Indulgence

This week we observe “Reformation Sunday.” Church tradition says that 500 years ago this week, a priest named Martin Luther nailed “95 Theses” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Luther objected to the Roman Catholic practice of selling “indulgences,” essentially a way of buying one’s way out of the consequences of sin. Luther argued it was wrong to make people pay for what God grants for free. Humans can do nothing to earn salvation; rather salvation is a free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

But here’s why we still need reformation:

Deep down, we find the idea of indulgences attractive. Indulgences were degrading and came down hardest on the poor, but at least they gave human beings the sense of being in charge. If we can buy our way out of hell, no matter the cost, it means we’re in charge of our salvation.

Modern North Americans have a different indulgence problem.

Most of us have been indulged our whole lives. From the time we were old enough to hold a spoon, our preferences have been consulted. Life is all about us. We have the illusion that we’re in control of our lives. What need do we have of God, the church, or the free gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ?

 

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