Forget Halloween, celebrate Reformation Day! What is Reformation Day? It is the most important day for liberty of the last 1000 years – the day religious freedom was born. Regardless of your opinion of Martin Luther, the German monk behind Reformation Day, your ability to choose religion or not is a direct result of his courage to confront the religious establishment.
Studying the Bible caused Luther to question some of the traditions and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. On October 31, 1517 he posted 95 theses to spark deliberation, but the debate led to division across Europe.1 (While Catholics may not be fans of Luther because of the division, if objective, they will appreciate that it eventually led to a catholic reformation which did away with some practices we would frown on today, such as selling indulgences.)
To simplify an important and complex history, the division gave people in Europe a choice, the Roman Catholic Church or something different. Many suffered and paid with their lives for choosing the latter. Yet the idea of freedom of religion lived on until set into law for the first time in history in the U.S. Bill of Rights in 1791.2 Thus, people of all faiths or no faith have a reason to celebrate Reformation Day.
However, God has always given humans a choice. The Bible says,
I call heaven and earth as witness today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; [and] that you may love the LORD your God, (Deuteronomy 30:19-20a)
So the Lord gave spiritual freedom long ago and Reformation Day revived that truth with physical freedom. With it came access to the Bible and proclamation of the freedom of the Gospel of Jesus. Luther’s debates brought the Bible back to its position as the authority rather than human traditions. We can rejoice that Scripture clearly teaches salvation is the gift of God. We could never pay for it or earn it by being good or following rules because it is
not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us. (Titus 3:5a)
In fact, the result of our human efforts is tragic.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
All our lives without Jesus are corrupted by sin. The penalty for sin is death and eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:15) Thankfully, the Lord offers salvation through Jesus, who took our penalty, so we could live with Him in Heaven. This is a reason to celebrate, and you know about it because of Reformation Day!
So why not start a new tradition for your family and church this October 31st? Halloween is just a commercial holiday of dubious origin where too much money is wasted on candy we shouldn’t eat and costumes we don’t need in honor of nothing good. Instead, it would be great to celebrate religious freedom and thank God that you have access to the Gospel of Jesus.
How might you celebrate? Share your ideas in the comments below.
(Notes: Reformation Day is celebrated in some parts of the world but is not widely acknowledged in the United States. So, it is not technically a “new holiday” but will be new for most Americans. Also, this article is not an endorsement of the Lutheran church.)