You might have missed it. Many aren’t aware of it. Yes, October 31 is Halloween. It is also Reformation Day.
Now before you write-off this post as another puritanical rant against Halloween, keep reading.
Reformation Day recognizes the protest lodged by Martin Luther against specific doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. Ninety-five protests, nailed to the door of Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany in 1517. The protesting Luther sparked a theological schism that still reverberates with eternal implications.
Our collective willingness to protest didn’t end in the 16th century. We see a 21st century version in the phenomenon known as Occupy Wall Street. But there is a significant difference between Wall Street and Wittenberg. Luther sought dialogue and constructive argument. The occupiers seek only to be seen and heard. They’ve devolved into a mob of complainers. No matter your beef, you’re welcome to occupy. If you’ve been treated unfairly, take a seat in the street. This disease of complaint has spawned a global illness as disgruntled folk are occupying streets in towns small and cities large. It’s intriguing behavior.
So I’ve been thinking: what warrants protesting? Many things in life are perturbing. Exasperating. The diversity of humanity and the brokenness of life is fertile ground for disagreement and disgust. So what should attract my attention and demand my energy to be disturbed to the point of being a disturbance? What should raise my ire to the level that I’d go to great lengths to make my opinions, feelings and beliefs known in a public way? Is it unemployment? Income taxes? Bad coffee? Children who won’t stay in their beds? Abortion? The mascots for the 2012 Summer Olympics? Presidential candidates? Melting polar ice caps? Sex trafficking? The new facebook format?
It isn’t difficult to find people, principles and policies to get riled about. But if I stop and think about what’s most upsetting in life, I don’t need to look far. In fact, it’s closer than I want to admit. What unsettles me most – is me.
In response to the question, ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ G.K. Chesterton gave this infamous reply: “Dear Sir: Regarding your article ‘What’s Wrong with the World?’ I am. Yours truly, G.K. Chesterton.” The Apostle Paul expresses similar frustration with himself: “…if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.” (Romans 7:17-20, The Message)
Have you ever felt like Paul? I have. A lot. I don’t wake each day scheming how I can self-sabotage. But it happens. Despite my best effort, I can’t deny that I am broken. Messed-up. Desperate for help but unable to make life work. And when it doesn’t the pull is to look for a scapegoat. Point fingers and make excuses. Assume the role of victim. Groan. Grumble. Complain. Perhaps even protest.
Without doubt, there are things that should cause us indignation. Things that we should, like Luther, protest. Seek productive discussion and pray for resolution. But the more I think about what frustrates me and thwarts my desires, the more I understand that often I am a big piece of the mess. My own sin is the problem. And I need help.
Jesus is that help. He patiently redirects my protestations toward the real problem – me. He lovingly shows me who I really am and my dire need for His grace, forgiveness and perfect justice.
So, I’m organizing a protest. I’m protesting me, and my sin. I’m protesting the harm it brings to my relationships. I’m protesting my affection for things that drain my affection for Jesus Christ. Will you join me with your own protest?