During the Protestant Reformation, there were many strong Christian voices urging people towards greater Gospel clarity and fidelity, but there were other voices as well. While the Gospel and the Church were of great interest, so too was Christianity’s relationship to the civil government a subject of hot debate.
Some wanted to submit to the civil authorities, and others wanted to separate from civil government altogether. Just underneath the surface of these political arguments raged the simmering anger and discontent of those who perceived themselves to be oppressed victims.
One man who arose as a leader of a separatist movement was Thomas Muntzer. Like Martin Luther (the Augustinian monk who became a leader of the Reformation), Muntzer was a German. He became a Protestant after reading some of Luther’s writings, but Muntzer also became convinced that Luther was not going far enough in his reforms.
Muntzer believed himself to be God’s man, who would bring God’s kingdom to earth. He took his message to the poor and victimized of society, and his message resonated with their own feelings of discontent. In 1525, Muntzer lead the Peasant’s Revolt, but it was unsuccessful, and he led many people to their deaths.
On March 9, 1522, Martin Luther began to preach a series of sermons that highlighted Muntzer’s extreme errors. Luther gathered the people who would listen back around the word of God, rather than encouraging a political and/or military uprising.
In our own day, we would do well to remember that Christianity is a religion of the Book and not a religion of the sword.
May God help us all to find our hope in the promised rescue of a risen Christ, and not the wishful thinking (or violent conquest) of an earthly leader.