On this date in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany. He didn’t really mean to start a Reformation, but was only trying to state his objections to some of the church doctrine and practices that had perverted the teachings of the Bible, namely the selling of “indulgences.”
One thing led to another, as they say, and before he knew it, Luther was challenging the very church itself, though he never intended to separate from the church, but only bring correction to her. However, once his theses were translated from Latin into German and became accessible to the people, and once word began to spread of his “protests,” the beginnings of the Protestant reformation were under way.
It’s been nearly five centuries since that fateful day before All Saints Day–or, “All Hallow’s Eve,” as it would come to be known (and eventually, Hallow’een). That was certainly a pivotal point in history, as the church was pushed from its corrupt days of the Dark Ages to a period when the Scriptures would be put into the hands of the common man, which of course changed everything.
The trouble is, most of us have a need for more reforming because of our tendency to recycle our religion. Like the church in Luther’s time in the 16th century–or like the Pharisees of Biblical times, or those living in the days of the minor prophets–we gravitate toward surface-level religiosity and extra-biblical legalism that neglects faith, negates grace, and cancels out the cross.
We must resist our inclination for man-made religion and going-through-the-motions ritual, no matter how popular the routines and rituals may be. That may require us to go against the grain, like Luther, as we strip away the layers of church-ianity and focus instead on a gospel-driven relationship with Jesus Christ. In that light, the Reformation is still on-going, in all of our lives, as we are being reformed, and daily transformed, by Christ.