Since today marks the 500-year anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the castle door in Wittenberg, I’m re-sharing this post from last year. Happy Reformation Day!
What’s the first word or image that comes to mind when someone says October 31?
Maybe it’s a costume hanging in your closet or your favorite candy or the fall festival your church is hosting. Maybe it’s the pumpkin carving contest that didn’t quite go as planned.
For me, I think of my college Bible professor dressed in a long robe and hammering parchment paper to his office door to reenact the start of the Protestant Reformation.
Most people celebrate October 31 as Halloween, but few realize this day marks a milestone of Christianity. On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses, or arguments, to the castle door in Wittenberg, Germany in defiance of the Roman Catholic Church’s sale of “indulgences.” The pope promised that buying indulgences for a deceased loved one would shorten the relative’s stay in purgatory, thus “buying” his or her way into heaven.
Those who sold indulgences created a clever ditty to drive home the sale: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.”
Essentially, the organized church was robbing people to pay its debts and giving them false hope for forgiveness of sins.
Luther called the church out on this non-biblical teaching, and in doing so, sparked a flame that began the Protestant Reformation.
Many Reformers and those who held to Protestant beliefs were martyred for their faith and stand against the established church. Among them were John Huss and William Tyndale, both burned at the stake.
Their crimes? Both dared to share the Bible with ordinary people in their common English tongue, Huss through a chapel service and Tyndale through an English translation of the Bible. Many others suffered similar fates for spreading the light of the gospel.
A challenge for us today
Believers have different opinions about what is acceptable and not acceptable for Halloween. This post is not going to argue those questions of conscience.
However, I do think Luther’s actions those many years ago hold a challenge for modern believers.
#1: Share your faith, even if it’s unpopular.
The rebuttals and cold shoulders we may receive for sharing our faith are nothing compared to the persecution of the Reformation Era. However, rejection can make us want to wait on the sidelines or keep our mouths shut.
Romans 1:12 dares us to stand up for what we believe and not be ashamed to speak out:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (NKJV).
However, when we do feel prompted to speak, we should always speak the truth lovingly (Ephesians 4:15).
#2: Celebrate light, not darkness.
Halloween tends to glorify the macabre and the grotesque. Oftentimes, this holiday presents sin as “fun” and something in which to revel. Never give in to practices that celebrate darkness.
There are plenty of other alternatives available. Local churches host fall festivals and community outreaches where children can safely enjoy clean fun and even learn about the gospel in the process. Some of my friends plan to open their doors to generously share the best candy on the block and also give out information about their church’s children ministries. Even if you don’t give out candy, you can still be intentional about taking candy packets or other goodies to your close neighbors who have children, just to build into those relationships.
Whatever you do on October 31, be different, not dark. If you spread the light of the gospel, others will notice.
Celebrate light, not darkness, on October 31 – @kjhogrefe (Click to Tweet)