What the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation Means for Your Family

On October 31, people throughout the world will mark the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Although the seeds of the Reformation were planted long before, 1517 was when its green shoot popped up from the darkness of the medieval sod. Martin Luther’s nailing of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the chapel at the University of Wittenberg ignited the figurative underbrush of Europe, a spiritual forest parched of Living Water for centuries.

Dr. Luther’s Theses blasted away at abuses arising from the practice of selling indulgences, documents for purchase which certified forgiveness of particular sins. “Any true Christian…participates in all the blessings of Christ and the church; and this is granted him by God, even without indulgences letters,” proffered Luther. “Injury is done to the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or larger amount of time is devoted to indulgences than to the Word.” Thesis No. 62 summarized best what Luther had personally discovered: “The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.” These truths were sweet rain to a spiritually thirsty culture.

Still, 500 years later, it may seem a little strange that so much fuss is made about a German monk’s heady mumbo-jumbo discussing teachings that have long since been tossed alongside the theological wagon trail. What does anything Luther did five centuries ago have to do with anything our families experience today? Well, nothing…unless these kinds of questions ever come up in conversations with your children:

Does God love me? How can I know?

What do I have to do to please God? Does He still love me when I sin?

How do I go to heaven? Will I go to hell if I’m not good enough?

How can I know God? Does God know me? Does He even care?

Christian parents in 2017 can answer these questions clearly, confidently and definitively. But most Christian parents in 1517 couldn’t. Put yourselves in their shoes for a moment. In answer to your children’s spiritual questions, you point them to God the Judge, a Deity that demands their perfection to earn His approval. To give your children some solace in light of this bleak outlook, you teach them to ask help from Mary or the saints, since they can identify with the plight of humanity, more than the ascended Christ.

There is no “Jesus Loves Me This I Know” or “God is so Good” to sing with your young ones. There is no Bible to read, let alone to teach, to your children. Spiritual life consists of the mysteries of the Mass, a worship service conducted in a language neither you nor your children understand. There is no such thing as “Bible Study” or “Sunday School.” Your personal and familial devotional life is reduced to static rosaries, icons and shrines. And worst of all, the genuine spiritual concerns you have for yourself and for your children are cleverly exploited, not compassionately addressed, by a corrupt religious infrastructure. Indulgences are peddled like Girl Scout cookies, and relics are displayed with all the novelty of a “Ripely’s Believe It or Not!”

The Reformation changed that reality into our reality, the Christian home of the 21st century. The Bible is easily accessible (literally at our fingertips!) for family and personal devotions, as well as in corporate worship (where it is expounded for practical application). The Gospel can be clearly articulated, understood and believed. Our children can know that God loves them, and they can know God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. They can know that God’s love is unmerited and lavishly given. They can know that their Intercessor isn’t Mary or some other fallible saint,” but the God-Man Christ Jesus, who can “sympath