Luther: human and humorous


Carl Trueman, in his book Luther on the Christian Life, tells about being asked during an interview for a teaching position who he’d rather be trapped on a desert island with: Martin Luther or John Calvin. Trueman is a Presbyterian and agrees more with Calvin’s teaching but he said he finds Calvin to be “somewhat sour and colorless.” He told them he’d have to choose Luther because “he was so obviously human and so clearly loved life.”

The man who nailed the 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany, 500 years ago today wasn’t afraid to let his humanity be seen and known. His freedom to be human came about because of his confidence in God’s grace. We don’t have to impress God or people in order to get a place in His kingdom. God is fully aware of how human we are and how sinful we are. But He still loves us. Our salvation is by God’s grace, meaning His undeserved blessings and goodness. When we’re confident of His grace and resting in His grace, than we’re not afraid if people see our failures and shortcomings. We’re secure that we’re forgiven and cleansed and loved, because we’re relying on God’s great grace.

Luther’s freedom to be human and his love for life were reflected in his sense of humor. Trueman writes: “One of the most striking things about the man is his sense of humor, and one cannot possibly write a book on his understanding of the Christian life without reference to this. In general terms, of course, Protestant theologians have not been renowned for their wit, and Protestant theology has not been distinguished by its laughter. Yet Luther laughed all the time … Humor was a large part of what helped to make him so human and accessible.”

Maybe one of the best ways to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation is to do what Luther often did: laugh. We laugh at our foolish attempts to run our own lives and fix our own problems without God’s help. We laugh at the absurdity of us thinking we can tell God what to do. We laugh like a child opening Christmas presents as we think of how incredible and astounding it is that God would take our place on the cross so we could have a place in His family. We laugh with joy and glee because of God’s glorious grace.

A true gentleman

This time it is movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, who is in the news for the terrible way he has treated women. It is reported that he often used his power and wealth to threaten and intimidate women. He would try to get them to say yes to disgusting requests. The numbers keep growing of the women who say they were used and abused by him.

In one article a woman talked about this kind of behavior as something a woman has to get used to. It’s awfully sad that some women become so accustomed to being mistreated that they think it is something they have to get used to. No woman should ever have to get used to being scared and intimidated. No woman should have to get used to men saying disgusting and degrading things to them. No woman should ever have to get used to men touching them in inappropriate, unwanted and threatening ways.

Degrading talk about women is not to be dismissed as “locker room talk.” Grabbing a woman and touching her in ways she doesn’t want to be touched is not “boys being boys.” It is not the behavior of “a man’s man.” It is sinful behavior. A man’s man shows gentleness, compassion and love and seeks to build women up. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up … But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality” (Ephesians 4:29, 5:3). It is evil when men treat women as just things to give them pleasure.

The Gospels provide us with a picture of the true gentleman: Jesus. He treated women with respect and honor. He talked with a woman of another race, who had had five husbands and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband, and was willing to drink water from a cup that she handled – something other Jewish men of that day wouldn’t dream of doing. The woman was shocked. “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (John 4:9). He had a one-on-one conversation with this woman about spiritual matters and even revealed to her that He was the Messiah.

A woman with a sinful past, scorned by the crowd, who a religious leader didn’t even want in his home, was praised by Jesus for her faith and love. “Jesus said to the woman, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’” (Luke 7:50).

Another woman with a bleeding condition that made her unclean in the eyes of the world touched Jesus’ cloak and her bleeding stopped. When Jesus was looking for who touched Him she got nervous. But Jesus treated her with compassion and gentleness and said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace” (Luke 8:48).

There are many more beautiful and gracious examples of Jesus treating women with respect, gentleness and love. Those who knew Him knew they could come to Him and find safety, security and peace.

It is tragic some women think they have to get used to being harassed and mistreated. I pray those women and all of us would get used to, but always be amazed by the incredible grace of God.

The church: a hospital on a battlefield

fullsizeoutput_95eJohann Lotz was just a master carpenter trying to care for his family and make beautiful things out of wood. He immigrated from Germany to the United States and settled in Franklin, Tennessee, where he built a home in 1858. In 1864 the Lotz home stopped being a quiet, peaceful family residence. On Nov. 30, 1864 the Lotz family awoke to find 25,000 Union troops assembled in the field around their home. Thousands of Confederate troops were coming soon. The Lotz front yard was about to become the front line of a pivotal and brutal Civil War battle.

The Lotz family retreated from their wood home to a neighbor’s brick home across the street, hoping for better protection. As the battle raged on for 17 hours, the Lotz and 20 terrified neighbors found shelter in a brick basement. They emerged the next morning to find the battle was over but the carnage was horrendous. The Lotz walked across the road to their home, but as they did so they couldn’t take a step without stepping on the body of a dead soldier.

When they got to their home they found it had become a type of battlefield hospital. Wounded soldiers from both sides were being treated there.

I had the chance to visit the Lotz home recently on a trip to Tennessee. It’s hard to imagine all the blood that was shed on what are now peaceful grounds. There are still some blood stains inside the house, some bullet holes and an indentation on the floor made by a cannonball that smashed through a wall and came into the house.

At some point in the battle it appears both sides agreed to treat the house as a safe place. Both sides brought their wounded there. Medics from both sides treated wounded from both sides. As bullets were flying everywhere outside; as men and boys were killing each other in hand-to-hand combat; there was peace between the two sides inside the Lotz home.

In some ways the church is to be like the Lotz home. We live in a scary world, full of conflict. People have deep wounds to their souls and minds and they can’t be healed by the world. Only in the good news of Jesus can healing be found. “… the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).

Only in Christ is peace and safety found that is far greater than just temporary safety for the body. Jesus offers safety for the soul for all eternity; a refuge that is solid and sure. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear …” (Psalm 46:1-2).

As battles rage around us, the church is a hospital for the wounded and hurting, and not just the ones who are on our side. The Confederate army rebelled against the authority of the United States. The Rebels were trying to bring an end to the Union. Their rebellion led to the incredible horror of the Civil War. And they were doing it all so that the wicked practice of slavery could continue. But Union medics treated wounded Rebel soldiers anyway.

Before the battle began, members of the Union army poisoned a creek near the Lotz home. Two of the Lotz young children were tragic victims when they drank from the creek and died. It would have been understandable if Mr. Lotz had been full of bitterness toward the Union army, but his home still became a place where care was given to wounded Union soldiers.

We share the good news of Christ with all people, including rebels, those we disagree with and those who have caused us pain. We all start out as rebels against the Lord, but He still offers us grace and mercy. In the blood Jesus shed for us He graciously offers rebels like us healing for our wounded souls.