Week 41: Wednesday – The Lion Within

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A Lion for a Monk

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer..” – Thoreau

During the 16th century, two notable Protestant firebrands changed Western history: a German monk and a bastard queen of England. Two unlikely individuals who were viewed by their own people and by their contemporaries as insignificant and therefore expendable during the early years of their respective journeys eventually became icons of a new age in Western civilization. The German monk Martin Luther and the English virgin queen Elizabeth I defined their era. While the reign of Queen Elizabeth I changed the trajectory of English history by establishing an English national identity of fortitude, self-confidence, and creativity, the life of Martin Luther brought the entire European continent to a new era of unprecedented religious liberty and spiritual renewal by effectively spreading the fire and the spirit of the Protestant Reformation across the continent.

Martin Luther was a lowly Augustinian monk who had one thing in mind: to bring the truth of Scripture to religious and everyday life. He was not interested in the countless rituals and traditions that effectively shrouded the light of scripture during his time. He questioned the religious trappings that falsely represented the vibrancy and life of the Bible. He was interested in bringing the truth and the comforting words of scripture to the German people. He was passionate about making the Bible understood by the German masses and embarked on a revolutionary/countercultural act of translating the Holy Bible from the original Hebrew and the ancient Greek to his native German.  In fact, his translation of the Bible became the foundation in development of the modern High German language. At the core of the motivation of Luther to make scripture more accessible to the masses was his genuine love for Jesus Christ. He was a man who believed that human reason could not bring man close to God and that it is only scripture that divine revelation springs. Luther translated the Holy Bible to a vernacular European language during a period in history when Latin, a language which alienated the masses of Europe, was the one and only accepted language for Biblical translation in continental Europe.

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Prior to the completion of Luther’s translation of the Holy Bible, the German language was viewed by European society as a language inferior to the other dominant languages of Europe. Perhaps Charles V’s infamous statement summarized the status of the German language in Europe prior to Luther’s Reformation: “I speak Spanish to God, Italian to Women, French to Men, and German to my Horse.” The German language was considered as threatening, rough, and violent. One important legacy of Luther, in fact, was to transform a once maligned and belittled language into a heavenly language through which Biblical truth is communicated to a people that was once socially depressed and spiritually enslaved by false religiosity. Luther’s German translation of the Bible became the most influential translation of the Bible during his time and likewise served a force for the development of the German language and a vital foundation for German cultural life.

Yes, Martin Luther was once a lowly and obscure monk who, at the onset, appeared to have no power nor influence to fundamentally change what seemed to be for centuries as an infallible Roman Catholic Church but he nevertheless refused to conform to the traditions and practices of a church that had placed a higher value on religious rituals, empty traditions and political power over the light, truth and transformative power of the Bible. Martin Luther was a man of faith who marched to a different drumbeat. He was a man who did not look at the enormity of the difficulties and oppositions that surrounded him but instead trusted God that He who began a good work in him will be faithful to carry it on until its completion. He was a monk who stood his ground in faith because he deeply understood who he was in the light of eternity. Jesus Christ, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, is enthroned in his heart and that was all that mattered to the man whom God raised to spread the fire of Reformation to a spiritually dry and desperate people.

“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”—Ephesians 3:20-21

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