America has become the Catholic Church of five hundred years ago. Our culture has become arrogant and is characterized by shallowness, division and complacency. We talk at each other and seem wholly incapable of genuinely listening. We've seen the hope and change that our leaders promise, but their failure to follow through sickens us. The name-calling, pettiness, finger-pointing and hypocritical double standards are out of control.
As such, America is in need of its own Martin Luther, an individual who is humble yet courageous enough to stand up and speak out against the status quo. America is ripe for the kind of transformation that can only come when there is genuine courage marked by true humility.
Humility is underrated these days. We mistake it for cowardice, but it is, in truth, the unsung hero throughout all of history. In one of the world's greatest displays of humble courage, Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the Wittenberg door – not because he wanted division, but because he grew tired of the arrogance.
Standing up and speaking out is a daunting task in a culture where being told to "sit down and shut up" is the norm. But someone has to do it, or the whole lot of us will continue to suffer.
For the faithful in America, true humility begins with God. Yet the church has largely become like a group of hikers who've lost their moral compass, insisting we can find our own way without God, without humility. We've allowed ourselves to settle for "a form of godliness without its power" (2 Timothy 3:5-7). We've grown fat, lazy, stubborn and bored. Worse yet, we seem alright with it.
America needs a reformer like Luther. In fact, America needs an army of Luthers: men and women who are adept at encouraging deep thinking and discussion where shallowness and arguing are the new cultural norm.
Historically, when God moves, he never moves alone. He always starts with a single person. Five hundred years ago it was Luther. Beginning with a solitary soul, God has regularly shaken, stirred and shaped entire nations. It's always the way He operates. The mortal are often the instrument used by the immortal to initiate divinely sparked transformation.
Maybe that reformer is you. I'm sure Luther had no idea that what he did on the day we now commemorate as the anniversary of the Protestant Reformation would be so revolutionary. A revolution is exactly what the world needed then, and it's exactly what we need today.
Without a revolution of humble courage, an entirely different revolution may begin. (It may even be underway). The thought of the latter makes me shudder. But if we expect the new reformer we need is someone other than the person staring back at us in the mirror, we will almost certainly guarantee discord more damaging than we can imagine. It's high time for a second reformation, a revolution of humble courage, because the alternative won't save a soul.
Where would the church be today if Martin Luther were a coward, a man unwilling to facilitate dialogue at a time when it was uncommon? We need to ask the same of America's future, and wonder who among us will be the hero. Is that hero found in you?