Born on the 10th of November.
Loved by some. Hated by others. Misunderstood by still more.
Surrounded by history and legend, some of it true and some of questionable validity. With a reputation for enjoying a few beers and spouting off some rather harsh insults, even sprinkling in some profanity to the conversation from time to time.
Loud and a bit brash. Regularly accused of being obnoxious or aggressive, and of using unconventional means to accomplish the mission. Sleep deprived and often experiencing digestive issues thanks to a high carb diet.
Marrying someone off limits. At times, demonstrating absolute disdain for certain kinds of authorities.
Hero or terror, it depends which side of the disagreement you find yourself on. Unafraid of throwing a punch and never holding back. You really wouldn’t want to be on the opposing side, for then the excrement would soon start flying your way.
Say what you will, but one must respect the always and ever faithful focus to the goal of closing in with the enemy and destroying it. Risking life and limb to triumph, all the while, never doing it for personal glory or shiny accolades.
The great reformer of the 16th century, Martin Luther (with whom our beloved US Marine Corps shares a birthday), truly was a terror to those who opposed the faithful preaching and teaching of God’s Word.
Born some 537 years ago in 1483, Luther hadn’t intended on changing the church or even working in the church. He was going to be a lawyer, but, echoing the excuse I’ve heard from a Marine or two about why they joined up, “he got lost on his way to college.” (Actually he made a vow to become a monk, after getting singed by a nearby lightning strike.)
It was while studying the Scriptures that Luther’s eyes were opened to the Gospel. When he understood the righteousness of God as written of in the book of Romans, he became a changed man. During a table talk discussion and maybe even a beer he said, “These words ‘righteous’ and ‘righteousness of God’ struck my conscience as flashes of lightning, frightening me each time I heard them: if God is righteous, he punishes. But by the grace of God, as I once meditated upon these words in the tower: ‘The righteous shall live by faith’ and ‘the righteousness of God,’ there suddenly came into my mind the thought that if we as righteous are to live by faith, and if the righteousness of faith is to be for salvation to everyone who believes, then it is not our merit, but the mercy of God. Thus my soul was refreshed, for it was the righteousness of God by which we are justified and saved through Christ. These words became more pleasant to me.”
From that point onward, Luther stood on the unshakable ground of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, on account of Christ alone, proclaimed by Scripture alone. This wasn’t a prevailing or popular view in the 16th century though, and he found himself standing against some formidable enemies. Yet even still, his writing and preaching focused on Holy Scripture as the source and norm for the Christian faith, and the Christian faith being one not of earning righteousness before God, but rather, righteousness as a gift, earned by Christ, and delivered by grace to sinners undeserving of such mercy.
When asked to withdraw his bold assertions and recant his writings and teachings, he refused to back down, powerfully declaring, “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason, my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”
For such an aggressive declaration against so powerful a foe, Luther would be declared a heretic. He would be excommunicated, and a price was placed on his head. He was fair game for capture, torture, and execution.
In the hundreds of writings Luther would compose in his lifetime, his focus was always on the Bible as the Holy Word of God. And he would wield that Word of God against any who opposed him. So dedicated to Scripture, he translated and delivered the first German translation of the Bible (from the original Greek and Hebrew), to the German people. He also composed a little book, the Catechism, that would be used in the home to teach Scripture and so that fathers and mothers could hand down the faith to their children using simple questions and answers from Scripture.
Luther set out, not to destroy the church, but rather to reform the church by attacking, head on, every enemy of the Gospel, whether that was a person, an office, a tradition, a superstition or even a blatant disregard for the Christian’s life being one of repentance. When faced with these enemies, he was bold and would not back down. He had some pretty good insults too! (https://ergofabulous.org/luther/)
His methods and means weren’t always the most conventional because he wrote for the people. He did this so that they could hear and understand for themselves. Anything that could get between the free gift of salvation purchased, won, and delivered by Jesus Christ and delivered to people, by faithful preaching and the holy Sacraments, would find itself under attack by Luther’s mighty pen.
Daily he risked life and limb.
Martin Luther was just a man. But he was molded and shaped by the constant study of God’s Holy Word. He was transformed by that Word of God and lived daily in the reality of who he had been declared to be.
Much can be said of the reformer Martin Luther, far more than can be said in this post. I appreciate that he shares a birthday with the United States Marine Corps (born November 10, 1775) and I think they have a bit more in common than just their birthday. But we can discuss that further over a beer!
I am thankful today for Martin Luther and the Marines. Both have played a role in shaping me. While you won’t be reading this on their shared birthday, I hope you will join me in raising a glass today to their unwavering faithfulness and devotion and the positive impact they have had!