for and seek a true unity based in the truth of scripture and in the understanding of the truth that has been rejected.