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We’ve Been Through This Before

It’s October, the month when in 1517, an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther in Wittenberg, Germany, nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the front door of Wittenberg Castle Church. Luther’s posted complaint had to do with his outrage against abuse wrought by institutional leaders in the church. One of the culprits was a friar named Johannes Tetzel who fraudulently had been selling commoditized forgiveness that was packaged up and marketed in the form of what was called “indulgences” (from the Latin root, indulgēre, “to forbear, yield, be kind”). Though some Catholic dignitaries in the sixteenth century were much more faithful than others, the most wayward ones let it seem as if God’s forgiveness was for sale and that relief from pain in “Purgatory” (a holding place believed by Catholics to be where the dead are punished and purified before entering heaven) could be purchased with money.

There was a huge controversy regarding this wicked scheme because the priestly sale of indulgences was being used by the church in Europe to generate vast funding, some of which was pocketed by ecclesiastical fat cats, and some of which was used to make it appear as though all the money was going straight to noble causes. The most famous application of this ill-gotten gain was designated to the makeover of a massive fourth century church in Rome famed for being the site where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, known in the Catholic Church as the first pope, was buried. In Luther’s day, none other than Michelangelo was tasked to serve as chief architect. The church still stands today; its artistry is exquisite.

As impressive as this edifice is, God knows how it was funded. God thus used the occasion of its refurbishment to ignite the Reformation that resulted in renewal for Protestants and Catholics alike. Indulgences aren’t sold today. That practice was extinguished by God’s Providence.

Phony Christianity can be maddening and unnerving. But over time misleaders and false prophets are exposed. All their many fig leaves will surely wither away. Crafted narratives, photoshopped images, plastered smiles, fortress-like buildings, lights and microphones, and applauses from gullible fans will reach their end. In Luther’s day, "Christianity" was corrupt, and yet the capital "C" Church was still alive. The gospel still went out. Lots of people learned that the sale of indulgences was all along a sham.

All this is to say that for all the many news articles that bombard us almost weekly with hard news about wayward Christian churches, and compromised Christian schools, and misused institutional power wrought by "the faithful," we need not be dismayed.

Jesus told us plainly, “The gates of hell will not prevail” against His Church (Matthew 16:18).

Take heart. We’ve been through this before. This, too, shall pass.

And yet we also need not be passive. God raised up Martin Luther and all his followers to uphold biblical truth and righteous standards. In our day, God is raising you and me to act with moral courage.

If you need help or want us to show you where to focus your energy best, then I urge to sign up to get your mission statement, and if possible, also your vision statement and why statement from Right On Mission. Not only will you find that God has created you to be a powerful, healing force of salt and light, but also you will find deep personal satisfaction in being yourself in Christ.

Religious corruption demoralizes. But people who live “on mission” can re-moralize the community. So get on mission, live on mission, and stay on mission. Right On Mission is calling out the Martin Luther in you.


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