Here I Stand, I Think

We live in a relational day when most congregations are saying, “Don’t confront me; feel with me, relate to me.” Gone is the thundering of “Repent or perish!” Most preachers, it seems, just say with Saint Paul, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling—while I work out mine.” “Ye must be born again!” has been replaced by, “Let’s all try a little harder!”

Architecture confirms our easy togetherness. Church buildings have grown round with comfy pews that circle about easy-on-the-eye, colored chancels with no pulpits. Koinonia oozes around 1 John 4:8 pulpit banners. Ecumenics live! Anything that nettles relationships between brothers is played down. Suddenly we are one—gloriously one, blindly one. “You go to your church and I’ll go to mine and we’ll walk along together.” Above all we must preserve the “we” feeling. I have often wondered how the Diet of Worms would have gone if Luther had played by our rules.

There, in a theological showdown, all would have gathered, Germans and Italians, with a desire to “work things out.” With all sitting there, filled with potluck fare of the church supper they had just enjoyed, one can hear again the old inquisitor asking his question, “Luther, did you or did you not write these books?”

“Well,” says Martin, “in a manner of speaking: I was working through some problems with my self-image at the time, and I really think, Your Grace, that when we’re down on ourselves it is so easy to get down on other, really good people. Perhaps I have been a little negative.”

“I’ll tell you what, Martin. Let’s just take your books off the stands, and we’ll all work a little harder on getting along together.”

By the time they had all broken into prayer cells and regrouped in the ...

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