On October 31, 1517, a young monk approached the church in Wittenberg, Germany, and hung a document on the wooden door entitled “Disputation on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences.” It was intended as an invitation to an academic discussion that he was organizing, but the two core beliefs of the Bible being the sole religious authority (not the Pope) and that salvation can only be attained by faith, not by deeds, set off the firestorm that is now known as The Protestant Reformation.
With this simple act, Martin Luther reminds us every All Hallow’s Eve that there really is no such thing as a “back row” Christian.
We may sit in the back row of the church. We may not be involved in serving in any capacity in our community. We may be silent in the face of evil. But all of us Christians, regardless of our desire to “go along to just get along,” are called to be front-line warriors against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12) This is not an option reserved only for the superheroes of the Faith. It is the practical effect of Christ intersecting the spiritual and physical worlds through our choices.
It is believers refusing to bow their knee to Nero and deny Christ as Lord.
It is Polycarp refusing to burn incense to the Roman Emperor.
It is Martin Luther declaring, ““My conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me.”
It is Dietrich Bonhoeffer who not only preached that grace was costly but also practiced it as he died in a Nazi prison for refusing to sit idly by and watch his precious Germany be overrun by evil.
It is Jim Elliott writing “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose” and later dying at the hands of men with whom he was trying to share the Gospel.
It is John Bunyan being imprisoned for his refusal to stop preaching and William Wilberforce spending the majority of his adult life leading the fight in getting the UK to abolish slavery.
And what separates these men from you and me?
They are all common men, born in common homes, to common, ordinary parents. But these common men made the uncommon choice to stand with Christ. To shine light on a dark culture that demanded we call evil things good and good things evil.
To bring truth to communities whose civic rulers and representatives insisted on codifying unholy behaviors and practices.
To hold pastors accountable who ignored the depravity within their church or outside in the culture just so they could continue the “ministry of the Gospel.”
And to share the truth of Christ and His offer of forgiveness to the children, family, or friends who did not know Him.
This is what a “front-line” Christian is. These are the types of choices we are called to make. And it is not less relevant in our day than in the past. The only difference now is that you are the common man being asked to make the uncommon choice. Therefore, “be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” (Eph. 6:10-11,13)