By Lisa Huddleston
“There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” (2 Peter 3:16-18)
One of the things I love most about being in graduate school is the discussion that takes place there. It is the unplanned and unscripted part of class that often triggers the real learning for me. Tuesday was no exception as it was a discussion/debate about Martin Luther that set my mind on a new course and stirred up a fresh thought to ponder for the past few days.
Church History II is a survey course that begins with the Reformation so we had read a cursory chapter on the life of Luther as well as a brief article concerning Calvin’s views on evangelism. The debate began when one of the more argumentative students in the class decided that not enough had been said about Luther’s anti-Semitism and his responsibility for the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany. His arguments gave the impression that he held Luther solely accountable for Hitler’s views while other students defended Luther stating that his inflammatory statements did not negate the good work he had done nor were they intended to bear the bitter fruit that they did.
While I did not verbally enter into the discussion that night, my mind was intrigued by the idea of Luther’s being responsible for the Holocaust. It seemed a huge leap. Luther’s concern was theological (at least that’s the impression I got from the chapter I read), but he did not live in a vacuum. He was not the only one in his day who felt as he did. But, his was a very loud voice that not only restructured the church but echoed through all the nations of Europe as well. How responsible was he?
How responsible was I for every word I wrote or spoke? I pondered a political conversation that had taken place on my back porch just one night before. Two of my children were involved in an emotional debate concerning the appropriateness of a woman’s being elected as president of the United States. One said it was not a woman’s role to lead. The other responded in shocked anger that the first could hold such a “sexist” view. And I naturally threw my two cents worth in with my usual lack of tact or discretion. Then regret filled my heart. I want my home to be a place where each of us can express our views without being attacked—but this one was hard to stomach. Especially when I felt responsible for it.
It pains me to admit to my role in developing this “equal but separate” view. Yet, I knew not what I did. It was many years ago when I first began to study scripture that I held those views myself and taught them to my children as the truth. I have since grown in my understanding and changed my opinions; yet, I can see the origins of this unfortunate legacy. Sure, others taught me and then I passed it along without question. But, I am still responsible for the words I spoke, and I am doing all I can to eat them.
As I bemoaned my responsibility for this extreme position, my dear husband reminded me of some advice I received when my first child was born. I stood in the lobby of our church in Norfolk holding my infant son in my arms, and an elderly Southern lady, the wife of a local judge, admonished me with a genteel smile, “Never take too much blame or too much credit.”
Great words with great wisdom behind them. And I have tried to practice what she preached. But, in my mind, it’s all about me. What a lie. There have been many other influences in my children’s lives. They have made their own choices, and they have taken different roads. That both sides of the back porch debates were supported by my offspring proves that. So I have to let it go. However, I will take this lesson to heart. Whether intentional or accidental, the words I speak leave a legacy that matters. While too late for Luther, it’s a lesson the rest of us need to learn. Now, if I can just learn the stuff on the syllabus as well, I’ll be in business.
Help me, Lord, to be careful and to grow in your grace and knowledge. For your glory both now and in the future. Amen.