Martin Luther spent the early years of the Reformation battling the Roman Catholic establishment, defending his understanding of justification by faith alone. But 1524 and 1525 saw a major turning point in his life and career.

In the mid-1520s, Luther was forced to respond to the first major splits within the Protestant ranks. He faced a popular uprising known as the Peasants’ War. At the peak of the uprising, expecting imminent death, Luther decided to defy Satan further: he married. Then Luther became increasingly involved in building what became the Lutheran church. And in his final years, convinced he was living in the last days of the world, he issued violent treatises against all the enemies of God as he saw them—Catholics, “fanatical” Protestants, Turks, and Jews.

Luther’s later years may have been more difficult than this early ones. It is one thing to picture a new vision of the Christian faith. It is quite another thing to give this vision form so it may be passed to your children and your children’s children.

Modeling a Marriage

Luther began by giving the Protestant parsonage its first model. In 1525, the 41-year-old former monk married a 26-year-old former nun, Katherina von Bora. He married not out of love or sexual desire, he said, but to please his father, who liked the idea of grandchildren; to spite the pope, who forbade clerical marriage; and to witness to his convictions before he was martyred!

The Luthers had six children, four of whom survived to adulthood. Kate Luther took over the management of the former Augustinian cloister, where Luther lived. The Luthers welcomed and boarded hundreds of people over the years—students, orphaned relatives, and frequent guests.

From their inauspicious beginning, Martin ...

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