Faith – “In the Dark Night of Civilization”

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It was the very last day Of October–October 31st–to be exact. Darkness had swept over the entire country side, but it wasn’t a darkness that could be measured by the lack of sunlight. In fact, this darkness had been around for several centuries. The Dark Ages had given way to what historians would later refer to as the Middle Ages. But that, spiritually speaking, was only a matter of semantics. Darkness still had its death grip throughout the known world at that time. What the ancient mystics referred to as “the dark night of the soul” had spread beyond individuals and geographical boundaries.

     The “Black Death” plague had left Europe absolutely decimated. In a short period of time about 35 million people had died. Large areas of land were left sparsely inhabited, and many fields that were previously fruitful and productive became abandoned. They were days where hope had drained away from the public consciousness, but it wasn’t always that way.

     Travel with me—in your mind—to Germany. Germany had grown richer during the Middle Ages, and the population had also risen sharply. Trade and commerce boomed and towns grew larger. Yet, life was still very hard for most people. It was around the 14th century that Germany suddenly deteriorated. The climate grew colder and severe famines struck. Unfortunately, Germany took the brunt of most of those “black death” casualties mentioned above. About one-third of their citizens perished very quickly during this time.

     Politically, most of Europe began to be ruled by monarchies. This meant that the vast majority of Germans would now no longer control their own properties or destinies. Thus, there were many peasant uprisings which culminated in the Peasant’s War of 1525. But I need to back up, chronologically, to get to my point in this article.

     It was October 31st, and the year was 1517. Into this dark political and social atmosphere, where gloom and doom seemed to reign, a simple German monk was beginning to shine. Everywhere that one looked, all that could be seen was despair and hopelessness. But that was about to change. The people that dwelt in darkness were about to see a great light—again. This was not the awesome cosmic fulfillment that the prophet Isaiah saw in the first advent of the Messiah. And yet, it was a spiritual awakening—a great light—that would soon burst forth upon the world.

     What historians then recorded might seem strange to us, but it was innocuous to the German people. That simple German monk nailed a sheet of paper upon the door of a university. You see, it was the custom of German universities to publicly solicit debate challenges in order to provoke discussion, dialogue and understanding. Think of it like nowadays posting something on Facebook. But man, did this “posting” go “viral”—like very few things in the course of human history have ever done!

     There is an old adage that states: “’Tis far better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Well, on October 31, 1517 a giant “candle” was lit. The knowledge of Christ’s redemptive work was re-awakened. Very few mortals have ever impacted society as that simple German monk. Best-selling author Eric Metaxas just published a biography on this man entitled: Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World.  Not really an over-statement, in the context of what I mentioned previously.

     When Luther “rediscovered” God, and was bold enough to proclaim salvation through faith alone in Jesus Christ, that “dark night” which loomed over humanity gave way to the dawn of restored hope and peace to the human soul. That being said, let us, thus celebrate October 31st as a remembrance of that great Light—through Christ—which shines upon all those who believe.