The 501th Anniversary of the Reformation (credit given to: Denver C. Snuffer, Jr.)
Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest who practiced Christianity, faithfully. His devotion led to discouragement because of the separation between the teachings of Christianity and the corruption of his church. When Luther publicly announced his criticism, the Catholic clergy thought Luther understood correctly, or, he was filled with the devil. 501 years later, even some Catholics respect his contribution to Christian history.
Luther’s devotion included long periods of prayer, fasting, and, sleep deprivation – thus, inflicting harm to both his body and spirit. He would abuse himself with a whip to achieve control over his flesh. His personal conviction came to a head over the selling Indulgences to profit the church.
Indulgences, the purchase of forgiveness, came from list of blessings earned by the saints. The original practice of granting an Indulgence required devotion or penitence to receive forgiveness from the Pope. Later, Indulgences allowed individuals to purchase forgiveness, independent of any penitence or devoted service. By Luther’s time, Indulgences were a wealth-producing business - selling rights for living saints and for their deceased ancestors, which allowed the wealthy to escape accountability for their sinful misconduct.
Luther’s displeasure with the sale of Indulgences provided the framework for his list of 95 charges (“Theses”) against the practice. The 95 Theses were made public on Sunday, October 31, 1517. This event became the milestone for the Protestant Reformation.
Despite the attention given to the 95 Theses, Martin Luther’s greatest contribution to the Protestant Reformation was another project: the translation of the Bible into the common language of his homeland, making it possible for the laity to understand the bible. The New Testament was published in 1522, and, the complete Bible in 1534. These events made permanent the division between Protestants and Roman Catholicism. Once the language of the Bible could be read by ordinary people, false
biblical teachings and church traditions were exposed for all to see. Soon, the Bible was translated into Dutch, French, Polish, Spanish, Czech, and English. Martin Luther set the stage for events that changed the history of Western Civilization.
Christian societies appeared, as they emphasized different parts of the Bible. Unfortunately, religious persecution practiced by the Roman Catholic Church was adopted by these new societies.
The early American colonialists fled to a new continent to escape persecution, but they proved to be intolerant of some religious practices in their new land. By the time of the American Revolution, the leaders had centuries of history to draw upon to deal with the question of freedom of religion. The American Constitution, especially the First Amendment, is the product of Martin Luther’s writings.
The influence of Luther’s life on the world was, and, 501 years later, is significant. He began a revolution that still affects the world culturally, politically, religiously, and, educationally. Luther is far more than a religious figure. He is one of the few people who literally changed the world.