Five hundred years ago a discovery (actually a re-discovery) was made that would change the world, unleashing happiness wherever it went. And still today that discovery is transforming lives and cultures.
The secret was this: that failing, broken people “are not loved because they are attractive, they are attractive because they are loved.”
That realisation could not be more counter-cultural in modern Britain. Everywhere we look today, in magazines, on tv, bill boards and in films we are told that the more attractive we make ourselves, the more loved and happy we will be. But 500 years ago, the Reformation began with the story of one man - Martin Luther - discovering, as he read his Bible that with God, it is the other way round. God does not love people because they have sorted themselves out: he loves failures. And that love causes them to flourish.
It all started on 31 October 1517, when Martin Luther, a German monk, posted a discussion document - ‘Ninety-Five Theses’ - for debate on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg and the ripples of that action changed everything.
If we believe
- that all human beings are created equal;
- that everyone is free to act according to conscience;
- in the right to speak freely and to be treated fairly before the law;
- that rulers should obey the same laws as their subjects;
- that oppression should be resisted;
- that leaders should be held to account;
- that differences should be tolerated within civil society…
… all that comes from the Reformation as it established the moral, philosophical and political foundations upon which our society is built. Through the Reformation a tidal wave of social improvement was unleashed. Not least because people understood, having first been loved by God, they could go out to love and serve others.
Battles, kings, conquests and empires all get forgotten in time, but good ideas don’t. And that’s why the Reformation is worth celebrating. It wasn’t just a moment in history but the recovery of beautiful truths.
Today we live in an age of extraordinary technological advance. But while technology is doing wonders for our health, work and lifestyle, it is clearly failing to provide us with any deep and lasting satisfaction. Restless, fearful and lonely, ours is a generation self-medicating on the internet, alcohol and anything to fill the void. So for us today the Reformation is still sparkling good news - news of an enjoyable and satisfying God. A God who lavishes his love on those who are flawed and messed up and unattractive. A God whose love can liberate even the most broken and guilty. Nothing about that message has changed or lost its power to brighten lives.
with every blessing
Philip de Grey-Warter, Vicar