Thursday, 22 March 2018
OCTOBER 31 this year will mark the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed a notice on the door of his local church which challenged the behaviour of the Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
Luther strongly criticised many of the established religious practices of the day, not only for failing to follow the way Christ had taught his disciples but also because such practices generated great wealth for the Church’s privileged few.
The first item on Luther’s notice was: When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said “Repent” (Mt 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.
At that time, repentance was hardly at the top of the Pope’s agenda. Like Luther, other distinguished churchmen such as Erasmus had expressed concern about the Church’s shortcomings.
Erasmus had written so extensively on the failings of the Church in Rome that he was subsequently blamed for “laying the egg that Luther later hatched”.
But why should we think about Luther and Erasmus at election time?
Luther’s contention was that the Church had failed in its sacred duty to follow in the way Christ had taught His disciples.
In today’s world, we expect the leaders of our country, local authority and parish to be true to their acclaimed creed, the criteria on which we decide to whom we give our vote.
Not only do we vote as we consider appropriate, but we should also feel entitled to “do a Luther” on politicians, those set in authority over us. We are entitled to question and criticise those that, in our judgement, have failed to comply with the values and practices they advocated in order to obtain our vote.
While such challenges are right and proper from any citizen, we should never cease to ask searching questions of our own behaviour. We should always be cognisant of the telling relationship between what we claim to believe in, and how we behave.
Like Luther, we must be prepared to challenge the current authorities to ensure firstly, that the promises given are equitable and ethically sound and secondly, be prepared to challenge subsequent action in the light of those promises.
However, as electors, should we not also be willing to challenge ourselves in the light of the standards we expect from our politicians?
To that end, at some time before the election, when thereafter we will be all too willing to make judgement on the action of others, maybe we should remind ourselves of the basis of a Christian life.
Perhaps sometime before polling day we should read again the whole of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew, Chapters 5, 6 and 7) to see how we measure up to the demands Christ made of His disciples, of entering by the “strait gate” and walking the “narrow way”.
29 May 2017
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